Total View: Week 15 – Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Down and out, trailing the Dallas Cowboys 26-3 at half, the Green Bay Packers pulled off the most miraculous comeback in their 93-season history, and saved their season in the process.
10:56 1st Quarter – The Packers won the toss and deferred — once again willing to risk playing from behind in order to start the second half with the football.
Showing how poor they’ve been against the run, the Packers start the game in their base and play a lot of it all game even though the Dallas Cowboys hate to run the football — coming in with the third-least rushing attempts in the league.
The Cowboys’ first drive goes 52 yards in 8 plays taking up more than the first four minutes of the game. The biggest play of the drive is a 27-yard pass to Terrance Williams, who runs a deep cross against Tramon Williams. Tramon either is playing very soft man-to-man or expects help from Morgan Burnett that is late in arriving.
The Cowboys only face one third down, and as is the case all half, they fail to convert it. Having reached the Packers’ 3o, the Cowboys ran DeMarco Murray around the right end. Williams made a nice tackle to hold him to a 4-yard gain. On second down, the Cowboys try Murray around the left end. Josh Boyd pursues down the line and buries Murray for a 3-yard loss. Then on third and 9, Tony Romo tries for Miles Austin in the middle of the field, but Micah Hyde has it well covered and knocks the ball away.
Dan Bailey, who would see more action than a Saigon prostitute during the Tet Offensive, kicked a 47-yard field goal to make the score 3-0.
7:40 1st Q – The Packers answer with a drive for a field goal of their own to tie the game at 3-3.
The drive was basically one play. On the second play of the drive, Matt Flynn hit James Jones on a slant. Jones shook free of Brandon Carr, ran by the safety, and up the seam for 39 yards. The Packers would go 2 yards backwards from there before Mason Crosby kicked a 57-yarder because it’s Mason Crosby, yo!
4:50 1st Q – The Cowboys rapidly drive the field again to kick another field goal and go up 6-3.
On the second play of the drive, Murray got a handoff going left. He saw a gap between B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett and shot through it. Because A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones both aggressively engaged blockers at the line of scrimmage, Murray is off to the races once he gains the second level. M.D. Jennings, who is mysteriously starting in this game, takes a bad angle and ends up having to chase Murray down from behind after a 41-yard gain.
On the very next play, Romo hits Dez Bryant on another deep crossing pattern for 22 yards, down to the Packers’ 9. On 3rd and 5, Romo takes a shot for Jason Witten, who A.J. Hawk is all over, and Burnett jumps the play and knocks the ball down. Burnett had a good chance to intercept the ball, but doing so would have ruined the Packers’ impressive stat of zero interceptions by a safety this season.
Bailey then takes the field and gets his field goal on.
00:30 1st Q – After a Packers’ three and out where they went backwards, the Cowboys go 65 yards in 4 plays to take a 13-3 lead.
Those four plays were a 15-yard crossing pattern to some dude named Escobar, a 9-yard dump to Murray, a 16-yard run by Murray where Brad Jones got run through, and then a 25-yard seam route to Jason Witten for the score.
4:50 2nd Q – After both teams traded punts and then Bailey poured in another field goal to make it 16-3, Matt Flynn made his biggest mistake of the game by throwing weakly into the zone covering Jordy Nelson. It was picked off and returned deep into Packers’ territory. The Cowboys would back up some, thanks to a Mike Daniels’ sack, but Bailey would still convert the 50-yard field goal to now make the score 19-3.
00:30 2nd Q – The Packers had the chance to at least run most of the half out with third and 1 at their 40. Eddie Lacy is open on the run out off the play fake, but Flynn underthrows him. Lacy flops to the ground rather comically after failing to stoop for the ball while running downfield.
This gave the Cowboys one more crack at the ball, and they would take advantage to put the Packers in a seemingly insurmountable 26-3 hole at half.
On the second play of the drive — I am sensing a trend here — Dez Bryant runs right by Sam Shields and collects a go route for 37 yards, moving the ball to the Packers’ 32. Two crossing routes against the Packers zone would then get the ball to the 1-yard line. Murray easily took it in from there.
13:00 3rd Q – The Packers don’t take long to begin opening the jar of whoop ass in the second half.
On the first play of the half, the Packers lined up in the inverted wishbone with John Kuhn leading Lacy to the left side. Josh Sitton and David Bakhtiari kick out. T.J. Lang blocks down. Kuhn helps Lang seal to the inside before releasing and cut blocking the safety. Lacy bursts through the hole and runs right by the fallen safety. He gets 60 yards before being chased down and forced out of bounds.
On the following third and 3 from the 13, Flynn throws the out from the slot to Nelson. He underthrows it slightly, but this is Jordy effin Nelson we are talking about. He simply takes it from the defender. Tuddy.
Nelson’s touchdown makes it 26-10.
6:35 3rd Q – The Cowboys take a big step to putting the Packers away by holding the ball for over six and a half minutes in driving for a field goal.
The biggest play of the drive is a crossing route to Bryant, of course, that gains 16 yards. The Cowboys also manage to finally convert on a third down, thanks to a holding penalty on Jarrett Bush. However, on third and 13 from the Packers’ 34, Romo throws short to Cole Beasley, who is immediately touched down by Hyde for a 2-yard gain.
No matter. Dan Bailey makes his second 50-yard field goal in a row.
1:10 3rd Q – There is a green and gold train beginning to roll. Matt Flynn is the conductor, and you can’t hope to stop it, only slow it down.
You wouldn’t have guessed that from the start, when the Packers faced a third and 8 right away. Flynn delivers a skinny post to Andrew Quarless, who makes a catch at his knees and heads straight upfield for 22 yards.
It would be third and 10 three plays later. Jordy effin Nelson makes a one-handed catch for 21 yards, despite being held on the play.
Jarrett Boykin is also beginning to show up. He jukes the linebacker on a simple cross, picking up 11 yards, and then catches a comeback route for 13 more, down to the Cowboys’ 3.
Flynn hits Quarless from there for the touchdown to make it 29-17. We might actually have a game here if the defense shows up.
12:50 4th Q – Ask and you shall receive. The Cowboys go three and out and have to punt from their 2-yard line.
Romo throws two incomplete passes. Then, on third and 10 from the 15, a Packers blitz finally works. The Packers line up A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews in the middle. They both blitz. Matthews waits until the line picks up Hawk and then shoots a gap to come through clean. Romo sees Matthews and tries to escape to his left. Datone Jones is there and combines with Matthews for the sack.
Micah Hyde takes the punt at the 50 and goes untouched up the left sideline to the Cowboys’ 22-yard line.
A screen to Boykin sets up third and 3 from the 15. Flynn finds Quarless again. The Cowboys rotate through linebackers and safeties on Quarless, but they can’t find anyone to stop him. Two downs later, Mike McCarthy makes his best call of the game on a middle screen to Starks. Starks bumps DeMarcus Ware just long enough for Flynn to dump him the ball. Starks bulls his way into the end zone, and we definitely have a game now at 29-24.
8:00 4th Q – The Cowboys take advantage of a couple breaks to drive for a touchdown. This puts them back up 36-24.
On the second play of the drive, Romo tries for Jason Witten in the flat, who has a Brad Jones’ jacket on. The ball bounces through them both and into the hands of Tramon Williams. He makes a dodging, weaving return to the Dallas 8.
Dallas is in some real crap now. Well, not yet, because the refs are coming to the rescue.
The interception is reviewed and overturned. I have seen the replay about 10 times now. I have no idea how you can say with 100 percent certitude that the ball wasn’t controlled all the way through the process. In my humble opinion, the Packers got jobbed.
But the incompletion made it third and 5. The Cowboys haven’t converted a third down without the benefit of a penalty all game. And they won’t here, either. Mike Neal is flagged for offsides, giving the Cowboys a first down. Replay shows that Neal actually was drawn offsides by a Doug Free false start. It should have been third and 10, besides the fact that it should have been Packers’ ball in the first place.
Still, admittedly this is all no excuse for allowing a touchdown on this drive. A couple plays after this, Romo finds Witten on the same route he scored the touchdown on. He makes a leaping catch between three Packers for a 27-yard gain.
On third down from the 5, Romo was forced out of the pocket by Neal. He gets pressured by Daniels and throws a wing and a prayer to the back of the end zone. Neither M.D. Jennings or A.J. Hawk turn around, and Dez Bryant reaches around Jennings to make the catch for the touchdown.
4:20 4th Q – There is nothing to fear because the Flynn train is back on the tracks. Helping immensely is that Dallas appears to be getting tired of tackling Eddie Lacy. Lacy gets 25 yards on three carries on the drive. The Packers face only one third down — a third and 6, which Flynn converts by connecting with Quarless for 14 yards, of course.
From the Dallas 34, Flynn hits Boykin on a back-shoulder pass that goes for 27. On second and goal from the 3, Flynn has probably his best play of the game, as he looks off coverage to his right before coming back and throwing a strike to Jones on the left side of the end zone. The touchdown makes it 36-31, and the Packers need one more stop.
2:45 4th Q – At this point in time, Tony Romo and Sam Shields combine to save the Packers’ season.
One would think that Dallas would be running the clock at this point, but that somehow does not compute for Tony Romo. He sees the Packers loading against the run, of course, and decides to throw the ball. Clay Matthews throws a wrench into that by ignoring the run action and going for Romo. Romo spins out, but then proceeds to pull a Brett Favre by sliding to his left and throwing back right.
It is behind Miles Austin. Sam Shields was initially beat to the inside, but now he is just baiting the throw. He jumps in front of Austin and snags the back half of the football. It is Packers’ ball at midfield.
1:31 4th Q – Flynn starts off the winning drive by hitting Quarless for 18 yards. Flynn to Quarless has been the single biggest difference between the two halves for the offense.
From that play on, it is all Lacy. He batters his way down to the goal line, and then leaps over the pile for the touchdown to put the Packers ahead for the first time in the game. McCarthy tries something new with both B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels in the backfield of the inverted wishbone. They simply handle the edges while Lacy goes up the middle and over the top.
The score makes it 37-36. The Packers go for two, but a back-shoulder toss to Quarless fails when the defender grabs a handful of jersey to stop Quarless from turning for the ball. Quarless was pushing off at the time, of course.
The comeback would be complete just two plays later, when Romo and Beasley miscommunicate on a pass to the sideline. Beasley runs a hook while Romo throws the out. Williams is sitting in zone and dives forward to make easily the best interception of his career. The ref standing just three feet away immediately signals incomplete. Tramon and other Packers defenders immediately start imploring for a challenge. Mike McCarthy takes a timeout to give the replay booth more time.
The refs say the timeout isn’t needed because they were going to review the play anyway. Oh, okay. The replay shows the ball never touched the ground. That is an interception and game over.
Last week the Packers dug themselves a 21-10 halftime hole, and it appeared that their season was likely over. They staged a second half comeback to win 22-21 and keep themselves alive. This week, the certainty of their demise was about tenfold of that.
This is the greatest comeback in Packers history, considering not only the size of the deficit, but what was at stake and the obstacles that had to be overcome. Matt Flynn has been extremely shaky at times. At times, it appears his arm is too weak for him to be a bonafide NFL quarterback. And then he does this.
People said the Packers could not win without Aaron Rodgers. Well, Matt Flynn is 2-1 in games he started. He is 2-1-1 in games he played. The same is true for Rodgers that is true for Adrian Peterson or Ryan Clady or any other NFL player. The magnitude of the loss of that player is directly determined by WHO is replacing that player.
Flynn has developed some nice chemistry with Andrew Quarless and Jarrett Boykin, which is huge with defenses concentrating on Jordy Nelson and James Jones. And, of course, Eddie Lacy helps make it all easier. His ability to pound defenses has helped the Packers in both comeback victories.
Yes, the Packers defense has to play better. It essentially looked the same as it did for the last two months. Guys are not getting off blocks in the run game, and safeties and linebackers are both struggling to make tackles. The ceiling for the Packers is limited with the way this defense is playing, regardless of what the offense does.
The Packers are basically ALREADY in the playoffs. Every game from here on out is a must-win game. Thanks to the Lions, the Packers at least know that if they win, they WILL move on.
Let’s hope this great ride lasts as long as possible.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.