GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — With Aaron Rodgers back from a concussion, the Green Bay Packers stayed on track for the playoffs – and made sure the New York Giants’ nightmare continued for another week.
Rodgers threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns as the Packers beat the struggling Giants 45-17 at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The loss leaves the Giants (9-6) clinging to fading playoff hopes and wondering if there was a hangover effect from the previous week’s collapse against Philadelphia. New York’s turnover issues continued Sunday, as the Giants lost two fumbles and Eli Manning threw four interceptions.
John Kuhn ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for a score for the Packers (9-6), who came into Sunday’s game needing to win their final two games to make the playoffs. The Packers host division-rival Chicago in their final regular-season game next Sunday.
Rodgers sat out last Sunday’s loss at New England because of his second concussion of the season. Greg Jennings caught seven passes for 142 yards for Green Bay.
Manning threw for 301 yards with two touchdowns and the four interceptions, a week after the Giants allowed the Eagles to score 28 points in the final 7 1/2 minutes to win 38-31 on DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return on the final play.
And as if Sunday’s game wasn’t frustrating enough for the Giants, they are expected to be stuck in Wisconsin for an extra night because of a heavy snowstorm on the East Coast.
It was a rematch of the Giants’ overtime victory in the NFC title game in below-zero conditions at Lambeau nearly three years ago. Sunday’s conditions weren’t nearly as challenging, with 25-degree temperatures and little wind at kickoff.
Rodgers certainly was hot, while the Giants had trouble holding on to the ball.
Already trailing 21-14, the Giants began the second half with yet another major mistake. On a third-down play in Packers territory, Charles Woodson stripped the ball from Ahmad Bradshaw and the Packers recovered at the 50. The Packers drove but had to settle for a field goal, taking a 24-14 lead.
The Giants answered with a drive for a field goal, but Rodgers was at his absolute best on the Packers’ next possession. Taking over at the Green Bay 30, Rodgers threw for big gains on back-to-back plays – Donald Driver for 33 yards and Jennings for 36 – then threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee two plays later to give the Packers a 31-17 lead with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
Hakeem Nicks appeared to fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but Giants coach Tom Coughlin challenged the play and New York kept the ball. Brandon Jacobs then broke free for a long run – but Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews punched the ball, it popped into the air and the Packers recovered.
This time, Coughlin’s replay review was unsuccessful and Green Bay kept the ball.
Manning then threw an interception to Packers rookie Sam Shields, whose foot appeared to be out of bounds. But the Giants were out of replay challenges.
Rodgers showed he was back and healthy early on, throwing an 80-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson. After Manning was intercepted by Tramon Williams, Rodgers threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to James Jones on third-and-goal, giving the Packers a 14-0 lead with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
But the Packers’ second score seemed to wake up the Giants. After an illegal contact penalty on Woodson gave the Giants a first down at the Green Bay 36-yard line, Woodson slipped in coverage on the next play and Manning found Nicks wide open for a touchdown.
The Packers put together another drive, but Nelson fumbled deep in Giants territory. Manning then threw a jump ball to Mario Manningham, who caught it over Williams and ran in for an 85-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.
But the Giants made another mistake just before halftime when cornerback Terrell Thomas was penalized for slapping Driver on the helmet after making a tackle. The penalty gave the Packers a first down at the New York 16 just before the 2-minute warning. Kuhn scored on an 8-yard touchdown run two plays later, and the Packers took a 21-14 lead into halftime.