GREEN BAY, Wis. — As if bearing the brunt of the call that ultimately led to the end of the NFL’s replacement officials wasn’t enough, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers nearly had a big comeback win undone by a blunder from the regular refs.
Rodgers threw a go-ahead touchdown to Jordy Nelson in the fourth quarter, and the Packers shook off a week’s worth of controversy with a rally to beat the New Orleans Saints 28-27 on Sunday.
With Lambeau Field fans howling about what appeared to be yet another bad call — this time by the regular officials, not the replacements — Garrett Hartley missed a 48-yard field goal attempt with just under three minutes remaining that cost the Saints a shot at the lead.
“We’ve probably had to deal with more adversity than most of the teams I’ve played with, especially early on we’ve had some interesting games already," Rodgers said. “We’re four games in. So, I think the character of this team is very strong. Winning games like this says a lot about the kind of men that we have."
Rodgers threw for 319 yards with four touchdowns and an interception for the Packers (2-2).
“I’m very proud of our football team, especially the week we’ve endured," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We talk a lot about integrity and character, and I thought today’s game had plenty of those types of situations where it showed up big."
Drew Brees threw for 446 yards with three touchdowns for the winless Saints (0-4).
“It’s going to hurt when you lose a game like this," Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said. “But I will not let them get down. We are too close."
Brees now has thrown at least one touchdown in 47 straight regular-season games, tying the NFL’s all-time mark set by Johnny Unitas.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing," Brees said of the loss. “It stinks. But despite where we’re at, right now I think this team’s going to do something."
With the win, the Packers were able to put Monday night’s controversial replacement official-driven loss at Seattle behind them. But even with the regular refs back this week, the Packers and their fans still nearly were dealt a crushing blow on a blown call.
After Rodgers’ touchdown to Nelson, Darren Sproles appeared to fumble the ensuing kickoff but officials ruled that he was down by contact. Replays showed that the ball clearly came out, but the Packers were out of replay challenges, leaving Packers fans screaming at the officials for the second week in a row.
“You guys were all happy that the officials were back, and we tried to tell you that they’d still get booed," Nelson said with a laugh.
Brees then led the Saints into field goal range, and Hartley hit a 43-yard attempt — but the Saints were called for holding, forcing Hartley to line up a 53-yarder. The Packers then were called for encroachment, leaving Hartley to try a 48-yarder and he missed it wide left.
In other games on Sunday:
ATLANTA — Matt Bryant kicked a 40-yard field goal with five seconds remaining and Atlanta remained unbeaten, rallying past Carolina. The Falcons (4-0) are off to their best start since 2004, when they reached the NFC championship game. Despite taking a career-high seven sacks, Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes for Atlanta. Bryant added three field goals. The Panthers (1-3) nearly clinched it on Cam Newton’s run with just over a minute remaining, but he fumbled the ball while trying to dive for the necessary yardage. Carolina recovered and wound up punting, downing the ball at the Atlanta 1. But Ryan immediately got the Falcons out of the hole, throwing a 59-yard pass to Roddy White. Four plays later, Bryant won it.
PHILADELPHIA — Lawrence Tynes missed two field-goal tries from 54 yards with 15 seconds left and Philadelphia held on for a victory over New York. Tynes missed wide left, but the Eagles had called timeout to ice him. He was short on his second attempt. With LeSean McCoy leading the way on the ground with 123 yards rushing, Michael Vick guided the Eagles (3-1) to another comeback. Alex Henery kicked a 26-yard field goal with 1:49 left and the Eagles overcame two pass interference penalties on New York’s final drive. The defending Super Bowl champion Giants (2-2) have struggled against Philadelphia, losing eight of the past nine meetings.
HOUSTON — Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson returned interceptions for touchdowns and Matt Schaub threw two TD passes. Arian Foster had a touchdown run for the Texans (4-0), who are off to the best start in club history. Quarterback Jake Locker left in the first quarter for the Titans (1-3) and did not return after hurting his left, non-throwing shoulder on a hit by Glover Quin.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jay Feely kicked a 46-yard field goal 6:31 into overtime to keep Arizona unbeaten. The Cardinals (4-0) forced overtime when Kevin Kolb threw a 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Andre Roberts with 22 seconds to play in regulation. Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 431 yards. Brian Hartline set a Dolphins record with 253 yards receiving on 12 catches.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Carlos Rogers returned a fumble 51 yards for a touchdown, and San Francisco ran for more than 200 yards. Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick — on a wildcat-style option — all ran for scores as the 49ers (3-1) bounced back from a loss at Minnesota. The Jets (2-2) lost top wide receiver Santonio Holmes to what appeared to be a serious foot injury.
DENVER — Peyton Manning finished with 338 yards and three touchdown passes. Manning opened the game by leading the Broncos on an 80-yard touchdown drive — their first opening-quarter touchdown of the season — and Denver never trailed. The Broncos (2-2) beat the Raiders (1-3) at home for the first time since 2007. Willis McGahee ran for 112 yards for his 32nd-career 100-yard game.
DETROIT — Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown and Marcus Sherels scored on a punt return early in the third for Minnesota. Minnesota (3-1), in first place in the NFC North, matched the number of wins it had last season. The Vikings also snapped an 11-game losing streak in the division. The Lions (1-3) have lost three straight.
ST. LOUIS — Rookie Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals, including a 58-yarder and a club record 60-yarder, and the Rams also used a fake field goal to score their only TD of the game. The Rams (2-2) went ahead 10-7 late in the first half when a fake field goal attempt turned into a 2-yard touchdown pass from punter Johnny Hekker to Danny Amendola. Marshawn Lynch led Seattle (2-2) with 118 yards on 20 carries, including an 18-yard score on the game’s first possession.The Rams intercepted Russell Wilson three times.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Tom Brady led New England on six consecutive second-half touchdown drives. Brady finished 22 of 36 for 340 yards and three scores, and also scored on a 4-yard run in helping the Patriots (2-2) avoid their first three-game losing streak in 10 years. Stevan Ridley scored two touchdowns rushing. New England scored 35 straight points and finished with 580 total yards in overcoming a 21-7 third-quarter deficit. The Bills (2-2) dropped to 1-17 in their past 18 games against New England.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Philip Rivers threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and San Diego capitalized on six turnovers. Five of the Chiefs’ turnovers came in the first half, when San Diego (3-1) raced to a 27-6 lead. Matt Cassel threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City (1-3), but he also had three first-half interceptions.
TAMPA, Fla. — Billy Cundiff redeemed himself for a poor day kicking, booting a 41-yard field goal with three seconds remaining. Cundiff missed three earlier attempts, including a 31-yarder that would have put the Redskins (2-2) up by two scores early in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay (1-3) wiped out an 18-point deficit to go ahead 22-21 on Connor Barth’s third field goal, a 47-yarder with 1:42 remaining.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score. Dalton and A.J. Green burned Jacksonville several times, including once to set up a second-quarter touchdown and again for a fourth-quarter score. The Bengals (3-1) finished with six sacks, putting constant pressure on Blaine Gabbert of the Jaguars (1-3).