In a Sunday afternoon thriller that had several lead changes, the Cowboys came up short in overtime in a “homecoming” for Mike McCarthy against the Packers. 17 unanswered points are one of the game’s biggest storylines and the decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime. The Cowboys dropped to 6-3 and are firmly in third place in the NFC East ahead of a key NFC game next week. However, before looking forward, let’s look back at the stars of the game that played their part in a very close loss.
Top Notch Tony
In the last few weeks, a lot has been made if Tony Pollard is built for a heavy workload without Ezekiel Elliott. The questions have ranged from Pollard’s durability to if Pollard has enough stamina to maintain a high usage rate. As Pollard once said, “They call it, I’m gonna haul it.” He certainly did against the Packers. Pollard touched the ball on Sunday twenty-five times for 128 yards from scrimmage.
If there was any concern about whether Pollard could be an inside runner, it’s unlikely you’ll hear those whispers this week. There wasn’t much space to run to the outside against the Green Bay defense and for the Cowboys to have any success, they needed to attack them down the middle. Pollard’s longest run of the day was 14 yards, yet he still finished with over 100 yards rushing.
Very reminiscent of the Ezekiel Elliott of old, Pollard was able to slither through the tiniest creases of the Green Bay front for extra yards. Where Pollard was most effective was inside draws out of the shotgun. On his 13-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys a 21-14 lead, Pollard showcased his signature vision and lateral quickness. If Elliott is healthy next week, it’ll be very interesting to see how many touches Pollard will have.
In good hands
After a miscommunication that led to a red zone interception, Schultz made amends for his costly error. Schultz finished his afternoon with six receptions for 54 yards. What stands out is how Schultz got his numbers in the contest.
Many times, Schultz was making a catch with a defender saddled to his back. One example was during the overtime period. After a questionable holding penalty on Connor McGovern, the Cowboys were staring at a 2nd and 19 from their 49-yard line. Schultz ran a route in perfect sync with Dak Prescott and the pulled ball out of the air as Jaire Alexander came closing in.
His grab set the Cowboys up for a short third and fourth down try, that unfortunately, they couldn’t convert. His touchdown reception was more of the same, shaking a Green Bay defender off his back before strolling into the end zone. This was especially important, as it helped the Cowboys tie the Packers at 14-14 in the closing seconds of the first half.
There will be a lot of discussions if the Cowboys’ need to add another weapon in the passing game in the coming days. After all, while the Cowboys were able to extend drives, they weren’t necessarily efficient from down to down. Given Schultz’s history as a reliable option in the short passing game, it may be in their best interest to use Schultz more on early passing downs.
Tank’s a lot
Think back to what was being said about DeMarcus Lawrence a year ago. He was either overrated, overpaid, or way past his prime. So far this season it appears Lawrence has a lot left in the tank. Lawrence led the team in tackles with seven and logged a sack on Aaron Rodgers that caused a fumble.
You can question his value, but you should never question his motor. His strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers is what exemplifies his constant effort. After beginning his rush up the field, Lawrence could see Rodgers running up through the pocket. Retracing his path, Lawrence was able to smack the ball out of Rodgers’ hands for a recovery by Jayron Kearse.
At five sacks this season, Lawrence is on pace for his highest sack total in five years. Lawrence was very much needed in a game where Micah Parsons was rendered practically non-existent. The same could be said for the Cowboys run defense that struggled to contain the Packers. Lawrence was the lone bright spot with one tackle for loss and five solo tackles.
An unsung hero of yesterday’s game is the special teams unit. Take Brett Maher for example, once again he was perfect on his extra-point tries and he’s been very consistent in his return to the Cowboys. Fans have taken exception to head coach Mike McCarthy’s decision to try on fourth down in overtime, suggesting he should have tried a 52-yard field goal. That speaks to the restored faith fans have in Maher and it’s a testament to his improved play.
A huge play that changed the momentum of the game was C.J. Goodwin’s forced fumble on Green Bay’s Amari Rodgers. That play is so significant because the Cowboys were punting from deep in their territory. It’s likely that if Rodgers doesn’t turn the ball over, Green Bay on a short field scores a touchdown. Instead, Dallas would score a go-ahead touchdown on a 13-yard Tony Pollard run on the ensuing possession
Speaking of punting, Bryan Anger was outstanding against the Packers. When Dallas was forced to punt, Anger drove the ball deep to the other side of the field. Anger averaged 49 yards per punt with his longest being 58 yards. The Pro Bowl punter was also precise, pinning Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense inside the 20-yard line three times.
Luke Gifford had an excellent game making tackles on special teams, and KaVontae Turpin had a 36-yard kickoff return. Special teams were one of the highlights of the game for Dallas.