The Dallas Cowboys, with two consecutive wins before their bye, faced the Green Bay Packers who had a five-game losing streak coming into the game. But Aaron Rodgers always seems to find something a little extra against Dallas. That would be the case, with the result a disappointing 31-28 loss for Dallas.
It wound up coming down to overtime. The Cowboys won the toss and received. There were offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that left them starting on their own 25. CeeDee Lamb, having by far his best game of the season, would team with Tony Pollard to move the ball quickly into Green Bay territory despite a rare offensive offsides call on Jalen Tolbert. Then a holding call wiped out a great draw play to backup running back Malik Davis. A Dalton Schultz catch would get them to third and four. But the pass to Lamb was incomplete, and Mike McCarthy elected to go for it. It turned out to be a very bad decision as pressure got to Dak Prescott forcing an incompletion, and now the Packers had the ball at their own 35 with a chance to win with any kind of points.
The defense had struggled stopping the Packers at times, and the issue continued in OT as Rodgers burned them on third and two to get them into field goal at the Dallas 20 with a big catch and run by Allen Lazard. Then a facemask moved it all the way down to the 8. Mason Crosby had been struggling, but he nailed the chip shot to win the game.
Everyone should have been aware of the backstory on this game. Mike McCarthy was returning to play the team that fired him and the quarterback that was rumored to have been part of the reason they did so. Meanwhile, that same quarterback has haunted the Cowboys for years, setting up not only a bit of a payback game for the head coach but a chance to help exorcise some of the ghosts of games past.
But there is another tendency that has affected Dallas, and that is coming out of the bye week flat. This certainly looked like the case as the Cowboys wasted a strong kickoff return to their own 39 from Kavontae Turpin to open game, but promptly went three and out and had to punt.
One thing that warranted a lot of attention in this game was the run offense of the Packers pitted against the Cowboys’ defense. Stopping the run had been an issue all year for Dallas, and it was from the beginning in this game. On their first possession, Green Bay would keep it on the ground for their first seven plays, and the Cowboys had no answer, giving up at least four yards per carry. It was not their defense that would eventually stop things, but the decision to put the ball in Rodgers’ hands. He would have a pair of incompletions to set up a 54-yard field goal attempt by Crosby, who didn’t come close.
Once again Dallas had excellent field position, but one again they were unable to even get a first down. After the punt, the defense managed to stiffen against the run and get the ball back.
A 14-yard run by Pollard finally gave the team a spark. Another came from Prescott, on a free play due to an offsides flag, when he hit Lamb for 21 yards. Although the drive would take two fourth-down conversions to stay alive, it would culminate with another catch by Lamb, one where started in the backfield and had to fight through would be tacklers to get the touchdown and the lead for his team.
For a moment, it looked like the Cowboys had a chance to really take control of the game early in the second quarter after DeMarcus Lawrence got through to Rodgers and knocked the ball loose for Jayron Kearse to recover at the Green Bay 10-yard line. It became a squandered opportunity when Prescott was intercepted in the end zone by Rudy Ford, who ran it out for thirty three yards. Looking at reactions during the replays, it appeared that either Lamb or Schultz ran a bad route to contribute to the pick.
Then those old ghosts seemed to loom as Rodgers hit Christian Watson for a 68-yard touchdown pass, the longest play of the season for the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The game was tied when it should have been a two score lead for the Cowboys. Those specters became even more visible when Prescott connected with Ford again, not the kind of consistency we wanted. That would lead to a 12-yard TD run by Aaron Jones and put Dallas behind 14-7.
The score may have been accomplished a bit too quickly, however, as it left the Cowboys with 1:42 on the clock before halftime. They used the time to march quickly down the field, capping it off with a five-yard scoring pass to Schultz to tie it up. It was a crisp eight play, 66 yard drive in just 1:34.
Dallas got a gift in the third quarter when Amari Rodgers lost the ball on a punt return, setting up a short field that Prescott ate up quickly with a 30-yard completion to Lamb, and Tony Pollard did the honors from the 13 to again put the Cowboys up by seven. That would be stretched to fourteen points on the Cowboys’ next possession, capped by a 35-yard TD catch by Lamb, that put him well over the 100 yard mark. It also saw a couple of nice runs from Davis.
Those frightening spirits from seasons past were not banished, however, as Aaron Rodgers would once again make a play hinting that he is not washed quite yet. He found Watson for a score again, this time on a fourth and seven play. It was back to a one touchdown game, and after Dallas had to punt it back, there were almost nine minutes left to play.
The Green Bay offense that had struggled in most games prior to this one was not looking like it was having any issues. Watson looked very much like he is emerging as a real go-to guy as he went over 100 yards himself. And Aaron Jones exploited the run defense all game, also exceeding the century mark. They would use up over six minutes of clock in marching relentlessly down the field, capping it with the third Watson touchdown catch to tie things up with 2:29 left. As so many had feared, the Aaron Rodgers who had often put a dagger into Dallas had risen again.
There was time for Prescott to work down the field, but a couple of incompletions forced them to punt and leave Rodgers 1:38 to ruin it for the Cowboys yet again. However, on third and one, the Packers went play-action and everything was covered. Rodgers did not look happy with his head coach Matt LaFleur after that play call. Dallas was unable to do anything with the sixteen seconds left, and it went to overtime.
That’s where the Cowboys lost, dropping to 6-3 on the season.