(Reuters) - Aaron Rodgers drove the Green Bay Packers to a 26-21 victory over New England on Sunday that lifted them to the top of the NFL standings and sent a strong message to the rest of the league they were genuine Super Bowl contenders.
Rodgers outshone the Patriots’ Tom Brady with 368 yards and two touchdowns as the Packers snapped New England’s (9-3) seven-game win streak and improved to 9-3 themselves.
Continuing his MVP-caliber season, Rodgers fired a 45-yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson to give Green Bay a 23-14 halftime edge, and they only needed three points in the second half to secure the triumph at Lambeau Field.
While the Packers were ascending, Arizona continued their fall from atop the NFC after a 29-18 loss in Atlanta.
Julio Jones shone with 189 receiving yards for the Falcons (5-7) who scored the game’s first 17 points.
Arizona (9-3) have lost their last two games and appear limited offensively since losing starting QB Carson Palmer to a season-ending injury three weeks ago.
The San Diego Chargers stunned the Baltimore Ravens 34-33 with a fourth-quarter comeback, scoring the game-winner with seconds to play.
The Chargers (8-4 in the AFC West) trailed 30-20 with about six minutes remaining before Philip Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Keenan Allen and after a Baltimore field goal, found Eddie Royal for another with just 38 seconds left.
Rivers’ rally dropped Baltimore (7-5) further behind first-place Cincinnati (8-3-1). AFC North contenders Pittsburgh (7-5) and Cleveland (7-5) also suffered defeats.
Cincinnati’s Bengals squeaked past Tampa Bay 14-13 after climbing out of a 10-0 hole.
A.J. Green caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to put the visiting Bengals ahead for good.
Tampa Bay drove into field goal range on their final possession but a pair of penalties pushed them back and ended their chances.
The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to New Orleans 35-32 as the Saints’ Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes. Cleveland was knocked off by Buffalo 26-10. In the defeat, Browns rookie backup quarterback Johnny Manziel took over for ineffective starter Brian Hoyer in the fourth quarter.
The first-round draft choice finished a long drive with a 10-yard run for a touchdown, potentially creating a quarterback controversy moving forward.
In Indianapolis, Andrew Luck tossed five touchdowns passes and the Colts (8-4) steamrolled Washington 49-27 to stay atop the AFC South.
The Redskins were playing their first game since benching struggling quarterback Robert Griffin III, and replacement Colt McCoy threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.
AFC South rival Houston (6-6) remained two games behind Indianapolis with 45-21 rout of Tennessee as J.J. Watt caught another touchdown pass.
In another lopsided affair, the St. Louis Rams blasted Oakland 52-0 in a game that saw five Rams’ players support a recent protest over the controversial shooting by police of an unarmed teenager in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.
The group took the field with hands raised to support the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture utilized by the protesters.
“We just understand that it’s a big tragedy and we hope something positive comes out of it,” Rams receiver Stedman Bailey told reporters.
The Jacksonville Jaguars picked up their second win of the season by dealing the New York Giants their seventh straight defeat. The Jaguars trailed 21-0 before rallying behind rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.
Reporting by Jahmal Corner, editing by Gene Cherry/Greg Stutchbury