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Pack Beat Giants on Last-Second FG

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04: (L-R) James Jones #89, Greg Jennings #85, Randall Cobb #18 and Vic So'oto #97 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after Mason Crosby #2 kicked a successful 30-yard game-winning field goal to beat the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 04: (L-R) James Jones #89, Greg Jennings #85, Randall Cobb #18 and Vic So’oto #97 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after Mason Crosby #2 kicked a successful 30-yard game-winning field goal to beat the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ Tied with less than a minute to
play and 80 yards from the end zone, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t going to
wait until overtime.

It was the perfect choice for a team pushing perfection.

Rodgers completed passes of 24, 27 and 18 yards in a
lightning-quick five-play drive to set up a 31-yard field goal by
Mason Crosby on the final play, and the Green Bay Packers remained
undefeated and clinched a playoff berth with a 38-35 victory over
the New York Giants on Sunday.

“Those are the fun ones when they end up like that,” Rodgers
said. “We’ve had a number of games we won by a couple scores,”
Rodgers said. “You get the ball on the 20, under a minute, and we
get it down there for a chip-shot field goal, it’s very rewarding.
It probably (ranks) right at the top.”

The defending Super Bowl champions (12-0) won their 18th
straight game. Coupled with the Detroit Lions loss to New Orleans
Sunday, the Packers captured the NFC North.

Rodgers hit all four of his passes in the 58-second drive that
sent the Giants (6-6) to their fourth straight loss, starting with
a 24-yard laser to tight end Jermichael Finley just over the hands
of rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams.

“I thought it was mine. I thought it was mine,” Williams said
after the game. “Like I said, it’s a good throw and catch. He made
some good throws.”

The second one covered 24 yards to Jordy Nelson down the left
sideline and moved the ball to the New York 29. An 18-yard pass to
Greg Jennings two plays later moved the ball to the 12. The third
toss was a 1-yard loss.

Green Bay called time out with 3 seconds to go, and then Crosby
delivered his winning kick.

“It was a huge drive,” said Jennings, who also caught a
20-yard touchdown. “We haven’t had one like that at the end in a
while. It was very quiet in the huddle, actually. You could see
everybody was focused. It’s great to see what we could do at the
end like that.”

Coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers practice the two-minute
drive all the time. Having Rodgers at the helm is just a bonus.

“I’m running out things to say about him,” McCarthy said.
“He’s a great quarterback. Playing against the pass rush they had
tonight, he hung in there and made the plays.”

Rodgers, harassed by the Giants’ front four and sacked three
times, finished 28 of 46 for 369 yards. He threw touchdown passes
of 7 and 13 yards to Donald Driver and 12 to Finley in addition to
the one to Jennings.

The loss was another heartbreaker for New York, which played
exceptionally well after being blown out by New Orleans on Monday
night.

The Giants tied it on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning
to Hakeem Nicks, and a 2-point conversion run by D.J. Ware on a
Manning audible with just under a minute to play.

However, Rodgers wasn’t going to settle for overtime after a
touchback on the ensuing kickoff.

“He’s a great quarterback, but I expect more out of us on
defense,” Giants defensive end Dave Tollefson said. “You know,
it’s not like Jesus in cleats. He’s Aaron Rodgers. He’s a great
quarterback, but we have to do a better job of finishing on
defense.”

The three-point victory was the Packers’ smallest winning margin
this season.

“We’re 12-0 and we’re focused on that,” said linebacker Clay
Matthews who scored on a 38-yard second-quarter interception.
“It’s been something we’ve been talking about since we were 7-0 or
8-0. So we’ll keep going from that.”

For the Giants, everything wasn’t terrible. Dallas also lost,
leaving New York a game behind the Cowboys with four games to go.
The teams will play twice over that span.

“It gives us relief to know we’re still right in the mix,”
said Manning, who was 23 of 40 for 347 yards and three touchdowns.
“If we handle our business and win out, we’ll be in the playoffs.
It’s a playoff atmosphere now.”

Manning’s touchdowns covered 67-yards to Travis Beckum and 4 and
2 yards to Nicks. Brandon Jacobs scored on a 1-yard run after a
rare interception of Rodgers and Lawrence Tynes kicked two field
goals with a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter getting New York
within 28-27.

Rodgers hooked up with Driver on a 7-yard TD with 3:34 to go to
push the lead to 35-27.

However, Manning hit tight end Jake Ballard on two 15-yard
passes and connected with Victor Cruz for 22 yards to set up the
tying score that New York thought would send the game to OT.

Rodgers had other ideas, though, and the Packers continued their
run at trying to match Miami’s perfect season in 1972.

It’s not surprising New York gave them a game. The Giants ended
the Denver Broncos perfect season at 11 games in 1998 and they
knocked off the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in February
2008 when Tom Brady and company were a game from perfection.

New York seemed to be in control until Manning made a mistake on
a play-action pass on the first play of the second quarter. With
his primary receiver covered, Manning threw a sideline pass to
Ahmad Bradshaw in front of the Packers bench and Matthews jumped
the route and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10
lead.

Rodgers had only been intercepted four times all season but
linebacker Chase Blackburn, signed Wednesday, picked him off at the
Green Bay 21 and returned the ball to the 12. Two plays later,
Brandon Jacobs plowed in from the 1 to give New York a 17-14 edge.

Rodgers atoned for the error on the next series, driving the
Packers 80 yards in 11 plays with the biggest play being an 11-yard
scramble on a third-and-10 from New York 43. Rodgers capped the
march with a 13-yard, third-down touchdown pass to a wide-open
Donald Driver on a play in which the Giants secondary blew the
coverage.

Notes: Giants C David Baas was a late scratch because of
headaches. Kevin Boothe moved from center to guard and second-year
pro Mitch Petrus made his first start. … Packers CB Charles
Woodson suffered a concussion. … Giants S Kenny Phillips sprained
his left knee. … Cruz had seven catches for a game-high 119
yards. … Rodgers had a 106.2 passer rating, extending his NFL
record to 12 straight games of 100 or better. He also has thrown at
least two touchdowns in every game this season. … The Giants
inducted Carl Banks, Mark Bavaro, Alex Webster, Dave Jennings and
the late Brad Van Pelt into their ring of honor at halftime.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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