Rodgers, Matthews, Crosby Provide Answers

The Packers improved to 12-0, and Sunday's game might be the most meaningful over the long haul. Aaron Rodgers delivered a defining drive that probably locked up the MVP. Mason Crosby made a winning field goal. Clay Matthews looked like Clay Matthews.

If the Green Bay Packers complete a magical season by winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships, this might be the defining game.

In the Packers' 38-35 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday ...

Aaron Rodgers delivered in the clutch.

Mason Crosby made a game-winning field goal.

Clay Matthews was the Claymaker once again.

Of course, the idea that Rodgers couldn't guide a game-winning drive is preposterous, even if he'd led only five of them in 58 starts compared to five in 10 starts by Tim Tebow.

Part of it is a byproduct of the statistical cherry-picking of Rodgers being 2-13 in games decided by four points or less entering this season. Never mind that the Packers beat the Eagles by five points in the playoffs last year. Or that Rodgers' clutch drive in the Super Bowl turned Green Bay's three-point margin into a six-point victory. Or that he's played at such a ridiculous level this season that Rodgers has spent the end of practically every game taking a knee rather than leading a last-minute drive.

Asked if going 4-of-4 for 68 yards in leading the Packers to the winning field goal was an answer to his critics, Rodgers simply said: "Sure."

While Rodgers downplayed what it could mean to win a close game with such late heroics, coach Mike McCarthy talked about just that without being prompted.

"Really, it was a drive that we needed," McCarthy said. "It's something that Aaron Rodgers I think does and excellent job of. We've got a lot of time invested. We really haven't had that type of situation come up in some time as a team. He did a great job running the drill and managing the clock. Just a classic 2-minute drive. I thought it was awesome."

If the drive was what the Packers needed, the winning field goal was what Crosby needed. In his NFL debut in 2007, Crosby hit a 42-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining to beat the Eagles 16-13. That would be his first and only last-second field goal until Sunday's 31-yarder.

In 2008, he missed from 52 yards with 26 seconds to go in a 28-27 loss at Minnesota and had a 38-yarder blocked in the final moments at Chicago. In 2010, his 53-yarder to win the game at Washington hit the upright with 7 seconds to go.

"It's special," Crosby said. "I had some opportunities in the past, and to be able to do it on the road in a close game, with a lot on the line for this team, it is really important to me and this team. It just kind of shows how we just battle. We just keep coming back and battle through adversity. I missed a kick early in the game, but everyone said, ‘We're going ot need it in the end.' That's something that doesn't always happen, so I was a little pumped about that."

So pumped that Crosby was pulling for Jordy Nelson to run out of bounds on the 27-yard completion that put the Packers in range for the winning field goal.

"Games are so tight," Crosby said. "This was a great opportunity – get a big win on the road, going for 12-0, clinch some things up. It was important. I think it just says a lot about our team. We have a minute left, we take a touchback, get the ball at the 20-yard line and just march down the field and we're in field-goal position after just a couple plays. That was awesome to see after a back-and-forth struggle with this team."

It's been a struggle for most of the season for Matthews. While Matthews had a league-high 30.5 quarterback knockdowns and hurries, according to STATS LLC, he entered the game with just five sacks after ranking third in the NFL with 23.5 sacks in 2009 and 2010. While he's been really good, he hasn't been great.

Or, hadn't been great, because he was superb on Sunday. He baited Eli Manning into his second-quarter interception, which he returned for a touchdown. He recorded his first sack since Nov. 14 against Minnesota, and he notched just his second forced fumble of the season.

"I thought Clay had a huge day today, very active, hits on the quarterback," McCarthy said. "Just flying around, especially on that surface there, that's a fast surface. I thought he was dynamic today."

Throw in key plays on the final drive by Jermichael Finley (two drops) and Greg Jennings (one drop), the Packers made a statement that could propel them to something special in a couple months.

"Those are the fun ones when you end up like that," Rodgers said. "We've had a number of games this year that we've won by a couple scores and been kneeling down for the last possession of the game. To get the ball at the 20 with under a minute and take it down and get into chip-shot field-goal range is pretty special."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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