Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrates a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
Tom Lynn
December 01, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Aaron Rodgers started peeking ahead to the playoffs. Tom Brady stewed about missed opportunities.

Had it not been for a late Green Bay sack, the star quarterbacks could have reversed roles.

But the Packers prevailed in a 26-21 thriller Sunday night over the New England Patriots that had all the makings of a potential Super Bowl preview.

''We would love home-field advantage, yes,'' Rodgers said when asked about the postseason. ''A lot.''

With a 6-0 home record this year, no team will want to come to Lambeau Field for the playoffs.

Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two long touchdowns, to tight end Richard Rodgers and receiver Jordy Nelson. Eddie Lacy had 21 carries for 98 yards, including 26 during a fourth-quarter drive that led to Mason Crosby's 28-yard field goal for a five-point lead with 8:41 left.

Mike Daniels and Mike Neal provided the defensive exclamation point after combining to sack Brady on third down for a 9-yard loss. 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.

''The point total was enough to win the game,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''I thought (the) defense did a lot of good things, and really I think the end of the game is what you're looking for as a coach.''

Not quite the ending Brady had in mind.

''I just wish we would have won this one. We put a lot into this one, and this was a great test for us,'' Brady said. ''I think the guys knew how important this was for our season.''

Green Bay (9-3) has won four straight and eight of nine. New England (9-3) had its seven-game winning streak snapped.

Don't be surprised if these teams meet again in February.

The Packers are far from a finished product. For one, they would like to improve their production in the red zone after having settled for four field goals from Crosby of 35 yards or less.

Some other takeaways from Sunday's showdown between two of the top teams in the NFL:

CHIPPING AWAY: The Packers came close several times to getting to Brady, but couldn't record a sack until their last defensive play of the game. Daniels rushed from the inside, while Neal overpowered left tackle Nate Solder from the outside before they met at the quarterback.

McCarthy has said he was hoping his defense could come up with a good performance without relying on having to create turnovers. That's exactly what happened against New England. The Packers, who led the league in turnover margin, didn't record a takeaway. They ended up holding New England to its lowest point total since falling 41-14 on Sept. 29 at Kansas City.

''So when you've got a guy like that, you have to just keep on chopping wood and you never know when you'll get to him,'' Daniels said. ''And as you saw, the last defensive play of the game is when we got to him.''

FILED AWAY: The big-game atmosphere made Sunday's game feel like a playoff contest. A lot can happen between now and early February, though the NFL will gladly take a repeat of the thriller in the Super Bowl.

''If we see them again ... that would be cool,'' tight end Rob Gronkowski said. ''Not really thinking about that. They're a good team and they just beat us heads up right now.''

Gronkowski finished with seven catches for 98 yards.

ROOKIE NIGHT: The draft-and-develop Packers always rely on young players. On Sunday, two rookies played starring roles on the offense.

Tight end Richard Rodgers caught a 32-yard touchdown pass. Davante Adams dropped a potential touchdown pass in the fourth quarter on third-and-5 from the 10, but otherwise had six catches for a career-high 121 yards.

REVIS ISLAND ESCAPE: Adams came up big with top New England cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner handling Packers wideouts Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb for much of the evening. Rodgers was able to peck away at the secondary anyway. All three receivers had their moments, including a 45-yard score for Nelson after beating Revis for a 45-yard touchdown and outracing safety Devin McCourty to the front pylon before falling out of bounds.

''It's heartbreaking for us,'' Revis said about the loss.

INJURY REPORT: Packers cornerback Sam Shields left after sustaining a concussion in the second quarter. Backup linebacker Jamari Lattimore left with an ankle injury in the second while on the kick return unit.


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