By Zach Walker
How did it go for those Cowboys?
If pivotal plays are left hanging for the refs to interpret, they are going to interfere with the game, plain and simple. Three feet down and a football move in form of a lunge towards the end zone, seems legit. The Packers outlasted the jumped up, hard fighting Cowboys team. The Dallas Cowboys are coming back home hobbled, hurting, and drained, but make no mistake, this team is a damn good football team.
On the field, the Cowboys started like they did a week ago against Detroit, with a three and out, thanks to Julius Peppers sacking Tony Romo on third down. The Packers tried to establish the tempo strong by slamming the football at the Cowboys defense with Eddie Lacy. After a second down shot to Jordy Nelson for 11 yards and the first down, is was Lacy, not so Lace-y. Lacy for 19, then five, then ten, then eight, then four, down to the four yard line of the red zone. The Cowboys defense tightened up, taking the Packers to third down. Bruce Carter trailed the tight end Andrew Quarless in coverage, and a running lane opened up for the injury-hampered Aaron Rodgers, so Barry Church closed the door on the lane, but it opened up the throw to Quarless for the four yard touchdown.
Knowing that the Packers can pull away from any team, the Cowboys needed to at least melt the clock away if they were forced to give the ball back to Green Bay. On third down, Murray was held by a defender, so they got the holding penalty and the five yard first down. After a holding call on Zack Martin, Romo got the ball to Cole Beasley for 18 yards, setting up a soft second down. Forced to a tough third and one, Murray picked up two yards and the first. Romo showed some wheels, picking up seven yards. Six plays later, Romo took a shot down field for Terrence Williams, who got his feet tangled with Tramon Williams and went to the ground, but with the way that Williams’ arm was on Terrence Williams, it drew the pass interference penalty and the ball down to the one yard line. On a sweet play-action call, Romo hit Tyler Clutts in the flat for the one yard touchdown, and on that play, after the throw, “goldilocks” Clay Matthews dove at Tony Romo’s knee, waaaay after the throw, but no call.
The Packers completed their first third down, after an Anthony Spencer off sides penalty, to Randall Cobb for 12 yards. Six plays later, on third and seven, the center heard Rodgers clap his hands and snapped the ball, and Rodgers wasn’t prepared for it and had to scoop the ball off the ground. He had time to scan his options before Jeremy Mincey got to him and knock the ball from Rodgers’ grasp, and Mincey would recover for the Cowboys. The Cowboys would slam Murray two straight plays for 12 yards. Romo hit Beasley for 11 yards the next play, and two plays later they hit a shot. Romo hit Terrence Williams on a seven yard curl, and Williams took Tramon Williams and flashed that Baylor speed to the Lambeau crowd on the way to a 38 yard touchdown and a seven point lead.
The Packers covered their first third down with an 11 yard completion to Jordy Nelson, but Rodgers missed him on their second third down, and gave the ball back to the Cowboys with over five minutes left. After converting a third down with a Murray four yard run, the next third down was spicier, a third and seven. But, 18 yards later, Jason Witten had the Cowboys down to the Packers 47 yard line. Four plays later, the game started to crack. Romo hit Witten, on second and seven, for eight yards and the Cowboys took a timeout with 40 seconds left in the first half. During the timeout, the refs decided to review the spot given to Jason Witten on the catch, and took the ball back two yards and forced the Cowboys into a third and one. The Cowboys lined up in shotgun formation, strange but okay. Then the ball was snapped and the ball hit Romo’s injured left hand and he couldn’t catch it clean, so as Rodgers had to do, he picked the ball off the ground, had Murray underneath, but went for the deep shot to Terrence Williams and the ball fell incomplete. After a false start by L.P. Ladouceur, the field goal was a 50 yarder, and the kick was partially blocked by the Packers.
The Packers would be hyper-aggressive with 29 seconds left in the half, and on the first play, from the Green Bay 40 yard line, Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb for 12 yards. Then the “Law Man,” DeMarcus Lawrence sacked Rodgers for a ten yard loss, then Rodgers connected with Cobb again, this time for 31 yards and he managed to get out of bounds, saving the Packers last timeout. Davante Adams caught a five yard pass to set up a soft 40 yard field goal as the half expired.
The Packers would have a seven play punt drive to start the half, and the Cowboys would look to add points to try and pull away from the Pack. On second down, trying to get the ball to Dez Bryant, Tramon Williams was flagged, again, for pass interference, coughing up 16 yards. But after Clay Matthews got caught for off sides, the game would continue cough things up, this time it was DeMarco Murray coughing things up, namely the ball. Julius Peppers made a great play on Murray, jumping back into the play and hitting Murray right on his right hand and the ball would be recovered by Green Bay. After a huge 29 yard rush by Lacy, the Packers drive stalled. It was actually forced to a halt by their own player, T.J. Lang. During a completion to Davante Adams for only five yards, the Packers guard shot into frame and blew up the dissipating scrum, ramming Nick Hayden to the ground, flag there. The two teams on the field then came together, and maybe more flags were going to be thrown, especially on David Bakhtiari taking Nick Hayden, and with the horse collar grip, and tossed him back to the ground. But the flag was a post-play personal foul, making the third down a huge third and 16 yards. Lacy picked up ten, but the Packers had to kick the 30 yard field goal to make it a one point game.
The Cowboys just can’t shake these Packers, but they’ll try and stay a step ahead. First down, 20 yards to Dez Bryant. Second down, Joseph Randle for 13 yards. Next play, a sweet lob and Dez Bryant thought it was his and leapt for it, but it sailed him and ended up in Jason Witten’s grasp and down the field for 15 yards, but Romo got taken to the ground pretty awkwardly, but knowing Romo, he’s good. The next play, solid double from Murray, rushing for 26 yards down to the one yard line, and the next play Murray would punch it in.
The kickoff was fumbled by Randall Cobb, but the Cowboys couldn’t pounce on it, and the Packers dodged that bullet and wouldn’t squander their extra life. Another huge play from Davante Adams, this time on third down for 16 yards. Then back to Cobb, for 26 yards. Three plays later, on third and 15, Adams lost Sterling Moore, shook JJ Wilcox trying to make the open-field tackle and scored from 46 yards out, cutting the lead back to just one point. The next Cowboys drive wasn’t what they needed. After an 18 yard catch for Jason Witten, on back-to-back plays, Tony Romo took two straight sacks, and on the second sack, he’s just got to throw that one away and not take a shot, and the third and 23 was seemingly insurmountable, and was, so the ball back to the Packers.
The Packers would drive hard and Rodgers would groove on the drive. Rodgers went seven for seven passes for 78 yards, two to Cobb, three to Quarless, an Adams catch for a first down. The seventh pass was a fireball to Richard Rodgers, the tight end of no relation, for the 13 yard touchdown. The time for the two-point shot was now, and Rodgers chose the correct spot, Andrew Quarless working on Jeff Heath, but Heath would make the big time play. And Heath didn’t play bad in the game, in fact, all the guys forced to play defense today, Brent, Ken Bishop, Heath, Hitchens playing pretty much every snap, they all played very well. So did Brandon Carr, on Jordy Nelson. But now the game was a five point affair.
The Cowboys would start strong, Murray for 30 yards. Then Dez Bryant for ten yards. On second down, Romo was sacked after holding the ball long again, and he got nailed. On third down, Romo hit Cole Beasley for nine yards bringing up the game at fourth and two. Sam Shields lined up one-on-one across from Dez Bryant, and that’s where Romo went downfield for Bryant, and Dez absolutely leaped to attack the ball at its highest point and came down and let’s all count them. One. Two. Three foot moves. Hand down, man down. And as his left hand hit the ground, the ball kind of shook free, and the moved up his rolling body, towards his face mask, and he rolled and secured the popping ball. The call was ruled a catch, a challenge from Green Bay over-turned the catch and gave the ball to the Packers with four minutes left in the game.
The Packers would do what they needed to do, and ran out the clock, picking up a third and 11, after being tipped by Tyrone Crawford and Randall Cobb made the catch and that was the game.
The Cowboys got revenged. If the game was going to get tense, and the refs had to make a judgment call, there was no way that the refs were going to not get even for their “mistakes” from last week. That all being said, drop it. Don’t fester over the call, because they won’t gather both teams back to the field and play again, so let it go. The Dallas Cowboys have the burn, they have that fire and desire, and things appear to be looking up for the future of this team. Great season from a “where’d they come from” standpoint. Good season from a “got a playoff win” standpoint. Now, they have to build off of it.