GREEN BAY, Wis. — Another big first half helped the Green Bay Packers withstand a furious rally by the desperate Atlanta Falcons.
Eddie Lacy ran for a touchdown and caught one of Aaron Rodgers’ three TD passes, and Green Bay built a 24-point lead before holding on for a 43-37 victory Monday night.
The Packers (10-3) earned their fifth consecutive victory to stay a game up on Detroit in the NFC North. Atlanta dropped to 5-8, but remained in a first-place tie with New Orleans in the woeful NFC South.
“Good victory tonight, our seventh victory at home this year... 10 victories has always been kind of a benchmark,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “In the NFC, 11 wins will probably be more of a benchmark this year.”
Julio Jones had a career-best 259 yards receiving for the Falcons before leaving with a hip injury. Jones had a 22-yard touchdown catch in a 20-point fourth quarter that helped Atlanta cut into Green Bay’s big lead.
Matt Ryan’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas with 2:15 left got Atlanta within six.
But the Packers recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Lacy left in the fourth quarter with a bruised hip. Backup running back James Starks effectively ended Atlanta’s upset hopes with a 41-yard run to the Falcons 6 with 1:37 left.
Atlanta came frustratingly close to a rare victory in Titletown. Green Bay held on for its seventh home win, but the porous pass defense may have given potential playoff foes some hope that Lambeau Field may not be that impenetrable after all.
“Defensively, a tale of two halves. You have to give Atlanta’s offense a lot of credit,” McCarthy said. “We have plenty to clean up.”
The Falcons did damage even with Jones hobbling on the sideline, appearing to favor his left side.
Ryan threw for 375 yards and four scores, including a 1-yard touchdown catch by Roddy White with 6:20 left that trimmed Green Bay’s lead to 40-30.
Mason Crosby kicked a 53-yard field goal with 4:37 left, helping the Packers withstand Atlanta’s final punch.
Rodgers finished 24 of 36 for 327 yards. Lacy had 73 yards on 13 carries, and 33 yards on five catches.
The tough running back wiggled from side to side to celebrate his 1-yard touchdown reception with 4:20 left in second quarter. The score was set up by safety Morgan Burnett’s interception of Ryan.
The Packers defense nearly got a second pick later in the quarter after tackle Letroy Guion tipped a Ryan pass while being double-teamed. The 315-pound Guion jumped back to try to get the ball off the rebound, but couldn’t control it before it hit the ground.
The Falcons then punted two plays later, and the Packers were on their way to a 31-7 halftime lead.
Rodgers sidestepped his way out of a late blitz by Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann, and then found Jordy Nelson in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left.
Green Bay had outscored foes 167-44 before halftime coming into the night.
The Falcons got off to a fast start in the third, with Ryan finding Jones for a 79-yard catch-and-run to the Packers 3. Ryan later hit Eric Weems over the middle on fourth down for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
It was a sign of things to come in the second half before Green Bay was able to hang on at the end.