GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — If this was a Super Bowl preview, with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in starring roles, the NFL will be thrilled.
Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns, Eddie Lacy powered for key yards in the fourth quarter and the Green Bay Packers fended off the New England Patriots 26-21 Sunday in a high-profile matchup between Super Bowl contenders.
Rodgers bested Brady in the first meeting between the star quarterbacks as starters. Rodgers connected with Richard Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for long touchdowns.
Leading by five, the defense held firm late for the Packers (9-3). Mike Daniels and Mike Neal combined to sack Brady on third down for a 9-yard loss, and kicker Stephen Gostkowkski pushed a 47-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 2:40 left.
The Packers sealed it after Rodgers converted to Cobb on third-and-4 with the Patriots out of timeouts.
Brady finished 22 of 35 for 245 yards and two touchdown passes to Brandon LaFell for New England (9-3), which had its seven-game winning streak snapped. The second score came from 15 yards early in the fourth quarter to get within 23-21.
The lead could have been wider for the Packers if not for some hiccups in the red zone.
Green Bay settled for four field goals from Mason Crosby of 35 yards or less, including a 28-yarder to make it a five-point lead with 8:41 left. That kick came after rookie Davante Adams dropped a potential touchdown pass on third-and-5 from the New England 10.
On his knees, a frustrated Rodgers buried his helmet into the turf in frustration.
But he was celebrating at the end. Green Bay has won four in a row and eight of nine.
Rodgers finished 24 of 38, while Lacy had 98 yards on 21 carries, including 26 on the ground in the fourth-quarter drive that led to Crosby’s field goal. Adams had a career-best 121 yards on receptions.
Rodgers extended his NFL-record streaks to 360 consecutive passes at home and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception. His last interception at home came nearly two years ago on Dec. 2, 2012.
The Packers had been blowing past opponents at home with big early leads, turning the final 30 minutes of games at Lambeau Field into glorified practices. But this game had the feel of a championship fight down to the final minutes.
New England punched back after falling behind 13-0 in the first quarter.
Brandon Bolden twisted his way up the middle past would-be tacklers for a 6-yard run early in the second quarter to get New England on the board. LaFell’s 2-yard catch with 1:09 left in the quarter drew New England within 16-14.
But the quick-strike Packers were at their best late in the first half. Rodgers found Nelson in stride over the middle, and the receiver beat standout cornerback Darrelle Revis for a 45-yard touchdown, outracing safety Devin McCourty and tagging the front pylon before falling out of bounds.
Six-foot-6 tight end Rob Gronkowski had 98 yards on seven catches, proving to be a matchup nightmare once again for a defense.
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