GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers spiked the ball with three seconds remaining and pumped his fist emphatically.
He had done his job. Trailing 28-27 with 37 seconds left and zero timeouts, Rodgers connected with Davante Adams for gains of 25 to midfield and 17 yards to the 33-yard line. After the second completion, he clocked the ball to give Mason Crosby a chance to win the game with a 51-yard field goal.
And Crosby did just that, setting off a huge celebration as the undermanned Packers upset the San Francisco 49ers 30-28 in a Sunday night thriller.
Just like that, the Packers look every bit like a Super Bowl contender after being left for dead by so many after a Week 1 blowout loss to New Orleans.
“Yeah, it gives some legitimacy to some of the things we’ve been talking about: That that was kind of an aberration and that we are a talented football team,” Rodgers said. “It felt like in the locker room today that we finally had the energy that I’ve been waiting to see.”
Rodgers was 21-of-24 passing when he stopped on the field midway through the fourth quarter with the Packers clinging to a 24-21 lead. Rodgers threw three consecutive deep incompletions—the first to Adams, who was blown up on a helmet-to-helmet shot by safety Jimmie Ward, and the third when Rodgers led Adams a bit too far.
That set up the Niners for a shot at the go-ahead score. Roughing the passer on Jaire Alexander and a trip on Adrian Amos that nullified his sack gave the Niners 25 easy yards and put them across midfield. However, Kenny Clark stormed up the field and forced a fumble that was recovered by De’Vondre Campbell. The Packers settled for a field goal to lead 27-21 with 2:39 remaining.
Jimmy Garoppolo answered with a 75-yard scoring drive, punctuated by a 12-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who broke Amos’ tackle at the 5 and barreled through Henry Black near the goal line.
Rodgers got the ball at the 25 with 37 seconds to go. That was 35 seconds too many.
Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. With Yosh Nijman replacing Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins, who had replaced All-Pro David Bakhtiari, the Packers gained 353 yards and scored 30 points against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
What it means: First and foremost, it's that the Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints wasn't indicative of the quality of this team.
“It felt like it was such a growth moment for us,” Aaron Rodgers said in his postgame news conference. “I’m really happy for the guys to feel that, and it feels like, ‘OK, now we’re on our way. Now we can get into this, now we know how to win, and we can get this thing moving in the right direction.’”
Moreover, in not-breaking news, the NFC North is not good. Chicago is 1-2 after losing 26-6 to Cleveland, Minnesota is 1-2 after beating Seattle 30-17, and Detroit is 0-3 after losing 19-17 to Baltimore on Justin Tucker’s record 66-yard field goal. So, the Packers are a game ahead of Chicago and Minnesota after a second consecutive win.
Key moment: “Throw it to ‘Tae,” was Aaron Rodgers’ first thought when he got the ball for the 2-minute drill. Green Bay’s two-minute drill wasn’t very effective during training camp but Rodgers and Adams delivered when it mattered. “I feel good about our team,” he said in a postgame interview with NBC’s Michele Tafoya. “This plane ride is going to feel incredible.”
Key stat: Mason Crosby has made 22 consecutive field goal attempts, second in franchise history behind his 23-kick streak spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers was superb, going 23-of-33 passing. He operated coach Matt LaFleur’s game plan masterfully and never panicked, whether it was playing behind a No. 3 left tackle and a green-as-grass offensive line or the pressure of a do-or-die drive.
What’s next: After back-to-back primetime games, the Packers will return home to face the Pittsburgh Steelers at 3:25 p.m. Sunday. Pittsburgh beat Buffalo in the opener but is coming off back-to-back home losses: 26-17 against the Las Vegas Raiders and 24-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 38-of-58 passing but for only 318 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.