EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Green Bay Packers are still perfect and heading to the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers engineered a last minute 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.
Rodgers hit three passes of more than 18 yards on the drive in the final 58 seconds as the Super Bowl champion Packers (12-0) won their 18th straight game and handed the Giants (6-6) their fourth straight loss.
New York, which was blown out by New Orleans Monday night, tied the game on a 2-yard Eli Manning touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion run by D.J. Ware with just under a minute to play.
However, Rodgers, who threw four touchdown passes, wasn’t going to settle for overtime after a touchback on the ensuing kickoff.
On first down, he completed a pass to Jermichael Finley just over the outstretched hands of rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams and the tight end rumbled 24 yards up the right sideline to the 44.
A 24-yard pass to Jordy Nelson down the left sideline moved the ball to the New York 29 and an 18-yard pass to Greg Jennings two plays later moved the ball to the 12.
Green Bay called time out with 3 seconds to go, and then Crosby delivered his winning kick.
The Packers would clinch the NFC North if Detroit lost to New Orleans on Sunday night.
For the Giants, everything wasn’t terrible. Dallas also lost, leaving New York a game behind the Cowboys with four games to go. The two teams will play twice over that span.
Rodgers, who was harassed by Giants front and sacked three times, finished 28 of 46 for 369 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 7 and 13 yards to Donald Driver, 20 to Jennings and 12 to Finley.
Linebacker Clay Matthews also returned an interception 38 yards for a score in the second quarter.
Manning finished 23 of 40 for 347 yards. He had a 67-yard touchdown pass to Travis Beckum and touchdown tosses of 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-yard 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 game-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.
The Giants let the Packers know early they were going to be in a for a battle this week.
Manning and Beckum, who had one catch all season, combined on a 67-yard catch and weaving run for a touchdown on the third play of the game.
Rodgers tied the game with a 12-yard TD pass to Finley on Green Bay’s second possession, only to see New York take the lead on a 38-yard field goal by Tynes.
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, who was signed on 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.
Rodgers pushed the lead to 28-17 on the opening series of the second half with his fist TD pass to Driver but Manning got New York back in the game later in the quarter with his first TD to Nicks.