The Green Bay Packers withstood their toughest challenge of the season, beating the New York Giants 38-35 with a field goal as time expired to improve to 12-0 and run their winning streak to 18 games.
Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and drove the Packers 68 yards in less than a minute to set up Mason Crosby’s winning 31-yard field goal at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Green Bay’s closest previous game was a 33-27 win in Minnesota on Oct. 23.
The Packers clinched the National Football Conference North division title and a playoff spot yesterday, while the Giants missed a chance to gain ground in the National Football League’s postseason race with a fourth straight loss. New York (6-6) stays a game behind the first-place Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East and is also a game behind Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit for the conference’s two wild-card playoff spots.
“We have four games to go, three of them in the division,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters. “We have to regroup.”
The Cowboys, who host the Giants Dec. 11 and face them again in New York on the final day of the regular season, were beaten yesterday by the Arizona Cardinals 19-13 in overtime, while the Falcons, Bears and Lions also lost.
The New York Jets kept pace in the American Football Conference’s wild-card playoff hunt with a 34-19 win over the Washington Redskins. Shonn Greene rushed for three touchdowns as the Jets improved to 7-5, leaving them tied with the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos in the AFC.
The Titans and Broncos won their Week 13 games yesterday, while the Bengals and Raiders lost.
Tebow Wins Again
The Broncos beat the Minnesota Vikings 35-32 with two field goals in the final 1:33 and are now 6-1 with Tim Tebow as their starting quarterback. Tebow passed for a season-high 202 yards and threw two third-quarter touchdowns.
“There are a lot of questions on the outside, but no matter what they say you have to win, and he does it,” Broncos coach John Fox said of Tebow at a news conference.
The Titans beat the Buffalo Bills 23-17, while the Raiders were routed 34-14 by a Miami Dolphins team that has won four of five games after opening the season 0-7. The Broncos and Raiders are now tied atop the AFC West.
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Bengals 35-7 to improve to 9-3 and drop Cincinnati to 7-5. Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Mike Wallace for the Steelers, who remain tied atop the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens (9-3), who defeated the Cleveland Browns 24-10.
The Giants rallied to tie the Packers 35-35 with 1:02 left yesterday as Eli Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks and D.J. Ware ran in the two-point conversion. Manning and Nicks paired for two touchdowns in the second half as the Giants overcame a 28-17 deficit.
“I thought we were in pretty good shape,” Coughlin said. “We should have got this into overtime.”
Rodgers took four plays to march the Packers into position for the winning kick, completing passes of 24, 27 and 18 yards. He finished with 369 passing yards, while Manning threw for 347 yards and three scores for the Giants.
“This wasn’t our best performance; there were a lot of points on the board, but our offense stepped up,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at a postgame news conference. “This was a good team, and we’re lucky to get out of here with a win. I’m sure it was a fun game to watch.”
Packers Win Division
The Packers clinched the NFC North title when the Detroit Lions lost to the New Orleans Saints 31-17. Drew Brees passed for 333 yards and three scores as the NFC South-leading Saints improved to 9-3, including a 6-0 record at home.
The Jets remain two games behind New England in the AFC East after the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-24 yesterday to improve to 9-3. Rob Gronkowski scored three touchdowns as the Patriots opened a 31-3 lead and dropped the Colts to 0-12 for the first time since 1986.
The AFC South-leading Houston Texans are also 9-3 after beating Atlanta 17-10 in their first game with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates, who was pressed into a starting role by injuries. Houston (9-3) has won six straight games as it chases its first playoff berth since joining the NFL in 2002.
The Lions, Falcons and Bears remain ahead of the Giants in the NFC wild-card race even though all lost in Week 13. Chicago was beaten 10-3 by the Kansas City Chiefs (5-7).
NFC West Champions
The San Francisco 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams 26-0 to wrap up their first NFC West crown and postseason berth since 2002. Frank Gore became the career rushing leader for the 49ers (10-2), while Alex Smith threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes in San Francisco.
“The guys are excited about it, they’re happy about it,” 49ers rookie coach Jim Harbaugh said. “They also realize there’s more out there for us.”
The Carolina Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-19 as rookie quarterback Cam Newton rushed for three touchdowns to give him a league-record 13 this season. The previous mark of 12 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season was set by former Patriot Steve Grogan in 1976. The Panthers (4-8) have won two straight games for the first time this year while the Buccaneers (4-8) have dropped six in a row.
Week 13, which began Dec. 1 with a 31-14 win for the Seattle Seahawks (5-7) over the Philadelphia Eagles (4-8), concludes tonight with the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8) hosting the San Diego Chargers (4-7).