Take heart Cowboys fans. I know it's hard to stomach any loss, especially one that ends the season. But today is not a day of mourning but of celebration. Let's celebrate the team that brought us so much happiness and good memories this year. Let's celebrate the fact that our team went down fighting. I'm proud of our team this year. They did things right, on and off the field, and while this season is over, I have faith that it was a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Anyway, here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Where Was Crawford? In a game where both Jeremy Mincey and Demarcus Lawrence made big plays, Tyrone Crawford was pretty much a no-show. And it cost us, especially in the second half, when Aaron Rodgers was pressured on the edges but had plenty of room to step up in the pocket.
2. Carr Steps Up: In a second half that saw much of our coverage struggle Brandon Carr stepped up. Dallas played much more man than I was comfortable with, especially in the second half, and Brandon Carr did a good job shutting down Jordy Nelson for much of the game. It was a rough season for Carr and there is a lot of talk on whether he'll be back next year. If this was his last game as a Cowboy, he went out on a high note.
3. Packers Adjust: Last week it was Dallas making halftime adjustments to get the offense going; this week it was the Packer's turn. After being mostly shut down in the first half the Packers made some smart adjustments in the third quarter. They mostly abandoned the deep and intermediate game, and began throwing to their backs, (and Randle Cobb), out of the backfield, I'll go more in-depth on the x's and o's later this week, but Dallas had a hard time adjusting, and it allowed Aaron Rodgers to get into a rhythm, which paid off in the fourth.
4. Coaching to Win: I don't want to talk a lot about "the play" because I know that feelings are still pretty raw. But I do want to take a moment and talk about what that play says about Jason Garrett. He could have gone for the long field goal. He could have punted and played defense. But on 4th down Garrett showed faith in his team and his quarterback and played to win. It didn't work out, but it was the right call. That call is one of the many reasons this team fights so hard for Jason Garrett, and why he should continue to be the coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
5. Depth Ran Out: Earlier I mentioned that Tyrone Crawford was basically a no show. I talked briefly about the Pack beginning to target their backs out of the backfield and how we didn't have an answer. Part of the reason for both is that our lack of depth finally caught up with us. Coming into the game Dallas had to call Ken Bishop up from the practice squad to play defensive line when Terrell McClain was a no-go. While they all have their pluses, a lineup of Hayden/Brent/Bishop scares no one, allowing Green Bay to focus on Crawford in pass protection. At linebacker Bruce Carter played 66 snaps, the only game he's played more this year was in week three against St. Louis. It was also his second consecutive game with 60+ snaps; in the regular season he only had four games with more than 50. Rolando McClain went out with an injury early in the game, meaning for the second consecutive game Anthony Hitchens had to play more than the coaches wanted on a bad ankle.
In the secondary Barry Church was in and out of the game with injuries, meaning Jeff Heath played 20+ snaps. Now none of these backups played horribly as individuals, but the end result was a defense that wasn't quite as sharp, not quite as on point. In a five point game, that "not quite" made quite a bit of difference.
There were a few other specific things of course. The missed field goal to end the half, the fumble. But Dallas was good enough to overcome, (and mostly did overcome), any specific play. It were these larger underlying issues that shaped the game, for good and bad. It was a fantastic game and although we ended up on the losing side I was proud that our team was a part of it. Now we move on to next year. Finish the Fight and Go Cowboys.