GREEN BAY—Randall Cobb made the tough catch that might not have been necessary had Davante Adams made an easier one.
Either way, the Packers will take the end result, a 26-21 victory over the Patriots on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Much like last week, the Packers offense took the field with a chance to drain the clock and seal the win. This time, it wasn't the running game but a pass play that did the job.
After the Patriots called their final timeout, the game came down to third-and-4 from the Green Bay 43-yard line with 2:28 left. QB Aaron Rodgers couldn't find anyone open at first, but the offensive line protected him long enough for Cobb to cut across the field and snare a 7-yard pass into a tight window with two defenders hanging on him.
"We understand the implications of that play and how big it was," Cobb said. "We don't want to give the ball back to them. We want to keep the chains moving.
"After I ran my route, I saw Aaron had the ball. I was just looking for space and was able to create some separation and make the play."
He didn't have much separation, but apparently it was enough.
Cobb had a lot less room to work with than the rookie Adams did on Green Bay's previous possession. That one came down to third-and-5 from the New England 10 with the Packers leading 23-21 and looking to make it a two-score game.
Adams started with a move to the outside, cut back inside, and Rodgers' throw was right on target at the goal line. Only Adams let it bounce off his hands.
"It was wide open," Adams said. "The ball came to me, and I don't know, I must have blinked or something. Got right through my hands, but I'm over it."
His teammates encouraged him to get over it quickly, believing they might need Adams to make another play. They didn't, but he had made his share in catching six passes for a career-high 121 yards.
In the first quarter alone, Adams hauled in a 33-yard pass to set up a field goal and a 45-yarder on third down leading to a TD, the two longest catches of his young career. In the second half, he had a 12-yard grab to convert another third down and then a 17-yarder a handful of snaps prior to his goal-line drop.
"It happens, it happens," Cobb said. "He had an excellent game. You take away that one drop, he played phenomenal."
It was the kind of production the Packers needed from Adams with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb dealing with the coverage of Patriots cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner all game.
"He's continued to get better, week in and week out," Cobb said. "Him moving forward, continuing to play like that, it's going to be tough to stop us across the board."
One chance: Nelson drew a couple of penalties on Browner early and then saw a lot of Revis in man-to-man coverage. He got his first catch with less than 30 seconds left in the first half, an 8-yarder.
On the very next snap, though, Nelson finally got away from Revis, catching a slant in stride from Rodgers and taking off. Using a good block from Cobb on Revis downfield, Nelson was able to get all the way to the pylon for a 45-yard TD with just 14 seconds left on the clock, giving the Packers a 23-14 lead at intermission.
"I knew the time was running out, and I wanted to get in so bad, because I knew if I didn't, we'd most likely have to settle for a field goal again based on the time situation," Nelson said.
"I don't want to say steal some points there, but we kind of did."
The touchdown was Nelson's 10th of the season, tying him for the team lead with Cobb, and his fifth long one this year.
Two-for-two: Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers didn't get his first NFL touchdown until last week, in his 11th pro game. He found the end zone again on Sunday for the second straight contest, hauling in a 32-yard TD pass late in the first quarter.
Rodgers beat cornerback Patrick Chung in man coverage on a simple route right down the middle of the field. Rodgers the QB gave an exaggerated pump fake to his right, and when he looked back to the middle lofted it up for his namesake.
"When people get opportunities, they make plays and step up. That's what Aaron expects us to do and that's what we expect to do ourselves," Rodgers said. "If we get a one-on-one matchup we like, we're obviously going to go to that, and that's what we did today."
Scoring milestones: Kicker Mason Crosby was less than a foot from going 5-for-5 on field goals, but his 14 total points (four FGs, two PATs) put him over 100 points on the season and over 1,000 in his career.
It's the eighth 100-point season of Crosby's career, tying the franchise record held by Ryan Longwell. The only other players in Packers history to surpass 1,000 career points is also Longwell.
"It's pretty cool, a milestone, coming on a win here," said Crosby, whose only miss on the day was from 40 yards out in the second half. "I was disappointed about that kick. It was an important kick, one I needed to hit through, but I got another chance, hit a field goal there late.
"To see the different ways we can win games, that's what's awesome. Some of the personal things, that's all a product of what this team is, and I'm so thankful to be a part of it."
Injury update: The Packers had two players leave the game with injuries – cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) and linebacker Jamari Lattimore (ankle).
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