AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY — To beat Dallas next week, the Green Bay Packers figure that they’ll need to build a big lead to make the Cowboys one-dimensional on offense.
The Packers look as if they can beat anybody with the way quarterback Aaron Rodgers is throwing the ball, even if they could be without receiver Jordy Nelson with a rib injury.
Rodgers overcame a sluggish start and finished with four touchdown passes, including a momentum-swinging 42-yard score on a Hail Mary throw to Randall Cobb at the end of the second quarter, and Green Bay advanced to the divisional round with a 38-13 win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
Next up is a trip to Dallas on Jan. 15 in a rematch of a Week 6 matchup won by the Cowboys, 30-16.
“Hopefully, we can take this momentum down to Dallas and steal us a win. We’ll see,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said.
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. 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 astonishing throw by Rodgers.
“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 Packers outscored the Giants 24-0 over the game’s final 20 minutes. They might need to get out in front a little sooner next week with the way that the Cowboys can control the clock behind running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“We’ve got to start faster,” Rodgers said when asked about how the Packers need to improve following the Week 6 loss to Dallas. “We’ve got to start fast and make them as one-dimensional as possible.”
As for the Giants, they exited quickly from the playoffs after returning to the postseason for the first time in five years.
“There were opportunities to score points, we didn’t get it done. We need more, we need better,” McAdoo said.
It will have to wait until next season.
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. The Giants looked stunned, just like how the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals looked last season after Rodgers pulled off similar feats.
“Nothing went wrong. We just thought the ball overthrown, so we all jumped,” safety Landon Collins said. “But the ball was overthrown and Cobb just (stayed) inbounds and just reached out and caught it. That was about it.”
The receiver had a big night in returning after missing the last two games of the regular season with an ankle injury. Playing through pain, the Packers might need to rely on Cobb even more if Nelson is out for an extended period.
WATERED DOWN: Odell Beckham Jr., finished with four catches and 28 yards on 11 targets. The Giants’ other top receivers, Sterling Shepard and Victory Cruz, also didn’t get into the end zone either against a banged-up Packers secondary. The receivers were plagued by drops — not the kind of outing that the trio envisioned after taking heat from some fans and media for a trip to Miami on their day off to celebrate a regular-season-ending win over Washington.
“There was nothing that could connect seven days ago to today and how we came out and played and executed,” Beckham said. “There’s just nothing in the world. That’s not realistic.”
COOLED OFF: Giants quarterback Eli Manning was 7 of 11 for 85 yards in the first quarter, when New York had a 105-7 edge in total yardage. But the Packers defense limited the damage to two field goals and a 41-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King with 5:16 left in the third quarter to get within 14-13.
Manning finished 23 of 44 for 299 yards.
NELSON HURT: Nelson looked emotional as he rode back to the locker room on the front seat of a cart after getting hurt, hunched forward with his hands on his face. Cobb and Davante Adams (eight catches, 125 yards, one TD) capably filled the void, and tight end Jared Cook (five catches, 48 yards) gave Rodgers another big target over the middle.