GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – On a day coronating Aaron Rodgers in the Packers record books, it was the Green & Gold defense sealing the deal on a Christmas Day win.
Rodgers threw his franchise record-breaking 443rd career touchdown pass in the first quarter, Rasul Douglas grabbed two of the Packers’ season-high four interceptions, and Green Bay retained the NFC’s top seed with a 24-22 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
With the victory, the Packers move to 12-3 on the season, one win clear of the NFC field with tiebreakers against the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Dallas Cowboys currently have the best record vs. NFC opponents at 8-1 and would have a tiebreaker over the Packers on that merit.
The too-close-for-comfort result gave the Packers their second-ever victory on Christmas Day and improved their overall record on the holiday to 2-1. Green Bay split contests against the Chicago Bears in 2005 and 2011.
This year’s festive showcase started out in favor of the visitors.
On their opening drive, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Browns marched 75 yards in just five plays, sparked by Nick Chubb taking a checkdown pass 40 yards into Green Bay territory. Chubb later capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, giving Cleveland a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point.
Green Bay’s offense sputtered out after a fourth down conversion on the following drive, but when the Browns got the ball back, Darnell Savage picked off a deep ball into double coverage on the first play of the drive.
The Packers promptly marched five plays to the end zone, capping the drive with Rodgers’ record-breaking pass to Allen Lazard. The fourth-year receiver hauled in the third down pass, turned a corner near the boundary, and lunged toward the pylon. Replay upheld the call on the field for Rodgers’ 443rd career touchdown pass.
No. 444 didn’t have to wait long. Following another Mayfield interception on the Browns’ next drive, Rodgers hit Davante Adams wide open in single coverage, beating a blitz.
The connection between Rodgers and Adams was the 66th such touchdown pass, the most between any tandem in Packers history.
Cleveland would score again, but the Packers weren’t done before half. On his 67th career touchdown to Adams, the four-time Pro Bowler beat Greedy Williams on a jump ball, giving the Packers a 21-12 lead at the break.
Adams would finish with 10 receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first player in NFL history with eight career games of at least 10 receptions, 100-plus yards and multiple touchdowns.
If the first half was a track meet, the second half dragged to a knock-down, grind-out pace.
The Packers chewed 5:48 off the clock on their opening drive of the third quarter, taking a 24-12 lead on a 32-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
The Browns one-upped that effort with an eight-minute drive of their own, capping it with a 37-yard field goal and leaving 1:07 on the third quarter clock.
Green Bay went backwards on the next drive, going three-and-out after the Browns defense squandered an Equanimeous St. Brown reverse play on first down.
The teams traded punts, but Cleveland started to gain an edge in time of possession with a dominant ground game. Chubb became the first opposing running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark on the Packers this season.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Mayfield and Chubb led an eight-play, 76-yard drive in just 2:10, capping the march on a five-yard touchdown connection between Mayfield and Anthony Schwartz.
Leading 24-22, Green Bay got the ball back with just over four minutes remaining. The Packers picked up a first down, but on third down, Adams dropped a pass from Rodgers near the boundary to force a punt.
The Browns got the ball back with 2:07 remaining and all three timeouts. Two first down conversions by Chubb – one rushing, one receiving – got Cleveland to the 50-yard line, but on third and 10, Mayfield tossed his fourth and final interception of the game to Rasul Douglas.
Douglas’ fifth pick of the year was his second of the day, both team-leading marks for the Packers. Green Bay became the first NFL team in the past two seasons with at least four interceptions and five sacks in a game.
The Packers secured the NFC North title last Sunday and can clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with wins against the Vikings and Lions in the final two weeks of the regular season.