The third divisional playoff game had the Dallas Cowboys paying a visit to Green Bay, Wisconsin to face the Packers. The Cowboys were coming off a 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions and the Packers were coming off a bye week. The Cowboys got the ball first and didn’t get very far. On third and five from the 28, quarterback Tony Romo was sacked by linebacker Julius Peppers for a loss of five yards. The ball came loose, but Romo managed to recover it. Punter Chris Jones punted the ball away and it was fair caught at the Green Bay 40 by return man Micha Hyde. From the 40, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson. That was followed by six straight carries by running back Eddie Lacy. All that running moved the Packers down to the Dallas four-yard line. On third down from the four, Rodgers took the snap, stepped up in the pocket and fired a strike to tight end Andrew Quarless for a touchdown. Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers led 7-0 with 8:30 to go in the first quarter.
A short kickoff by Crosby was fielded by return man Dwayne Harris at the eight-yard line and returned to the 38. A six-yard run by running back DeMarco Murray and a holding call on the Packers gave the Cowboys a first down at the 49-yard line. After that, the Cowboys were flagged for holding and that moved them back to their 39. From the 39, Romo found wide receiver Cole Beasley for 18 yards. Three runs by Murray and a short scramble by Romo netted a first down at the 30. from the 30, Romo found tight end Jason Witten for a gain of eight yards. Two more carries by Murray moved the ball to the 19. Two plays later, the Packers were flagged for pass interference. That put the ball at the one and the drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown pass to fullback Tyler Clutts. Kicker Dan Bailey made the point after and the score was tied at seven with 1:05 to go in the first quarter.
Bailey’s kickoff was short and return man Randall Cobb fielded it at the nine-yard line. He returned it 23 yards and the Packers started their next drive at the 32. On third and six from the 36, Rodgers had all kinds of time to find a receiver. Nobody was open and normally he’d take off and run for the first down. But his injured calf was obviously giving him problems and he was sacked for a loss of five yards. While Rodgers was trying to avoid being sacked, a flag was thrown and the Cowboys were flagged for defensive holding. That gave the Packers new life and a first down at the 41-yard line. An offside penalty on the Cowboys and a completion to Cobb gave the Packers another first down at the Dallas 43-yard line. Three carries by running back James Starks kept the ball moving down to the 30. On third and seven from the 27, the ball was snapped before Rodgers was ready for it and the ball came loose. It was recovered at the 36 by defensive end Jeremy Mincey.
Three runs by Murray and another completion to Beasley quickly moved the ball to the Green Bay 38-yard line. From the 38, Romo tossed a short pass to wide receiver Terrance Williams. He avoided a couple of defenders and took it into the end zone for a touchdown. Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys led 14-7 with 8:19 to go in the second quarter.
The Packers would punt on their next possession and the Cowboys got the ball back at their 19 with 5:37 to go in the half. More running by Murray two completions to Witten moved the ball to the Green Bay 36-yard line. They wouldn’t get much further than that and Bailey came on for a 50-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by defensive end Datone Jones and the Packers regained possession of the ball at their 40 with 29 seconds to go in the half. A 12-yard pass to Cobb moved the ball into Dallas territory. But Rodgers was sacked for a loss of ten by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. With 16 seconds remaining, Rodgers looked for Cobb again and found him on the left sideline for a gain of 31 yards and a first down at the Dallas 27-yard line. That was followed by a five-yard pass to wide receiver Davante Adams. With three seconds to go, Crosby came on for a 40-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and at halftime, the Cowboys led 14-10.
The Packers couldn’t do much with the ball on their first possession of the second half and punter Tim Masthay’s punt was fielded at the Dallas 17 by Harris. He returned it three yards to the 20-yard line. A pass interference penalty and an offside penalty on the Packers gave the Cowboys a first down at their 41. From the 41, Murray ran up the right side and just as it looked like he may break one for a long gain, the ball was knocked loose by Peppers. It was recovered by Jones at the 44-yard line.
From the Dallas 44, Lacy was thrown for a loss of one yard on first down. But he followed that run with a gain of 29 yards. He was finally dragged down at the 16. Fullback John Kuhn got in on the action and carried the ball up the middle for a gain of four yards. From the 12, Rodgers passed to the right and the ball was caught by Adams for a gain of five yards. While Adams was trying to get some extra yardage, guard T.J. Lang was flagged for unnecessary roughness. After that, a brawl ensued. When the dust settled, the Packers faced a third and 16 from the 22-yard line. Rodgers completed a ten-yard pass to Lacy and that meant it was time for another field goal attempt from Crosby. His 30-yard attempt was good and the Cowboys now led 14-13.
The Cowboys started at their 20 and quickly moved into Green Bay territory with completions to wide receiver Dez Bryant and Witten. Running back Joseph Randle got a carry and took it up the right side for a gain of 13 yards. On first down from the 27, Murray ran up the right side for a gain of 26 yards. He finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys went up 21-13 with 4:12 to go in the third quarter.
A holding call on the kickoff forced the Packers to start their next drive at their ten-yard line. Passes to Kuhn and Adams quickly moved them to the 33-yard line. From the 33, Rodgers went deep down the middle and the pass was caught by Cobb for a gain of 26 yards and a first down at the Dallas 41-yard line. That was followed by two incomplete passes and a false start penalty on Quarless. That made it third and 15 from the 46. Rodgers fired a pass down the middle for Adams. He made the catch, did some fancy footwork and ran up the right side of the field for a 46-yard touchdown. I thought they might go for two to tie the game up, but they didn’t. Crosby made the point after and the Cowboys led 21-20 with 1:41 to go in the third quarter.
The Cowboys went nowhere on their next possession and the punt went through the end zone. Starting at the 20, Rodgers went to work and brought out the no huddle offense. Completions to Cobb, Adams and Quarless moved the ball down to the Dallas 13-yard line. From the 13, Rodgers fired a pass into double coverage that was caught for a touchdown by tight end Richard Rodgers. This time, they went for two and Rodgers looked for Quarless in the end zone. The pass was incomplete and with 9:10 to go in the game, the Packers led 26-21.
The Cowboys would have to go 82 yards if they wanted to regain the lead. Starting at their 18, they got the drive off to a good start as Murray ran up the right side for a gain of 30 yards. Randle got another carry that moved them to the 50. from the 50, Romo found Bryant for a gain of ten yards. From the 40, Murray was stopped for a gain of two yards. On second and eight, Romo was sacked for a loss of three by Jones and defensive end Mike Neal. That was followed by a nine-yard pass to Beasley. That set up a crucial fourth and two from the 32-yard line. Instead of running the ball again, Romo went deep up the left side for Bryant. The coverage was good, but Bryant went up high and appeared to haul the pass in for a gain of 31. The Packers challenged the play and it was ruled that Bryant didn’t “complete the catch.” In other words, he lost control of the ball on his way down. The pass was ruled incomplete and the Packers took over at the 32. Judging by the rules of today’s NFL, it was the right call. But it was an absolute heart-breaker for the Cowboys. Bryant looked downright suicidal after the play was reversed. To make things worse for the Cowboys, they didn’t get a chance at redemption. The Packers won 26-21 as they managed to hang on to the ball for the final four minutes.
For the Cowboys, Tony Romo completed 15 of 19 for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Witten led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 71. DeMarco Murray had a good day and was the leading rusher with 123 yards on 25 carries. As a team, the Cowboys rushed for 145 yards on 28 carries. Defensively, safeties Barry Church and Jeff Heath tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven apiece.
For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 35 for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Randall Cobb led the team in receptions with eight and Davante Adams had the most receiving yards with 117 and a touchdown. Adams and Cobb combined for 233 receiving yards. On the ground, Eddie Lacy rumbled for 101 yards on 19 carries. As a team, the Packers rushed for 119 yards on 30 carries. Defensively, safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix led the team in solo tackles with five.
Up next for the Packers is a trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks for the NFC title. They met in week one and the Seahawks came away with a 36-16 win.