Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes to Aaron Hernandez, including the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter, and the New England Patriots held on for a 31-27 victory over the visiting Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
New England was outplayed throughout by the Packers, but got a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown from Kyle Arrington and a record 71-yard kick return by offensive lineman Dan Connolly.
Brady threw for 163 yards - his second-lowest total of the season - on 15-of-24 passing as the Patriots (12-2) won their sixth consecutive game to maintain a two-game lead over the New York Jets in the AFC East.
Connolly's return, the longest by a lineman in NFL history, set up Brady's first scoring pass to Hernandez and helped the Patriots pull within 17-14 at halftime.
Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, making his first career start in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers, threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
Flynn drove Green Bay (8-6) to New England's 15-yard line with 21 seconds left, but he was sacked on the final play of the game after the Packers had trouble calling in a play.
The loss put a serious dent in Green Bay's playoff hopes. The Packers must win their final two games and hope for a lot of help to reach the postseason.
The first two touchdown passes of Flynn's career - both in the second quarter - gave the Packers a 17-7 lead with just 2:17 left in the opening half over a stunned Gillette Stadium crown.
What followed was just as stunning. Connolly fielded a squib kick and, expecting to be taken down, wrapped both arms tightly around the ball.
Suddenly, the 313-pound right guard broke into the open field and lumbered all the way down to Green Bay's 4-yard line. That led to Brady's scoring pass to Hernandez with 68 seconds left in the half.
Arrington's return early in the third quarter put New England ahead 21-17, but Flynn countered with a 6-yard scoring pass to fullback John Kuhn that reclaimed the lead for the Packers at 24-21 with 5:08 left in the third.