Aaron Rodgers sets Green Bay's all-time passing TD record as Packers hold off Browns 24-22 to improve to 12-3
GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers made a little history on Christmas, and the Green Bay Packers moved one step closer to clinching the NFC’s top playoff seed with a 24-22 win Saturday against the Cleveland Browns.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepted Baker Mayfield inside the game’s final minute, sealing the victory. Mayfield’s fourth interception of the game, and Douglas’ second, ended a potential game-winning drive. The Browns only needed a field goal and had driven to midfield.
Douglas’ pick preserved a historic afternoon. Rodgers became the Packers’ all-time touchdown pass leader with an 11-yard throw in the right flat to receiver Allen Lazard in the first quarter. It was Rodgers' 443rd touchdown pass of his career, one more than Brett Favre.
More:Aaron Rodgers passes Brett Favre for most touchdowns in Packers history with 443. Here's how Twitter reacted to the moment.
More:Davante Adams comes up big again with an assist from Allen Lazard
More:How bad was Baker Mayfield? Packers were bailed out by the Browns' rusty quarterback
Rodgers tied Favre's record with three touchdown passes last week in Baltimore. He had a chance to throw a fourth, but Rodgers missed a wide-open Lazard in the end zone. The incompletion set up Saturday's perfect scene, the chance to break Favre's record at home on Christmas.
The quarterback was swarmed by his offensive linemen immediately after the score. Center Lucas Patrick lifted Rodgers in the air and carried him. Before the extra point that gave the Packers a 7-6 lead, the kicking unit paused as fans serenaded Rodgers with “MVP” chants.
Favre was not at Lambeau Field on Christmas Day, but he prepared a short message for his successor.
“Hey 12. Congratulations, man, on passing my touchdown record. I have one request: Go get us another Super Bowl. Congrats.”
The victory improved the Packers' record to 12-3.
Here are four more observations:
Davante Adams on a TD tear
Through the middle of November, Davante Adams was having a fine season but the star receiver was stuck on only three touchdown receptions. He has been on a torrid streak since then, culminating in two touchdowns Saturday. It was the third time in his past five games Adams has caught two touchdowns in a game, giving him seven scores in that stretch. He reached 10 touchdowns on the season with two games to go, the fifth time in his eight-year career he’s hit double digits. Adams’ first touchdown was his 66th from Rodgers, one more than Rodgers threw to Jordy Nelson for the most between a quarterback-receiver duo in franchise history. Adams finished with 10 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. It was the eighth time in his career he’s had at least 10 catches, 100 yards and multiple touchdowns in a game, the most such games in NFL history.
Packers secondary receives gifts
In October, Rasul Douglas was on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad. Now he’s leading the Packers in interceptions. Douglas made his fourth of the season Saturday, his third straight in a game at Lambeau Field, as part of a very generous afternoon from Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. In his return from COVID-19, Mayfield was clearly rusty — and the Packers were in the gift-receiving mood. Safety Darnell Savage started things with an interception on a Mayfield pass that was lobbed as a jump ball down the middle of the field. Savage, who has dropped a handful of picks this year, had maybe the easiest interception of his career. Chandon Sullivan caught a pass Mayfield airmailed over receiver Jarvis Landry’s head later in the first half. In the second half, rookie Eric Stokes jumped a route but dropped an easy pick from Mayfield.
Rashan Gary continues his breakout
Gary wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl this year, but the alternate might be aligning himself for a run at a Pro Bowl in 2022. That’s often the case for young players, needing a year to gain name recognition before breaking through. Gary is certainly making his name known this fall. With two sacks Saturday, Gary is up to 8.5 this season. He combined for seven sacks in his first two seasons. It was the second time this year Gary has had two sacks in a game, the first coming against Washington in November. The Packers harassed Mayfield throughout, finishing with five sacks. Preston Smith, Dean Lowry and Tipa Galeai each had one.
Matt LaFleur seeing red
LaFleur’s aggression on the sidelines can be so effective on fourth down, but it also gets the better of him when it comes to challenging plays. He also seems to know it. Early in Saturday’s third quarter, a Rodgers pass to Juwann Winfree was ruled incomplete. LaFleur waffled on the sideline as he debated challenging it, grabbing his red challenge flag and then holding back. He appeared to have a case — but it was close, and even if the play was overturned, it would have been a minimal gain of less than 20 yards. LaFleur couldn’t help himself, eventually throwing the challenge flag. The incompletion stood after review, and the Packers were left without challenges for the rest of the game. (LaFleur unsuccessfully challenged a Brown completion in the first half.) They also lost a timeout less than three minutes into the third quarter. Even if LaFleur was successful, the reward hardly seemed to justify the risk. It’s the type of decision that could cost the Packers in the playoffs.