The NFL has to be pleased with how the dominoes fell for this first round of the playoffs. Storylines abound throughout the field, and the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers is absolutely dripping with them.
Matthew Stafford’s return to Detroit, Tyreek Hill’s return to Kansas City, reheated Joe Flacco versus rookie stud C.J. Stroud, and plenty more; this weekend’s got it all! Even without all this other action, the Cowboys-Packers game on Sunday provides enough narratives to keep the talking heads busy this week.
Of course, there’s Mike McCarthy’s second date with his former team. McCarthy was Green Bay’s head coach from 2006-2018. winning the 2010 Super Bowl and having lots of success overall. Despite four years of being back in the NFC with Dallas, he’s only had to face his previous employer one time before now.
That first one didn’t go so well as McCarthy’s much-hyped return to Lambeau Field in 2022 ended with an overtime loss. Dallas blew a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter, a franchise record for worst end-of-game letdown. At least this time, Aaron Rodgers won’t be under center for the Packers.
Speaking of Rodgers, he and McCarthy were working together when Green Bay eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs in 2014 and 2016. That 2014 game, Tony Romo’s last postseason appearance, is infamous for the incompletion call on a Dez Bryant catch near the endzone on Dallas’ final drive. It was a heartbreaking loss for a Cowboys team that, had it advanced, was a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Two years later, Rodgers and McCarthy’s Packers again ousted the Cowboys in Dak Prescott’s first playoff game. While Dallas rallied from a 28-13 deficit to tie it up late, Rodgers engineered the final drive to set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal.
As much as we loathe the San Francisco 49ers for bouncing Dallas out of the playoffs the last two seasons, the Packers had that same heat not long ago. Thankfully, one common factor in all of these incidents is now gone with Aaron Rodgers’ move to New York. But anytime the yellow and green is lined up across from the Cowboys, it makes plenty of old wounds sting.
For some in Cowboys Nation, those wounds run far deeper. The Packers of Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr’s days in the 1960s were instrumental in keeping the Cowboys from earlier championships. They eliminated Dallas in 1966 and 1967 in what was then known as the NFL Championship (the past equivalent of the NFC Championship), stopping the Cowboys from being part of the first and second Super Bowls. That second loss in 1967 was the Ice Bowl game, one of the NFL’s most famous games.
Who knows; Don Meredith might have as many rings as Roger Staubach if those two games had ended differently. Dallas was within a score of Green Bay in both defeats, and the Packers would advance to blow out both the Chiefs and Raiders in those first two Super Bowls.
Along with these bigger moments in the franchises’ joint history, the Packers are one of the few teams to have a winning record over the Cowboys. They’re 17-13 in the regular season and 4-4 in playoff games. Only the Ravens (5-1) and Broncos (10-4) have better win percentages against Dallas historically.
Surprisingly, Green Bay’s advantage is more due to recent history than days of yore. The Packers are a stunning 9-1 against Dallas since 2009. The one Dallas win was in 2016, a regular-season game at Lambeau Field. The Packers are 4-0 at AT&T Stadium since it became the Cowboys’ new home.
At least home field means something more to Dallas now than it used to. The Cowboys are 16-1 at home over the last two seasons after mixed results in previous years. Their motivation to secure the second seed and home games in these playoffs was evident last Sunday against Washington. Now it’s time to do something with them.
The path back to the NFC Championship Game means putting down at least one longtime obstacle in these Green Bay Packers. No, none of Rodgers, Lombardi, or Starr are showing up this week, and now McCarthy works for the good guys. And while a Dallas win probably gets taken for granted, the favored team just doing what they were supposed to do, a loss would churn up every bit of this history and Green Bay’s routine role as a thorn in our side.