Bill Kostroun, Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The stadium was rocking, and the possibilities for the New York Giants were delicious.
They'd just tied the Green Bay Packers — yes, the undefeated, defending champion Packers — with 58 seconds remaining Sunday night. Their only competition for the NFC East title, the Cowboys, had lost at Arizona.
A Giants victory would erase their deficit behind Dallas, and would snap Green Bay's winning streak at 17, 11 this season. Just stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' dynamic offense, get the game to overtime, and perhaps pull off a season-defining win.
Instead, Rodgers marched his team 68 yards in five plays, Mason Crosby kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired, and the Packers won 38-35, clinching a playoff berth.
"When you get a chance to knock out the champ, you got to knock him out," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "You can't let them hang around and fight off the ropes.
"You've got to knock him out. There's a reason they've won 18 straight."
And there are lots of reasons the Giants (6-6) have lost four in a row, from inconsistent offense to a porous secondary to a difficult schedule that doesn't get any easier with a trip to Dallas next Sunday — and concludes on New Year's Day with the Cowboys at the Meadowlands.
Still, one game in back of the Cowboys and having pushed the Packers (12-0) to the limit, the Giants shouldn't be hanging their heads.
"A loss is a loss, no matter how it comes. It's just a better feeling than the previous one (Saints)," Tuck said, referring to a 49-24 rout in New Orleans last Monday night. "As long as we play with passion, I don't see why we can't be in the playoffs. But we've got a lot of work to do before we talk about that. I'm sick to my stomach, but a win takes all that away. I just hope all my teammates feel the same way."
Eli Manning does.
"We did some really good things, and they're the best team in football right now," Manning said. "I think we have to try to take something from this game, take some momentum into these next games."
Coincidentally, New York fell 38-35 to unbeaten New England in 2007 season finale, then beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
"Hopefully, we can take that same approach," Manning said.
Rodgers hit three passes of more than 18 yards on the drive in the final 58 seconds. That came after New York tied the game on Eli Manning's 2-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks and a 2-point conversion run by D.J. Ware.
However, Rodgers, who threw four touchdown passes, wasn't going to settle for overtime after a touchback on the ensuing kickoff.
On first down, he hit Jermichael Finley just over the outstretched hands of rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams and the tight end rumbled 24 yards up the right sideline.
A 24-yard pass to Jordy Nelson down the left sideline moved the ball to the New York 29. An 18-yard pass to Greg Jennings two plays later got the ball to the 12.
Green Bay called time out with 3 seconds to go, and Crosby delivered.
Rodgers, who was harassed by the Giants' front and sacked three times, finished 28 of 46 for 369 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 7 and 13 yards to Donald Driver, 20 to Jennings and 12 to Finley.
Linebacker Clay Matthews also returned an interception 38 yards for a score in the second quarter.
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