On a rainy Sunday in Northeastern Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers earned a hard-fought victory over the Dallas Cowboys and improved to 9-4 on the season. The win gives the Packers a full-game lead on the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North lead.
With Mike McCarthy calling plays once again, Green Bay got big performances on the ground from both Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Each running back went over 100 total yards in the game and scored once on the ground, while Starks added another touchdown through the air. Aaron Rodgers threw for two scores, including one to Richard Rodgers, and totaled 218 yards passing and 27 rushing.
The Packers got the ball to start the game, and put Eddie Lacy to work early. He carried the ball on the game's first four plays, picking up 18 yards and a first down. However, on a third-and-three, Aaron Rodgers attempted his first pass of the game on a slant route to James Jones, and Brandon Carr broke up the pass to force a punt.
After the Cowboys got the ball, they moved quickly into the red zone. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix overpursued a run by Darren McFadden, and he scampered for 50 yards down to the Packers' 12. After a ten-yard pickup by Jason Witten, Matt Cassel threw to Dez Bryant in the end zone, but the high pass was tipped by the Cowboys' receiver and was intercepted in the end zone by Sam Shields.
Starting from their own 20, Rodgers completed a short pass to Davante Adams on first down, then dialed up another Lacy run on which he picked up 18 yards. A few plays later on third and 9, Rodgers threw incomplete to Randall Cobb but picked up a first down on a defensive holding call against the Dallas secondary. After that, Cobb went to work, with four receptions on the drive. Lacy contributed through the air as well with a 24-yard gain on a screen, and James Starks appeared to punch the ball in on a third-and-goal from the one. However, he was ruled short of the goal line, and the Packers went for it on fourth down from a half-yard out. Aaron Rodgers ran a quarterback sneak, but he was stopped up just short of the goal line.
Dallas took over just outside their own end zone, and picked up nine yards on a pass to Dez Bryant. However, a run by Robert Turbin was stopped shy of the first down, and Dallas punted away, after which the Packers took over on Dallas' side of midfield.
James Starks was in at running back to start on the next series and picked up 9, 7, and 5 yards on the first three plays. A holding call on Davante Adams slowed the drive down, but Rodgers found James Jones on third and ten to move the chains. Three plays later, Rodgers hit James Starks on a beautifully-designed swing pass for 13 yards and the game's first touchdown, giving the Packers a 7-0 lead.
Dallas' next drive started at the 20, and they picked up an early first down on a pass from Cassel to Witten. On the next play, Sam Shields made a tough tackle along the sideline, but hit his head hard during the play and went to the locker room immediately to be evaluated for a concussion. Cassel targeted Damarious Randall, Shields' replacement, on the next play, and Bryant appeared to make a ridiculous catch, but after a Mike McCarthy challenge it was ruled that he did not complete the reception. (Sound familiar?) That set up a Cowboys punt from their own 40.
Aaron Rodgers picked up 16 yards early on the next drive, then picked up another 16 on a pass to James Jones on the sideline. While getting terrific pass protection, he set up and connected with Cobb for 14. McCarthy then drew up a screen pass for John Kuhn of all people, picking up another 14 in the process to set up a first and goal. On first down, Rodgers saw nothing open and threw the ball away, but on second down he found Richard Rodgers for the touchdown off play-action to extend the Packers' lead to 14-0.
The Packers forced a three-and-out on the Cowboys' next drive, giving Green Bay the ball back with just under two minutes left. Unfortunately, a third-down sack by Demarcus Lawrence forced a Packers punt with 56 seconds to go. Dallas stalled, however, and went into the halftime break down 14-0.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Packers held Dallas deep in their own territory on the kickoff (thanks to a big hit by Chris Banjo) and then the defense forced a quick three-and-out. A quick pass to James Jones picked up nine, then Rodgers hit Cobb out of the backfield for a 17-yard gain on third down. However, two incomplete passes and a short run by Cobb stalled the drive out just past midfield and Tim Masthay punted into the end zone.
Dallas got its second big play on the next drive, as McFadden broke out on a sweep behind a pair of blockers for a 46-yard gain. On the next play, Robert Turbin bounced outside for 22 yards, then shot up the middle untouched for a 7-yard touchdown that pulled the Cowboys to within a touchdown at 14-7.
Green Bay finally got Eddie Lacy back in the game on the next drive, with runs of 6, 6, and 11 yards to start the drive. However, a no gain by Lacy and a five-yard screen to Starks set up a third-and-five, and Greg Hardy sacked Rodgers to end the series and force a punt. Dallas went three-and-out though, with a drop by Dez Bryant contributing to the offensive failure. The Packers were three-and-out as well and punted away to Dallas..
The Cowboys then started churning on the ground once again, but an unblocked sack by Clay Matthews (which featured quite an impact on Cassel) put an end to the Dallas drive after just one first down. Another three-and-out for the Packers' offense gave Dallas the ball back at their own 28. Once again, the Packers forced a three-and-out, however.
The Packers started to move the ball after getting it back, with James Starks as the lead back. 27 yards on four plays started off the drive, then Lacy came in and picked up eight. A Lacy run for one and an incomplete pass set up a third and nine from near midfield, but Rodgers found a way to escape pressure and pick up 11 yards and a first down. Cobb then had an 11-yard catch-and-run before Lacy bounced off the left side for 11 more yards of his own. Lacy lost five yards on the next play, which was followed by a pass interference penalty on James Jones. However, from the 30-yard line, a handoff to James Starks caught the Cowboys in a blitz, and Starks sped through the Dallas defense into the end zone to give the Packers another two-touchdown lead at 21-7 with less than five minutes to go.
Dallas' offense sputtered on their ensuing drive, eventually resulting in a failed fourth-down conversion with about three minutes left. The Packers were attempting to run out the clock, but four straight runs by Eddie Lacy covered 38 yards and a one-yard touchdown plunge that extended the lead to 28-7.
Jayrone Elliott put an emphatic end to the Cowboys' slim hopes as he recorded a sack and a pass breakup on Dallas' final drive, and Scott Tolzien kneeled out the clock.