Packers hold off Falcons for 43-37 win

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers remain in hot pursuit of the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoff.

The Atlanta Falcons, well, they remain in pursuit of the championship in the woeful NFC South.

The Packers dominated the first half, then held off the Falcons 43-37 Monday night at Lambeau Field. Making his 100th career start, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 36 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns.

Led by quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons chipped away at a 24-point deficit to pull within 10 points early in the fourth quarter. However, the Packers briefly restored order on Rodgers' 60-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jordy Nelson. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman blocked the extra point, but the Packers led 40-24 with 10:38 to play.

The Falcons responded, with Ryan hitting Jones three times to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Roddy White. The two-point play failed, leaving Green Bay ahead 40-30 with 6:15 remaining.

Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin recovered the onside kick, and Mason Crosby tacked on a 53-yard field goal to extend the advantage to 43-30.

Atlanta wouldn't go away quietly, with Ryan's 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Harry Douglas on fourth-and-goal making it 43-37 with 2:11 remaining. However, Matt Bosher's dribbling kickoff was easily corralled by Nelson at Green Bay's 39.

With the Packers needing a couple of first downs to run out the clock, Rodgers ran for 12 yards, and running back James Starks delivered the crushing blow with a 41-yard run to the 6.

Ryan finished 24 of 39 for 375 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception, with Jones doing most of the work. Despite missing the final drive due to a hip injury, Jones caught 11 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown.

Green Bay (10-3) earned its fifth win in a row and ninth in 10 games to tie the Arizona Cardinals for the best record in the NFC. Atlanta (5-8) is tied with the New Orleans Saints for first in the NFC South.

The Falcons got back in the game in the third quarter. On the first play of the second half, Ryan hit Jones for a gain of 79 to the Packers' 3. Green Bay got it fourth-and-goal from the 5, but Ryan hit wide receiver Eric Weems for the touchdown. After Atlanta forced Green Bay's first punt of the night, Matt Bryant hit a 50-yard field goal to pull the Falcons within 31-17.

The Packers got a field goal on the ensuing possession to make it 34-17.

Green Bay led 31-7 at halftime, with Rodgers completing 18 of 25 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns and the Packers enjoying a 296-161 edge in yards.

The Packers pulled away midway through the second quarter. After Green Bay kicked a field goal to take a 17-7 lead, Ryan was intercepted by safety Morgan Burnett. That set up the Packers at Atlanta's 15. Rodgers converted a third-and-5 with a scramble, then dumped a pass to running back Eddie Lacy for a 1-yard touchdown.

The Packers put the game away by forcing a punt and scoring again. On third-and-goal from the 10, Rodgers sidestepped a delayed blitz by Kroy Biermann and rifled a 10-yard touchdown pass to Nelson.

Regardless of the field position, Green Bay had an easy time against Atlanta's defense, which ranked last in the league in total yards and passing yards entering the night. The first drive, highlighted by a 22-yard run by Lacy and a 22-yard catch by Nelson, was punctuated by Starks' 3-yard touchdown run.

The Falcons answered, with Ryan converting a pair of third downs with completions to White and Jones before running back Steven Jackson powered in from the 4 to tie the game at 7.

The Packers responded with Lacy scoring from the 1 on the first play of the second quarter. On the final play of the first quarter, Rodgers scrambled for 5 yards but was stripped by safety Dwight Lowery. Rodgers recovered, and Atlanta defensive end Tyson Jackson was penalized for unnecessary roughness.

NOTES: Green Bay's run of 89 consecutive first-quarter points ended when Falcons RB Steven Jackson scored on a 4-yard run. In their previous five home games, the Packers outscored their opponents 79-0 in the first quarter. ... The Packers became the first team since the 1973 Dolphins to lead five home games by 20-plus points at halftime, according to ESPN's Stats & Info Twitter feed. Green Bay became the first team in NFL history to score at least 23 points in the first half of six consecutive games in a season ... Clay Matthews started at linebacker for the Packers, and Jake MatthewsAtlanta's first-round pick, started at left tackle. The cousins are the sons of Clay Matthews Jr. and Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, respectively. ... Falcons WR Julio Jones had five catches for 100 yards in the first half. The Falcons had 112 passing yards in the half. ... The Packers went 4-for-4 in the red zone before halftime after going 0-for-4 last week against New England.

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