Philip Rivers threw for 503 yards. He needed 3 more.
Rivers’ 65th and final pass, a fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, was batted down at the goal line by Packers cornerback Damarious Randall, giving Green Bay a 27-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Rivers had just the 17th 500-yard game in NFL history, and completed 43 of 65 passes with two touchdowns.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had two touchdown passes and actually beat Rivers in passer rating 107.7-99.7. Running back James Starks rushed for 110 yards and scored two touchdowns -- a 5-yard reception and a 65-yard run -- that staked Green Bay to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.
The Packers took a 27-20 lead on Mason Crosby's 28-yard field goal with 2:37 remaining.
Rivers drove the Chargers the length of the field, leaning heavily on tight end Antonio Gates and running back Danny Woodhead. On fourth-and-goal with 20 seconds remaining, Rivers went to Woodhead to his right in the flat but Randall closed and broke it up to save the game.
“They actually ran that play earlier,” Randall said. “Rivers was trying to see if he could get it to Gates first. I guess No. 39, Woodhead, was his second option and I was just there to make a play.”
The Packers are 6-0 for the first time since 2011 and the second time in the last 50 years. For the first time in a long time, it’s the defense – not the Rodgers-fueled offense – making the key plays.
“If you have a chance to study their offense, he's so accurate with the football and the at-the-line offense and the command of recognizing the defense and so forth, you've got to give him a ton of credit there,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It was a competitive match, but we kept them out of the end zone. That's what was most important. When you get in games like that, where you're giving up a lot of yards, at the end of day it's about field goals versus touchdowns and that was obviously a big part of this game.”
The Chargers (2-4) have lost games in the final moments in back-to-back weeks and three of their losses have been by no more than seven points. Maybe it would have been a different outcome had Chargers receiver Keenan Allen not missed the final quarter-and-a-half with a hip injury. He caught 14 passes for 157 yards, including an NFL season-high 11 in the first half.
“Gosh, I don’t know, you have to laugh to keep from crying,” Rivers said. “Another one. Another one that was tough. And as good as we played, in a lot of ways, we left plays out there that we normally make. … We should’ve scored 40. We should’ve. And that’s what’s frustrating because our defense played their tail off.”
San Diego, which fell behind 17-3 in the first half, trailed 24-20 when it got the ball at its 29 with 9 minutes remaining in regulation. On the first play, Rivers threw a short pass to Gates that he turned into a gain of 21. Another short pass turned into a gain of 14 by running back Branden Oliver, but the Packers' defense – run ragged for most of the final three quarters – stiffened with a third-down sack by Datone Jones.
Rodgers hit tight end Richard Rodgers for 25 on a naked bootleg, then avoided unblocked cornerback Patrick Robinson's sack attempt and flipped the ball to receiver Jeff Janis for a gain of 33. San Diego's defense held for a field goal.
San Diego tied the game at 17 on its first possession of the second half, with Rivers' 50-yard bomb to Malcom Floyd converting a third-and-17 before he found Green for a 19-yard touchdown over linebacker Clay Matthews.
The Packers' offense, in a funk since scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions, recaptured the lead with 46 seconds left in the third quarter on Rodgers' 8-yard touchdown pass to James Jones.
San Diego trimmed into the margin to 24-20 with a field goal on the ensuing possession, with Josh Lambo hitting a 32-yard field goal one play after Packers cornerback Sam Shields dropped an interception.
The Packers led 17-10 at halftime, the second coming on Starks’ long touchdown run against an overaggressive Chargers defense.
“We have to eliminate the big plays and that’s a big thing,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “We have to make teams go the distance. That explosive play, whether it’s a run or a pass, we have to do a better job of neutralizing those things.”
San Diego put together two good drives in the second quarter but only one of them resulted in points. On the first, McCoy kept the offense on the field on fourth-and-3 from the 12. Rivers threw a back-shoulder pass to Gates near the goal line but Gates dropped what might have been the 102nd touchdown catch of his career.
On the next, Allen continued his prolific first half with a 38-yard completion on a deep post, a beautiful toe-tapper for a gain of 16 for a first-and-goal at the 7 and another just short of the goal line on third-and-goal from the 10. On fourth-and-goal on the final play of the half, Rivers looped a pass over safety Micah Hyde to receiver Dontrelle Inman.