Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and guided Green Bay’s drive for the winning field goal to give the unbeaten Packers a 38-35 victory on Sunday over the New York Giants.
Mason Crosby kicked a 31-yard field goal on the final play of the game to extend Green Bay’s best-ever start to 12-0 with only four victories remaining to complete an undefeated campaign.
“When we had adversity our offense stepped up and we were able to pull out the victory,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s all part of the journey.”
Green Bay clinched a playoff berth with the victory and the NFC North Division title when New Orleans beat Detroit 31-17. Also booking a playoff spot were San Francisco (10-2), who beat St Louis 26-0 to seal the NFC West crown.
The Giants (6-6) stumbled to their fourth loss in a row, but remained only one game behind NFC East leader Dallas, who lost 19-13 in overtime to Arizona. The Giants play Dallas next week and took confidence from testing the perfect Packers.
“We’ve got to regroup,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We really came together. We played with emotion. If we play with positive intensity, those are the things that bind us together.”
Clay Matthews, who returned an interception 38 yards for a first-half Packers touchdown, said the team will take victory in its stride even after a narrow escape.
“It was the biggest test so far,” he said. “We have done a fantastic job of overcoming adversity. This was a good measuring stick of where we are and where we want to go. We will learn from it and try to take momentum into next week.”
Rodgers threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings 5 minutes, 10 seconds into the third quarter to give Green Bay an 11-point edge, but Eli Manning answered 3 minutes, 20 seconds later with a four-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks, pulling New York within 28-24.
After Lawrence Tynes kicked a 50-yard field goal to lift the Giants within 28-27, Rodgers flipped a seven-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver with 3 minutes, 34 seconds remaining to put Green Bay ahead 35-27.
Manning answered by driving the Giants 69 yards for a touchdown, capping it with a two-yard scoring pass to Nicks with 58 seconds to play and D.J. Ware ran for a two-point conversion to equalize at 35-35.
The Packers took over and Rodgers, who finished with 369 passing yards, hit passes of 24 yards to Jermichael Finley, 27 yards to Jordy Nelson and 18 yards to Jennings to put Green Bay on the Giants’ 12-yard line, setting up Crosby’s game-ending kick.
“He made a couple significant plays there late,” Coughlin said. “We thought we would be going into overtime. Not to be.”
Elsewhere, Matt Prater kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired to give the Denver Broncos a 35-32 victory over Minnesota for their fifth victory in a row.
Denver moved into a share of the AFC West Division lead at 7-5 with Oakland, who lost 34-14 at Miami to end a three-game Raiders’ win streak.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh stayed even atop the AFC North at 9-3 with triumphs as the Ravens ripped Cleveland 24-10, while Pittsburgh routed Cincinnati 35-7.
Houston (9-3) topped Atlanta 17-10 to stay atop the AFC South by two games over Tennessee, who kept pace by beating Buffalo 23-17.
New England (9-3) beat winless Indianapolis 31-24 to stay atop the AFC East by two games over the New York Jets, who rallied late to down Washington 34-19.