By Paul Newberry, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA(AP) — Matt Bryant kicked a 47-yard field goal with 9 seconds remaining to give the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons their fifth straight win, 20-17 over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The Falcons (9-2) have their longest winning streak since 1998 and assured themselves of a third straight winning season. Of course, they have much higher aspirations sitting atop the conference standings with five weeks to go.
Aaron Rodgers guided Green Bay (7-4) on a 90-yard drive to tie the game with 56 seconds remaining. He converted a pair of fourth-down passes, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that made it 17-all.
But Eric Weems broke loose on the kickoff return and was dragged down by Matt Wilhelm with a flagrant facemask tackle. The Falcons took over at the Green Bay 49, Matt Ryan completed four straight short passes and Bryant made the winning kick.
This game matched a pair of division leaders in the NFC, and it sure lived up to the hype.
Green Bay appeared to have forced overtime when Rodgers directed a 16-play, 90-yard drive for the tying score. He improvised two huge plays on fourth down, beginning with a scrambling, backhanded flip of a pass to James Jones for an 18-yard gain on fourth-and-1 at the 21.
John Abraham sacked Rodgers for a 2-yard loss and a false start on Bryan Bulaga left the Packers with another fourth down from the 10. With Falcons owner Arthur Blank waving the crowd into an uproar on the sideline, Atlanta rushed only two players and dropped everyone else into coverage.
Rodgers had all the time he wanted, finally sliding to his left and rifling a pass to Nelson in the back corner of the end zone. He managed to get both feet down before being shoved out of bounds by Thomas DeCoud.
The crowd groaned, but Weems quickly had brought the fans back to their feet. He took the kickoff 4 yards deep in the end zone, found a seem up the middle and looked as if he might break it all the way. Wilhelm stopped that by yanking at Weems' facemask, but the 15-yard personal foul penalty pushed the Falcons onto the Green Bay side of the field.
Bryant actually had to make the winning kick twice. Packers coach Mike McCarthy called timeout just before Bryant knocked it right down the middle, forcing him to do it all over again.
No problem. Bryant's second kick wasn't quite as accurate, but it stayed a few feet inside the left upright to ruin a big day for Rodgers, who passed for 344 yards and led the team in rushing with 51 yards, including a 1-yard run that tied the game at 10.
Rodgers also lost a fumble trying to sneak in on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first half.
Michael Turner, who rushed for 110 yards, put the Falcons ahead 17-10 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. On yet another huge fourth-and-goal play, this one from inside the 1, Turner bounced outside and went in standing.
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