About midway through the 2nd Quarter the Dallas Cowboys were down 21-3 to the visiting Green Bay Packers. It appeared that they'd lost their rhythm after the first-round bye and too much meaningless football in Weeks 16 and 17. Dallas' was gone and Aaron Rodgers was having his way with them.
Just as I was starting think about having to write that story tonight, the Cowboys started to show some fight again. Narrowing the deficit to 21-13 at halftime, Dallas continued to rally and fought their way back to a 28-28 tie in the closing minutes. Mason Crosby and Dan Bailey traded long field goals and, with just 35 seconds left, the Packers got the ball back.
That's when Rodgers, who'd been great all night, showed why he is arguably the best quarterback alive. Running away from the rush, he hit Jared Cook on the sideline for a 36-yard gain. Crosby came back out and hit another long field-goal as time expired.
Game over. Season over.
The young Cowboys showed that the playoffs weren't too big for them. They even took the early haymakers from Green Bay but fought back to make it a classic playoff showdown. Unfortunately, Rodgers got to take the last counter-punch before the bell.
- The box score says Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times, but don't let that trick you into thinking our pass rush was effective. Rodgers was able to sit in the pocket most of the night or roll out and find receivers on the extended play. All three sacks came from defensive backs; none of the defensive linemen were able make their presence felt. It was reminiscent of how Dallas lost in 2014.
- Dak Prescott finished his season with the same poise and clutch play that we've seen all year. He threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns, plus ran in a critical two-point conversion, and had a 103.2 passer rating. He rose to the challenge of the 18-point deficit and gave us everything we could've asked for.
- Similarly, Ezekiel Elliott left no doubt in his performance. With 125 yards and a 5.7 average, the only question is why he wasn't getting the ball more. Dallas passed the ball 38 times tonight and Zeke had just 22 carries. The pass-run ratio was even worse earlier in the game. As Elliott was getting solid gains from the beginning, it's hard to understand why Scott Linehan didn't lean on Zeke more.
- You know he won't care because it came in a loss, but Dez Bryant did everything he could to avenge the 2014 game. Dez looked the part of the franchise WR tonight with 132 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches.
- This was likely Doug Free's game last game as a Cowboy. The notorious penalty magnet was back at it tonight and threw in some poor blocking. The Cowboys can save $5 million off his $7.5 million cap hit next year. He should be a goner.
- Packers' cornerback LaDarius Gunter should have nightmares now anytime he's about to face the Cowboys. He was abused in their Week 6 meeting and again tonight, being on the losing end both Bryant touchdowns and several other big plays. I'm sure Julio Jones is very excited to see him next week.
- Almost a hero of the night was safety Jeff Heath, who had a sack and interception. Having to play because of Morris Claiborne's injury and the Packers' frequent use of a five-receiver set, Heath nearly had a second pick late in the game but it got waived off on a pass interference call.