GREEN BAY, Wis. — The NFL’s reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers, made a little play. One member of Rodgers’ supporting cast, Tom Crabtree, made the biggest play.
Rodgers threw four touchdowns passes, one after he recovered a fumble and one to a backup tight end used primarily as a blocker, to lift the Green Bay Packers to a 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Both teams get a much needed bye next week. Despite having six starters on the inactive list and losing three more during the game, the Packers (6-3) won their fourth in a row. The Cardinals (4-5) lost their fifth in a row after a 4-0 start.
Arizona didn’t wilt, even while trailing 21-7 at halftime. The Packers’ first three possessions of the second half started at their 48, Arizona’s 17 after an interception by Erik Walden and midfield, but Green Bay failed to gain a first down on any of those drives and had to settle for a field goal after the turnover.
The Cardinals cut the deficit to 24-14 midway through the third quarter when John Skelton, on third-and-five, hit Larry Fitzgerald, who ran through the Packers’ defense for a 31-yard touchdown.
After a fourth consecutive Packers drive failed to gain a first down, the Cardinals drove to the Packers’ 2, but LaRod Stephens-Howling got stuffed on a third-and-one run. Still, the chip-shot field goal made it 24-17 with 50 seconds to go in the quarter.
“We’ve had drives and we just haven’t been able to capitalize,” Skelton said. “That’s kind of been the story all year.”
The Packers got the back-breaking score on the final play of the third quarter. On second-and-four, backup tight end Crabtree lined up the backfield, ran a short route over the middle and got behind Paris Lenon, with Crabtree making the catch and going the distance for a 78-yard touchdown.
“It was huge,” Crabtree said. “It kind of shifted the momentum. They had some momentum going there in the second half, and I think that kind of maybe took a little bit of wind out of their sails.”
The Packers were in control at halftime behind Rodgers’ touchdown passes of 13 and 21 yards to Randall Cobb and 29 yards to James Jones.
Rodgers, playing without Greg Jennings for the fifth consecutive game and losing Jordy Nelson to an ankle injury on the second series, carried the offense to the early lead. Not only was he 11-of-19 for 137 yards in the first half, but he ran for 36 yards and recovered a fumble. Rodgers had runs of 25 and 9 yards on the opening touchdown drive. On the third touchdown drive, James Starks fumbled, but a hustling Rodgers dove on the loose ball seven yards downfield.
Buccaneers 42, Raiders 32: Doug Martin set Tampa Bay records with 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns as Tampa Bay won for the first time in five tries at Oakland.
Playing without All-Pro guard Carl Nicks didn’t hamper Martin. The rookie from Boise State, who totaled 214 yards from scrimmage last week, had touchdown runs of 70, 67 and 45 yards and added a 1-yard scoring plunge. He finished with 251 yards on 25 carries and also caught four passes for 21 yards.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman also continued his torrid pace. Freeman threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Vincent Jackson and a 5-yarder to Mike Williams giving him 11 touchdown passes over his last four games. Tampa Bay (4-4) has scored at least 28 points in four consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.
Carson Palmer’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Rod Streater gave the Raiders (3-5) a 10-7 lead. Palmer then added three TD passes in the fourth quarter as the Raiders rallied from an 18-point deficit. Brandon Myers caught two touchdowns and Marcel Reese had the other, cutting the deficit to 35-32 with 3:55 to play.
The Raiders got the ball back with 2:42 to play but Palmer, who finished 39-for-61 for 414 yards, was intercepted by Ahmad Black two plays later. Martin scored his fourth touchdown a few plays later to put the game out of reach.
Seahawks 30, Vikings 20: Rookie Russell Wilson matched his career high with three touchdown passes and host Seattle snapped a two-game losing streak.
Wilson, who finished 16-of-24 for 173 yards, sandwiched a pair of first-half touchdowns to Golden Tate around a scoring toss to Sidney Rice to give Seattle (5-4) a 20-17 halftime lead en route to improving to a perfect 4-0 at home.
Marshawn Lynch had his third straight 100-yard game with 124 yards and a 3-yard touchdown run that gave the Seahawks a 27-17 lead late in the third quarter.
The Vikings (5-4) wasted a spectacular performance by running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 carries in falling for the third time in four games.
Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder had another rough outing for Minnesota, completing 11 of 22 passes for only 63 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception – his eighth pick in the last five games.
The Vikings got within 27-20 on rookie Blair Walsh’s 55-yard field goal late in the third, but Steven Hauschka answered with a 40-yarder for Seattle with just under 6 1/2 minutes to play before Brandon Browner picked off Ponder less than a minute later.