Packers 35, Buccaneers 26
The player: On a day when Aaron Rodgers was kicking himself for some uncharacteristically poor passes, Jordy Nelson was the offense's MVP. Nelson caught six passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. That raises his season totals to 40 receptions, 756 yards and nine touchdowns. His career highs were set last season with 45 catches, 582 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, he had a total of six touchdowns in his first three seasons.
The moment: There were several big plays in the fourth quarter. Kellen Winslow's dropped two-point conversion would have tied the game at 21 and changed the complexion of the fourth quarter. Rodgers' 40-yard touchdown pass to Nelson clinched the game. But don't forget the Buccaneers' surprise onside kick in the first half. Tampa Bay recovered but coach Mike McCarthy won a replay challenge, with kicker Connor Barth touching the ball a fraction of a second before Green Bay's D.J. Smith and before it traveled the requisite 10 yards. Rodgers punctuated that drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nelson that made it 21-10.
The number: The Buccaneers had more yards (455 to 378) but the toughest yards to gain are inside the 10-yard line. Green Bay scored four touchdowns on four trips inside the Bucs' 10 while Tampa Bay scored one touchdown on two trips inside the Packers' 10.
The key: As an underdog playing on the road against the defending world champions, a coach has to gamble. But three of Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris' major decisions blew up in his face. Not only did the Bucs botch the surprise onside kick in the first half, but Morris' decision to go for a game-tying two-point conversion in the fourth quarter didn't work, either, though that's on Winslow for dropping the ball. And Morris' decision to onside kick again after pulling within 28-26 with 4:25 backfired when the Packers recovered and Rodgers hit Nelson for the clinching touchdown.
Buccaneers said: "I knew we were going to come back and win it. I just knew it. Even when we didn't get the two-point conversion, I just knew we were going to come back and win. We just happened to fall short today." — wide receiver Mike Williams.
Packers said: "I'm just frustrated. I didn't throw the ball very well. I'm not trying to be ridiculously humble right now, I'm just , I'm frustrated. The ball wasn't coming off the way I wanted it to today. Missing guys I should, I had Greg open a couple times and I missed him, missed Jordy on crossing pattern in the third quarter. You know, it's a game where it's an unusual scheme we're playing again. We're playing a lot more man than we usually see. There's some throws, some tighter windows than you usually get maybe, and some throws I usually hit that I didn't hit today. So, that's frustrating but it's nice we came up with a big drive there at the end and put them away." — Rodgers, on going 23-of-34 for 299 yards, with three touchdowns, one interception and a record 10th consecutive game with a passer rating of at least 110 (112.3)
Extra points: Rodgers not only is the only quarterback to have a passer rating of at least 110 in 10 consecutive games, but if you lower the statistical bar, he's also the only quarterback to have 10 consecutive games of 100-plus ratings. Peyton Manning held the record with nine in 2004 ... The Packers extended their franchise record by scoring at least 24 points in 10 consecutive games, and Rodgers extended his record with at least two touchdown passes in all 10 games. ... Donald Driver became the second player in Packers history with 10,000 yards from scrimmage. He has 10,065 yards, behind Ahman Green's 11,048.
Lions 49, Panthers 35
Key: Kevin Smith, once the Lions' starting running back, was unemployed for the first eight weeks of the season. Re-signed to provide depth, Smith exploded for a career-high 140 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving while scoring three touchdowns. That provided the perfect complement to the Lions' passing game, as quarterback Matthew Stafford threw five touchdown passes.
Panthers said: "In the first half, we came out explosive and played football the way it's supposed to be played. In the second half, it's as if we were just trying to hold on and you can't do that against a team like this. You have to be in an attack mode the whole game." - quarterback Cam Newton
Lions said: "I'm sure there are a lot of storylines around the NFL this week but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better story than Kevin Smith. Obviously, he has a lot of talent but early in his career, he was set back by a lot of major injuries. He never lost faith. He persevered. His talent never went away and when he was able to get healthy and get another opportunity, he took advantage of it." - coach Jim Schwartz
Extra point: The Lions erased a 24-7 deficit to defeat Carolina 49-35. The Lions are the first team in NFL history to win three games in a single season in which it trailed by at least 17 points. The Lions won games in Weeks 3 (20-point deficit vs. Minnesota) and 4 (24-point deficit vs. Dallas) after trailing by at least 17 points.
Raiders 27, Vikings 21
Key: The Vikings held a 7-3 lead and were in field position when, on third-and-5 from the Oakland 21, Christian Ponder's pass to Percy Harvin was intercepted by former Packers safety Matt Giordano and returned 42 yards to the Oakland 47. Seven plays later Carson Palmer's 11-yard TD pass to Chaz Schilens put the Raiders up for good.
Raiders said: "Officiating won't win or lost a game, we just had to keep our poise. It was getting a little hairy out there. A lot of calls weren't going our way, but I'm glad to see us have the poise to push through and get the win." - safety Matt Giordano
Vikings said: "Being 2-8, it's over now. We've got to win the rest. That can be our only goal. If it's not our only goal then people in the locker room need not be a part of it." - linebacker Chad Greenway of the faint hopes for a Vikings playoff berth
Bears 31, Chargers 20
Key: Charles Tillman's third-quarter forced fumble immediately after the go-ahead touchdown set the Bears up for another TD, the two scores in 54 seconds broke open the game. The Bears have forced 23 turnovers in 10 games while losing only 12.
Chargers said: "I said it before the opener, and I'll say it each week. We've got one game. We've got Denver (next week). We're home, and I think a lot of things happened today that our guys will be able to build on." — Coach Norv Turner on the team's playoff chances with a 4-6 record.
Bears said: "It's like anything else. You're going to take your lumps (at the beginning) but if you keep it up, eventually something good will happen." — Bears QB Jay Cutler, explaining why, in his third season with the team and second in the Mike Martz offense, he appears to be playing better and more consistently
49ers 23, Cardinals 7
Key: The 49ers forced five turnovers and controlled the ball for 44 minutes. Wide receivers Kyle Williams and Michael Crabtree sparked the San Francisco passing game, while linebacker Patrick Willis' two forced turnovers set the tone early.
49ers said: "We have to be on it. We can't take them lightly. Get ready to study the Ravens and take it to them." - Tight end Vernon Davis, on the short week to prepare for the team's Thanksgiving Day game against Baltimore.
Cardinals said: "I kind of put myself in that situation having three interceptions, not a very good day passing. Coach felt a change should have been made, and rightfully so. I didn't play up to par." - Quarterback John Skelton, on being replaced in the fourth quarter
Seahawks 24, Rams 7
Key: The Seahawks sacked Rams quarterback Sam Bradford five times, including three by defensive lineman Chris Clemons.
Seahawks said: "Our defensive line is a lot to deal with up front. Our defensive line was everywhere. It was just a great game." - defensive end Chris Clemons
Rams said: "Injuries played a part (in offensive struggles.) We did a lot of things we know we couldn't do to win as a team. We gotta keep going, keep fighting." - quarterback Sam Bradford
Falcons 23, Titans 17
Key: Falcons rookie wide receiver Julio Jones did not play so all the explosive plays belonged to Roddy White, who had a season-high 147 yards receiving. Atlanta got 74 yards receiving from tight end Tony Gonzalez, who was elusive after the catch, showing legs of someone much younger than 35 years old.
Titans said: "When he got in the huddle, he smiled at us and we smiled back at him." - wide receiver Nate Washington on rookie quarterback Jake Locker who played his first meaningful snaps this season
Falcons said: "The red zone is something we need to look at. We could have had a few more points. It's not the scheme, it's getting on the right guys and making plays. The good news is we have time to work on it if we want to make a run to the playoffs." - center Todd McClure.
Browns 14, Jaguars 10
Key: The Jaguars had six plays in the red zone with less than a minute to play. The Browns kept the Jags out of the end zone on each attempt.
Browns said: "We knew they had to score a touchdown, but our defense comes alive on stuff like that, especially at home." - wide receiver Josh Cribbs
Jaguars said: "Not the end we were looking for. Certainly an exciting finish, a dramatic ending to the ballgame." - coach Jack Del Rio
Ravens 31, Bengals 24
Key: The Ravens' defensive stand with under a minute left in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati drove 73 yards to get down to the Baltimore 7-yard line, but the Ravens pressured quarterback Andy Dalton on four straight plays and defensive end Pernell McPhee's sack of the signal-caller on fourth down clinched the win.
Ravens said: "7-3, No. 1 in the division — that's huge. And now we're master of our destiny." — linebacker Terrell Suggs
Bengals said: "We came together as a team and we're just playing ball right now, but what we're doing is not enough." — linebacker Rey Maualuga
Dolphins 35, Bills 8
Key: The Dolphins again found a way to start fast and finish the same way. Even after spotting the Bills that early 3-0 lead, there was no panic on the sideline of a team that somehow held it together through a miserable start that put coach Tony Sparano squarely on the hot seat.
Dolphins said: "This guy is a worker. He's a grinder. He does a super job of preparing every single week. He doesn't get rattled a whole lot out there. Nothing really fazes him." - coach Tony Sparano on quarterback Matt Moore
Bills said: "The first thing we have to do is win another game. We have to figure out what's going on and get in there and study. We don't know what the answers are right now, but we will." - running back Fred Jackson.
Cowboys 27, Redskins 24
Key: The Cowboys converted nine of 18 third downs and fourth downs, but none was bigger than a third-and-15 pass in overtime. Quarterback Tony Romo hit receiver Dez Bryant for 26 yards, setting up Dan Bailey's game-winning, 39-yard field goal.
Redskins said: "I'd rather talk about silver linings on Wednesday. It's just frustrating right now." - quarterback Rex Grossman
Cowboys said: "We obviously needed to get going (after the Cowboys fell to 3-4 three weeks ago in getting crushed at Philadelphia). Stacking these (three) wins together is what good teams do this time of year." -quarterback Tony Romo
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.