- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Some thoughts on the game of the season in the NFL:
What it means: The New York Giants gave the Green Bay Packers everything they could handle. But in the end, the Packers improved to 12-0 and won their 18th consecutive game. They officially clinched a 2011 playoff spot and can win the NFC North title Sunday night if the Detroit Lions lose to the New Orleans Saints. Only one other team -- the New England Patriots from 2003-04 -- has had a longer winning streak in NFL history. Those Patriots won 21 consecutive games, including playoffs. The Packers' last loss was Dec. 19, 2010, at the Patriots.
RodgersWatch: Wow. All I can say is wow. After the Giants tied the game at 35, Aaron Rodgers took over at the Packers' 20-yard line with 58 seconds left. He completed all four of his ensuing passes, including bullets of 24 yards to tight end Jermichael Finley, 27 to receiver Jordy Nelson and 18 to receiver Greg Jennings. That was more than enough to get the Packers into field goal position, and ultimately Mason Crosby's 31-yard field goal won it. Rodgers finished the game with 369 yards, four touchdowns and the sixth fourth-quarter victory of his career.
MatthewsWatch: Linebacker Clay Matthews made two critical plays in the second quarter, returning an interception 38 yards for a touchdown and then stopping a Giants drive by forcing a fumble on a sack of quarterback Eli Manning. Those plays helped mitigate the Packers' difficulties in stopping the Giants' downfield passing game. Manning threw for a total of 347 yards, including completions of 67, 51 and 42 yards. The most egregious instance was the 67-yarder, a brutal catch and run by tight end Travis Beckum. Safeties Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett each had two chances to tackle him and missed.
Jennings TD explanation: I'm sure there will be some discussion about receiver Greg Jennings' 20-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Jennings appeared to lose control of the ball as he ran out of the back of the end zone. Some will wonder if Jennings completed the infamous "process" of the catch. But as former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira pointed out on Twitter, the "process" rule applies only to plays in which the receiver falls to the ground. And Jennings did have control with the ball in his left hand before losing it.
Injury report: The Packers were already playing without three starters: inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop, along with right guard Josh Sitton. They finished the game with two more prominent players on the sideline. Running back James Starks didn't return after injuring his ankle in the second quarter, and cornerback Charles Woodson suffered a head injury in the fourth quarter.
What's next: The Packers will host the Oakland Raiders next Sunday at Lambeau Field.