Packers beat Raiders 30-20 after clinching playoff spot
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) After losing four of five games during a rare midseason slump, the Green Bay Packers are back where they usually are this time of year: headed to the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass and Damarious Randall returned an interception for another score to help the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 30-20 on Sunday, after Green Bay clinched a franchise-record seventh straight postseason spot.
''It's big, especially when a couple weeks ago everybody was counting us out,'' said defensive back Micah Hyde, who had an early interception that helped Green Bay get off to a fast start.
''It's good to clinch, but at the same time, this is something that's expected around here.''
The Packers (10-4) clinched the postseason in the first quarter when the New York Giants lost to Carolina.
But the Packers still have their eyes set on a division title and they remained one game ahead of Minnesota in the NFC North.
But the Packers still have plenty of work to do before January. They failed to get into the end zone on their final four red zone trips and blew a 14-point lead before recovering for the win. But they aren't concerned with those problems right now.
''We're right where I want to be. Right where we need to be,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''The style points, you can flush that. I'm sick and tired about talking about the negativity - we've won 10 games.''
Derek Carr threw two early interceptions to put Oakland (6-8) in a hole, but then had a pair of touchdown passes to Amari Cooper. It wasn't enough as the Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention for the 13th straight season.
''It hurts. It hurt my heart to be honest because I know how much work I put into this, how much work our team puts into this, our coaches,'' Carr said.
''I know the sacrifice during the week and even during the offseason. Everyone's ultimate goal is to go to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. That's always my goal, that will never change.
The Packers built a 14-0 lead with defense and then had to win it behind Rodgers and the offense. Green Bay fell behind 20-17 midway through the third quarter on Carr's second touchdown pass to Cooper.
The Oakland lead was short-lived as Jeff Janis returned the ensuing kickoff to the 47. Three plays later, former Raider James Jones beat a busted coverage for a 30-yard touchdown catch.
''Those kind of mistakes, they kill you as a team,'' safety Charles Woodson said. ''We gave ourselves a chance. Just didn't come up at the end when we needed to.''
Rodgers engineered a 19-play field goal drive on Green Bay's next possession and Mason Crosby's third field goal made it 30-20 with 4:25 left to put the Packers in control.
The highlight for the Raiders was rookie Cooper cracking the 1,000-yard milestone, as he caught six passes for 120 yards. He reached the mark on a 41-yard catch in the third quarter, becoming the first Oakland player with 1,000 yards receiving since Randy Moss in 2005. That was the longest current drought in the NFL.
The rest of the accolades went to the Packers, who got 2 1/2 sacks from Julius Peppers to win their third straight game.
Carr threw two interceptions in the first quarter to set up Green Bay touchdowns. Hyde's interception set up the Packers at the 18 and John Kuhn ran it in from the 5 for the first score.
Carr's next pass was high to Seth Roberts and Randall returned it 43 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-0.
The Raiders rallied with a pair of field goals in the second quarter, but the Packers still looked to be in control as they drove into scoring range late in the half.
But Benson Mayowa forced and recovered a fumble by James Starks at the Oakland 21 with 1:22 to go and Carr connected on a 19-yard TD pass to Cooper four plays later to make it 14-13 at the half.
NOTES: Packers LB Jayrone Elliott (quadriceps) and OL David Bakhtiari (ankle) left with injuries. ... Raiders DE Mario Edwards Jr. left after the first drive with a neck injury and WR Seth Roberts (abdominal) also was injured.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL