Packers build big lead, hold off Falcons for win
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers powered the Green Bay Packers to another big first half in a home victory.
But the Atlanta Falcons' furious late rally provided the Packers' potential playoff foes some hope.
Maybe Lambeau Field won't be that impenetrable after all in the postseason.
Lacy ran for a touchdown and caught one of Rodgers' three TD passes, and Green Bay built a 24-point halftime lead before holding on for a 43-37 victory Monday night.
The Packers (10-3) earned their fifth consecutive victory to stay a game up on Detroit in the NFC North. They remained tied with Arizona for the NFC's best record.
"There's been some ups and downs on both sides of the ball all season," Rodgers said. "But we're really getting this home-field advantage thing going, with the crowd noise, with the footing, with the way we're playing being really balanced on offense."
Rodgers acknowledged there may have been a "slight relaxation" at halftime up 24.
What matters most in the end to Green Bay is that it held on for a victory, even though this win didn't go quite according to the script the Packers had written earlier this year against NFC foes.
"Defensively, a tale of two halves. You have to give Atlanta's offense a lot of credit," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have plenty to clean up."
The Falcons dropped to 5-8, but remained in a first-place tie with New Orleans in the woeful NFC South.
Julio Jones had a career-best 259 yards receiving for the Falcons before leaving with a hip injury. Jones had a 22-yard touchdown catch in a 20-point fourth quarter that helped Atlanta cut into Green Bay's big lead.
Matt Ryan's 2-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas with 2:15 left got Atlanta within six.
But the Packers recovered the ensuing onside kick, and backup running back James Starks effectively ended Atlanta's upset hopes with a 41-yard run to the Falcons 6 with 1:37 left.
The Falcons had won three of four coming into the game. They haven't lost hope that they can still make the playoffs.
"Yeah, absolutely. We scored 37 points tonight. If you can't believe in that, then you don't need to be in this locker room, we need to cut some people," receiver Roddy White said.
Coach Mike Smith said it was difficult to lose Jones late. But the Falcons did damage even with their No. 1 receiver hobbling on the sideline.
Ryan threw for 375 yards and four scores, including a 1-yard touchdown catch by White with 6:20 left that trimmed Green Bay's lead to 40-30. Jones didn't come out for Atlanta's failed 2-point conversion attempt.
"Difficult. There's probably never a good time for an injury, but that's part of the game," Ryan said.
Mason Crosby kicked a 53-yard field goal with 4:37 left, helping the Packers withstand Atlanta's final punch.
Rodgers finished 24 of 36 for 327 yards. Lacy had 73 yards on 13 carries, and 33 yards on five catches.
The tough running back wiggled from side to side to celebrate his 1-yard touchdown reception with 4:20 left in the second quarter. The score was set up by safety Morgan Burnett's interception.
Later, Rodgers sidestepped his way out of a late blitz by Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann and found Jordy Nelson in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left in the half. Rodgers and Nelson connected on a 60-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Nelson finished with eight catches for 146 yards.
Jones was even better, catching 11 of the 17 passes thrown in his direction. His 79-yard catch-and-run to the Packers 3 on the first play of the third quarter set up a 5-yard touchdown catch by Eric Weeks on fourth down.
It was a sign of things to come in the second half before Green Bay was able to hang on at the end.
"We can't play one half or three quarters or anything like that," linebacker Julius Peppers said. "We've got to finish games."
Notes: Lacy was pulled in the fourth quarter with a hip injury. He said he thought he would be OK, though he was sidelined as a precaution. Asked when the injury occurred, Lacy joked, "Whenever I ran into the two big dudes." . . . Starks finished with 75 yards on 10 carries. . . . McCarthy tied Vince Lombardi with 98 career victories, second on the franchise list behind Curly Lambeau (209). . . . S Dwight Lowery had a team-high 13 tackles and a forced fumble for Atlanta.