Aaron Rodgers was better.
Manning led the New York Giants to a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion with 58 seconds remaining, but Rodgers answered and the Green Bay Packers remain undefeated with a stirring 38-35 victory.
Taking possession at their 20-yard line, Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley for 24 yards, his rifle throw avoiding an interception and leading to a big play. On the next play, with pressure in his face, Rodgers floated a 27-yard completion to Jordy Nelson over Will Blackmon. After a dump-off to Brandon Saine lost 1 yard, Rodgers threw short to Greg Jennings, who made a defender miss and gained 18 yards to the Giants' 12. The Packers called timeout, and Mason Crosby drilled a 30-yard field goal as time expired.
With that, Green Bay is 12-0. It locked up a playoff berth earlier in the day; the Packers could clinch the division if the Lions lose at New Orleans on Sunday night.
With Green Bay clinging to a 28-27 lead, the defense forced just its second three-and-out of the day and Rodgers put together one of his best drives of the season for a vital touchdown.
The Giants scored 10 unanswered points to make it a one-point game with 10:53 remaining. The Packers couldn't respond, their drive sabotaged by dropped passes by Finley and Jennings. But Green Bay's defense, run ragged by Manning and the Giants' heretofore dormant running game, but forced a punt as Sam Shields broke up a deep pass on first down and Manning misfired on a third-and-8 screen.
Taking the ball at its 43 with 7:08 to go, Rodgers drove the Packers 57 yards. The big play came on Rodgers' 21-yard pass to Nelson, with a twisting Nelson somehow getting his feet inbounds while defensed by Blackmon, the former Packers cornerback and kick returner. That made it first-and-goal at the 10. On second down from the 7, Rodgers – who had been pressured and hit throughout the game – had all day in the pocket before throwing a rocket to Driver in the end zone. Driver's second touchdown of the game made it 35-27 with 3:34 remaining.
Manning, however, drove the Giants 69 yards, with two completions to tight end Jake Ballard gaining 30 yards, a completion to Victor Cruz picking up 22 and a checkdown to running back D.J. Ware earning 12 more and a first-and-goal at the 2. Manning then hit Hakeem Nicks for the touchdown, with Ware running a shutgun draw for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Green Bay, which had never trailed during the fourth quarter at any point in its 17-game winning streak, took a 28-24 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Packers got the ball to start the second half and appeared to take control of the game by driving 80 yards for a touchdown, due in part to two favorable calls. The first came on third-and-3, with Rodgers hitting Driver for the first down at the Giants' sideline. New York coach Tom Coughlin foolishly challenged the ruling – leaving him without a challenge the rest of the game.
The second favorable call was more controversial. On third-and-9, Jennings toasted first-round pick Prince Amukamara with a double move, with Rodgers throwing a perfect strike for a 20-yard touchdown. However, it never looked like Jennings had control, and Amukamara poked it loose at the end of the play. All scoring plays are reviewed, and the touchdown held up, giving Green Bay a 28-17 lead.
With their season on the line and their hearts being questioned with a three-game losing streak, the Giants answered. Manning completed four passes to Nicks, including a 51-yarder on the first play and a 4-yarder for the touchdown over Charles Woodson. A field goal pulled the Giants within 28-27 with 10:53 remaining, with Woodson lost after a hard collision with running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
The Packers led 21-17 at halftime, a good news-bad news result.
The Giants struck quickly by exposing the Packers' suspect safeties. Former Wisconsin star Travis Beckum, a third-round pick in 2009 with 22 career receptions for 173 yards entering the game – including one catch for 2 yards this season -- got behind Charlie Peprah and wove his way between Peprah and Morgan Burnett the final 30 yards of a 67-yard touchdown.
Green Bay tied it at 7 on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Finley, then took a 14-10 lead on the first play of the second quarter when Clay Matthews anticipated Manning's checkdown to Bradshaw, intercepted the ball in stride and raced untouched 38 yards.
However, a rare bad read by Rodgers put New York back in front. Rodgers saw Nelson open about 20 yards downfield but linebacker Chase Blackburn ran under the route to grab just Rodgers' fifth interception of the year. Brandon Jacobs punctuated a 12-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard plunge.
Green Bay took its 21-17 lead with an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 13-yard pass to a wide-open Driver on third-and-5. Rodgers did almost all of the work with 4-of-5 passing for 50 yards and two runs for 24 yards.
The disappointment is how the half ended. Matthews' strip-sack set up the Packers at midfield with 26 seconds to go. A 22-yard screen to Saine put Green Bay in scoring position but Crosby misfired from 43 yards as time expired. It was just his second miss of the season.
Crosby, however, made the kick that counted most – his first winning field goal since beating Philadelphia in his NFL debut in 2007.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.