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Sunday’s roundup: Hail Mary TD sparks Packers

Genaro C. Armas
Associated Press

Green Bay, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers, master of the Hail Mary pass, struck again in another big moment.

Rodgers overcame a sluggish start and finished with four touchdown passes, including a momentum-swinging 42-yard heave to Randall Cobb at the end of the second quarter, to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 38-13 win Sunday over the New York Giants in an NFC wild-card game.

The Packers move on to face the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round next week.

Rodgers was 25 of 40 for 362 yards, continuing a remarkable run of quarterback play that helped the Packers win their final six games of the regular season to take the NFC North. Cobb finished with five receptions for 116 yards and three scores.

For much of the first half, the Giants’ defense flustered the two-time NFL MVP. They got pressure on Rodgers and the secondary blanketed the Packers’ talented receiving corps , and a few boos even rained down from the stands after New York built a 6-0 lead on two field goals by Robbie Gould.

As it turned out, Rodgers was just getting started.

“We hit a Hail Mary. That got us going,” Rodgers said.

Green Bay scored two touchdowns in the final 2:20 of the second quarter, punctuated by another remarkable desperation pass by Rodgers.

With the ball on the Giants 42, Rodgers took the snap with 6 seconds left. He rolled to his right before heaving a throw from about the Packers 47. Cobb somehow got behind three defensive backs near the back of the end zone to haul in the pass, getting both feet down before falling out of bounds.

“They boxed us out better than we played it,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. “It was a heck of a throw, heck of a catch.”

The Giants looked stunned, just like how the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals looked last season after Rodgers pulled off similar feats.

“Davante (Adams) made a bunch of plays,” Rodgers said. “And Randall Cobb, who this offense has been missing for a long time. We’re better with 18 on the field and he showed it tonight.”

Rodgers and Cobb weren’t done.

They connected again on a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter for a 21-13 lead. That score answered a Giants scoring drive that briefly cut the deficit to one.

“Second half we got back to some rhythm throws and I was getting better on my timing, getting the ball out of my hand quickly,” Rodgers said. “No negative-yard plays, the offensive line blocked really well, regardless of the stats.”

A Packers defense ranked 21st in points allowed (24.3) coming into the game limited the production of Odell Beckham Jr., and the Giants’ receiving corps in spite of a battered secondary.

Beckham finished with four catches for 28 yards. Eli Manning was 23 of 44 for 299 yards, including the 41-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King in the third quarter.

But the Giants were plagued by a series of drops by their receivers .

“It’s a game of inches, and we were just inches short on some of these plays, inches away from big plays,” Beckham said.

Rodgers began dissecting the secondary after coach Mike McCarthy had his quarterback roll more outside the pocket, and the Packers started working the middle of the field.

Cobb had a big night after missing the last two games of the regular season with an ankle injury. Adams had eight receptions for 125 yards and a score.

Top receiver Jordy Nelson was knocked out of the game with 11 minutes left in the second quarter with a rib injury.

(At) Pittsburgh 30, Miami 12: Injuries forced Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to wait three seasons for the chance to run onto the field together in the playoffs.

The wait for the Steelers’ “Big Three” to do it again won’t be nearly as long.

Bell ran for a franchise postseason record 167 yards and two scores, and Brown caught five passes for 124 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns from Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh (12-5) ran off its eighth straight victory by avenging a whipping by the Dolphins (10-7) in mid-October to set up a visit to AFC West champion Kansas City (12-4) next Sunday. The Steelers rolled by the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2.

Bell missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons because of knee injuries, and Brown sat out a divisional-round playoff loss to Denver 12 months ago because of a concussion.

The Steelers scored on their first three possessions, and Miami’s playoff victory drought was wall on its way to 17 years and counting.

The Dolphins hardly looked like the team that pushed around the Steelers three months ago when Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards and two scores. That set the stage for Miami’s 9-2 finish to send the franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“Last time we felt like we didn’t play well,” Bell said. “Those guys got after us, they jumped on us early.”

There was no running room for Ajayi this time. He was held to 33 yards on 16 carries.

“The defense played great today, stopping their run game, making it tough on (Ajayi) on their side, he’s a great runner,” Bell added. “On the other side, we wanted to control the ball, score some touchdowns and we did our job today.”

Extra points

The 49ers interviewed Colts vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III for the team’s vacant general manager job.

Raye is the son of former Michigan State quarterback Jimmy Raye.

... Gregg Williams was hired as the Browns defensive coordinator, replacing Ray Horton, fired by coach Hue Jackson less than a week after Cleveland concluded a 1-15 season.

Williams was banned by the NFL for one season in 2012 season for his involvement in New Orleans’ notorious “Bountygate” scandal.

He spent the past three seasons with Los Angeles.