Packers vs. Cowboys Performance Grades: Offense Fuels Second-Half Comeback

Tom Pennington

We take a second look at the Packers 37-36 comeback victory over the Cowboys on Sunday, and hand out positional performance grades.

The Packers hadn't beaten the Cowboys in Dallas since 1989. This was hardly the most powerful Packers team to come into town and challenge said Cowboys, but it might be one of the strongest-willed groups.

After a first half that left fans with flashbacks of Thanksgiving in Detroit, the Packers were able to turn things around, and play inspired football. Eddie Lacy's 60-yard run to start the second half seemed to rejuvenate the team. After that play, you could sense the team beginning to believe they were still in it. After that, Matt Flynn and the Packer offense caught fire, while the Packers defense made stops, and created turnovers.

While many media outlets will play the blame game with the Cowboys (which they absolutely deserve), I believe the Packers deserve just as much credit. It takes a few mistakes by the other team to complete a comeback of that magnitude, but the Packers took advantage and scored on every drive in the second half.

This team may not win the division, or even make the playoffs, but it showed on Sunday that they have plenty of playmakers on the roster. Regardless of what happens from here on out, this team needs to make changes; but Sunday took a lot of pain out what has been a forgettable second-half of the season for cheeseheads everywhere.

Now, to the grades:

Quarterback: A-

Matt Flynn finished 26 for 39 for 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. His first half drives (Field Goal, Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Punt) left a lot to be deserved, but give him credit for bouncing back in the second half.

His second half drives (Touchdown x 5, Kneel to End Game) were exactly what you'd like to see against a Dallas defense that is less than elite. His touchdown throw to Jordy Nelson was a little underthrown, but his audible to Andrew Quarless on the ensuing scoring drive was an excellent read and a solid throw.

Flynn has flashes of being an above-average quarterback, and when he does; he is usually setting some kind of Green Bay Packers record. This time it was the biggest comeback in team history, and a lot of that can be pinned to Flynn's moxie as a player.

Running Backs: A

Eddie Lacy finished with 141 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries and added 4 receptions for 30 yards, while James Starks added 12 yards on 3 carries, and added an 11-yard touchdown reception.

Lacy finally broke a big play to start the second half, and you could tell he had been waiting for that for weeks. John Kuhn deserves a lot of credit on that play, as he took out two defenders on the play.

Lacy continues to get the majority of the snaps (56) over Starks (7), and a lot of that has to do with Lacy's ability to break tackles as well as be a consistent pass blocker, but I would like to see Starks' snap count push into the 20s. Lacy takes enough punishment as it is, and I would hate to see his promising career be jeopardized by being run into the ground as a rookie.

Wide Receivers: A+

Jarrett Boykin led the way with 6 receptions for 83 yards, while Jordy Nelson added five for 61 yards and an impressive touchdown catch over Orlando Scandrick. James Jones caught 3 passes for 49 yards and one touchdown. Jones also had an impressive 39-yard run after the catch, in which he broke three tackles.

While Nelson and Boykin continue to make plays (and occasional bail out poor throws by Flynn), Jones still doesn't appear to be able to create consistent separation between him and his man. It may have to do with his knee/ankle injuries, but it's alarming nonetheless.

Tight Ends: B+

Andrew Quarless continues to improve on a weekly basis, catching 6 passes for 66 yards and one touchdown, the exact same stat line as a week before against the Falcons. Quarless even showed some improved footwork and blocking technique as a run blocker.

Ryan Taylor was forced into duty as a split receiver at times due to Brandon Bostick's foot injury. Taylor isn't going to scare any defenses with athleticism as a receiver, but if he can be a reliable run blocker, who occasionally goes out in play-action; he could be valuable to the team moving forward.

Offensive Line: B+

It appears as though the coaching staff prefers to use Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang as pulling guards on running plays, and I don't blame them. Lang pulled on Lacy's 60-yard run to start the second half, and Sitton appears to be getting to the second level on a fairly consistent basis.

David Bakhtiari had the tall task of going up against DeMarcus Ware, and didn't allow a single pressure by the feared pass rusher. Don Barclay also pitched a shutout when Ware went to his side, and Barclay was equally solid in the run game.

Evan Dietrich-Smith was able to hold Jason Hatcher at bay, and only allowed his initial block to make the tackle on a run play once.

Of the two sacks on Flynn, one can be charged to Flynn for holding onto the ball too long, and the other to Quarless for missing the initial block before going out for a pass.

Not a bad day overall for this unit.

Defensive Line: B-

Josh Boyd led the unit with 3 tackles, including one for a loss. Boyd played 32 snaps, and seemed to be the most effective run stuffer after Johnny Jolly was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury.

Mike Daniels was the most effective pass rusher, logging two tackles, including one sack. Daniels continues to be the most consistent player in his group, and might earn himself an extension if the organization parts ways with B.J. Raji, who only recorded one tackle on Sunday. Raji and Pickett had trouble getting off blocks, but Pickett was able to take a couple stops down field. Datone Jones saw limited snaps (16) and wasn't much of a factor in the plays he was in on.

Linebackers: C+

For the first time in a while, Clay Matthews was rendered ineffective. Matthews had a difficult time getting past Tyron Smith on any sort of pass rush, and only recorded two total tackles on the day, but he was credited with a half-sack after Romo extended a play out of the pocket.

Mike Neal recorded two tackles, including one sack, while Brad Jones added six tackles. Jones provided solid pass coverage on Jason Witten at times, but was also beat vertically for a 27-yard reception in which Jones didn't jam Witten, and Witten got a step on him.

A.J. Hawk recorded 3 tackles, and broke up one pass, but he didn't make any big plays. He doesn't seem as aggressive as he was earlier this season. I don't know if it's a change in scheme, or just simply Hawk taking a backseat to Matthews, but he doesn't appear to be playing with the same passion.

Cornerbacks: A+

Sam Shields and Tramon Williams each played all 73 snaps on defense, and both made exceptional interceptions to help the Packers pull off the comeback victory. Shields' interception with three minutes left in the game was an unbelievable play. While Romo is getting all the blame for making that throw, very few on giving Shields the credit for just simply making a freakishly athletic play.

Williams' gamble to leave his man and step in front of Tony Romo pass on the final drive of the game paid off. Williams is one of the better defenders in the league at shadowing a receiver and luring a quarterback into making a throw he probably shouldn't make.

Williams finished with nine tackles, included a pair of solid open-field tackles on DeMarco Murray. Shields finished with five tackles, and broke up two potential touchdowns in the end zone.

Micah Hyde recorded six tackles, and was decent in pass coverage. Jarrett Bush finished with two tackles, and provided some solid coverage on Witten in the dime package. Bush was also flagged for a costly defensive holding penalty.

Safeties: C

The decline of Morgan Burnett continues to be baffling. Burnett made a nice pass break-up in the end zone on a pass intended for Witten, but could have made the interception on the play. Burnett finished with six tackles, but he doesn't appear to be the same player he once was.

M.D. Jennings started opposite Burnett, but played in only 33 snaps against Sean Richardson's 40 snaps. Jennings was out-matched on Dez Bryant's 5-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. It was a great play by Bryant, but Jennings shouldn't have allowed himself to be put in that position. Richardson was average in pass coverage, and wasn't overly impressive in run support.

Kicker: A+

Mason Crosby continued to show off his range with a 57-yard field goal that was probably good from 63. Crosby was 4 for 4 on extra points, and recorded touchbacks on five of his seven kickoffs.

Punter: A

The Ginger Wolverine recorded four punts for an average of 49.3 yards and a hang-time of 4.5 seconds.

The Packers historical comeback win, mixed with the Lions being the "LoLions" we know and love, keeps the Packers playoff hopes alive. Now the Packers will hopefully get some good news on the health of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb just in time to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.

If the Packers take care of business this Sunday, with or without QB12, they could set themselves up for a winner-takes-all grudge match for the NFC North title in Week 17 in Chicago.

The Packers could very well win their division after going 0 for November this season.

Wait, what?

Josh VanDyke covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He is also currently a sports writer for MLive.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JVanDyke24

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