News now! Packers clinch playoff berth; NFC North on the line next week

Posted by Mike Spofford on December 21, 2014 – 2:47 pm

Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb

TAMPA — The Packers clinched a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive season with a 20-3 victory over Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.

The win improved the Packers to 11-4 and set up a division-title showdown next week at Lambeau Field against the Detroit Lions, whose game against the Chicago Bears was in the fourth quarter when the Green Bay game ended. The Lions’ result had no bearing on the NFC North race, which will come down to a winner-take-all meeting in Week 17, though both teams are guaranteed playoff berths.

The winner next week will enter the playoffs as the NFC North champions, while the loser will be a wild card. If the Packers win the division, they’ll be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the NFC and have a first-round bye.

To recap the fourth quarter Sunday, the Packers entered the final period ahead 10-3. They added to their lead on a drive that spanned the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth. Five straight completions by QB Aaron Rodgers — two to WR Randall Cobb, two to WR Jordy Nelson and one to WR Davante Adams — picked up 31 yards. RB Eddie Lacy then converted a third-and-1 with a 6-yard run and FB John Kuhn followed with an 11-yard run.

The drive bogged down, however, as RB James Starks carried twice for 6 yards but was stopped short on a third-and-4 pass, leading to a 25-yard FG by K Mason Crosby. The three points put the Packers ahead 13-3 with 10:19 to go.

The Packers defense responded by allowing just one first down, and then LBs Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews sacked QB Josh McCown on back-to-back plays, forcing a punt. The sacks were the second on the day for each player. Matthews recorded his second straight two-sack game, while Peppers had his first two-sack game as a member of the Packers.

Matthews added another half-sack on the Buccaneers’ final drive of the game, giving the defense seven total sacks on the day, a season-high for Green Bay. That drive ended with an interception by DE Datone Jones, the first of his career.

Taking over with 6:47 left, the Packers offense got back to work moving the chains and killing clock. An 11-yard run by Kuhn was followed by a 16-yard pass to TE Andrew Quarless and a 30-yard catch-and-run by Cobb to get the ball to the Tampa Bay 20 with under four minutes to go. A 19-yard connection to Nelson moved it to the 1, and then Rodgers hit Nelson on a slant pass for the TD and a 20-3 lead with 2:45 left.

The pass completions to Cobb and Nelson put both players over 100 yards receiving in the same game for the second time this year (also vs. Philadelphia). Cobb posted career highs in both receptions and yards with 11 catches for 131 yards. Nelson had nine grabs for 113.

Rodgers finished 31-of-40 for 318 yards and a TD for a 108.1 passer rating.

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