The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys played a thriller in the Divisional Playoffs on Sunday, arguably the first good game of the postseason in either conference. Dallas fought back to tie the game after starting the 4th quarter with a 15-point deficit, but Mason Crosby booted a 56-yard field goal to take the lead back inside the two-minute warning. Dan Bailey tied it with a 52-yarder of his own, leaving the Packers with half a minute and two timeouts to win the game.
Aaron Rodgers and Jared Cook gave the Packers a chance.
With three seconds left, Rodgers hit Jared Cook for a huge play down the sideline, taking the Packers 35 yards from their own 32 to Dallas’ 33, giving Crosby a chance to win it from 51 yards.
Crosby snuck it JUST inside the left upright, sending the Packers to the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta next Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers went 28 for 43 on the day, throwing for 356 yards, two scores, and one interception. Ty Montgomery scored twice on the ground, and Crosby was the hero with two 50-plus-yard field goals inside the last two minutes of the game.
Here’s how it happened.
The Packers won the toss and deferred, giving the Cowboys the football to start the game. A few decent runs by Ezekiel Elliott and a few short passes by Dak Prescott set up a third-and-two from the 33-yard line. However, a pass breakup by LaDarius Gunter set up a 50-yard field goal attempt. Dan Bailey knocked it through for a 3-0 Cowboys lead.
The Packers’ first offensive series saw Aaron Rodgers playing tricks on the Cowboys early on. Following a five-yard pass to Ty Montgomery on first down and a run of no gain by Aaron Ripkowski, Rodgers caught the Cowboys with 12 men on the field to pick up a first down. Dallas then took a timeout on the next snap because they were a man short. Ty Montgomery cut back for 15 yards on the next play, before Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for 15 on a quick out. Rodgers drew the Cowboys offsides on the ensuing play, and threw deep to Richard Rodgers, who hauled in the pass and slid across the goal line, giving the Packers a 7-3 lead. Rodgers burned All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee on the play, which went for 34 yards.
The Cowboys punted on their next series, thanks to a strange sequence. Dallas crossed midfield, but Brice Butler entered the huddle before leaving the field and not participating in the play, earning a 15-yard penalty and wiping out a 22-yard completion to Terrance Williams. Micah Hyde’s pass breakup on second down and an overthrow by Prescott led to a punt from the Cowboys’ side of the 50, setting up the Packers at their own 10.
The Packers got out of the shadow of their own end zone on a third-and-7 pass from Rodgers to Jared Cook, one play after missing a wide open Cook up the seam. He then hit Geronimo Allison to move the chains on a third and 3 and Adams on third and two, getting into the red zone. Adams’ catch was a big one, going for 32 yards. The Packers converted, with Ty Montgomery plunging in from two yards out for a 14-3 lead.
The Packers forced another punt, this time with a three-and-out. Dallas passed the ball twice, with a Mike Daniels stop on Elliott on second down. The third down play resulted in an incompletion, thanks to Julius Peppers bull-rushing Tyron Smith back into Prescott and affecting his throw.
Green Bay continued to work on offense, with Rodgers hitting Allison for an early first down. They picked up a first down on a third-and-six thanks to an illegal hands to the face penalty on Morris Claiborne. Rodgers hit Allison again, this time for 26, before Aaron Ripkowski busted off a 20-yard run off left tackle. Adams nearly crossed the goal line on a catch and run up the sideline, but Montgomery made it look easy with a second touchdown and a 21-3 lead for the Packers. However, David Bakthi
Dallas finally found their groove on offense on the next series, striking quickly. Dez Bryant did almost all of the damage, picking up 21 yards then hauling in a 40-yard touchdown pass to pull the Cowboys back within two possessions at 21-10.
The Packers had a brain fart on the ensuing kickoff, courtesy of Christine Michael. He muffed the kickoff a yard or two deep in the end zone, then took the ball out to avoid a potential safety. That set up the Packers at their own six with about six minutes left. The Packers went three and out and punted away to the Cowboys, who took over at midfield. Dallas set up with a third and four at the Packers’ 33 at the two minute warning. Prescott hit Cole Beasley for an 18-yard gain, then threw two incomplete passes to Jason Witten to set up another third down, this time from the 15. Joe Thomas broke up a third pass to Witten, forcing a field goal attempt that was a big win for the Packers’ defense. Bailey hit from 33 to make the score 21-13 with exactly one minute left.
After a touchback, Rodgers overthrew Randall Cobb on first down. Morris Claiborne got a finger on Rodgers’ second-down pass, preventing a big gain by Jared Cook. Then Rodgers was sacked by Orlando Scandrick on third down, running the clock out on the first half.
The Packers started off the second half with a bang with a beautiful catch but Cobb on a yet another seemingly impossible throw by Rodgers for 25 yards:
Adams soon made a great 14 yard catch which was followed by a 28 yard grab Cook. That set up another Rodgers touchdown pass as he went right back to #89 for a three yard touchdown and a 28-13 Packers lead. That was easy, and momentum is back on Green Bay’s side.
Dallas’ first drive of the half got started in similar explosive fashion as Elliott broke out (finalily) for a 22-yard run to the DAL 47. Kentrell Brice narrowly missed the game’s first turnover on a deep ball, and Dallas made the Packers pay by getting into the red zone. That is, until Micah Hyde came up with a great interception at the 21 and returned the ball to the GB 38. It’s by no means a dagger, but Green Bay can start to sharpen it with a long drive to end the third quarter.
The Packers drove the ball well, but Aaron Rodgers had a very un-Aaron Rodgers-like play: he underthrew an open Davante Adams up the sideline and was picked off by Jeff Heath. That was Rodgers’ first interception since week 10 against the Titans, and it swung momentum back to Dallas’ side.
Dez Bryant then had a couple of big plays, bailing out Doug Free’s holding penalty by catching back-to-back passes for 19 and 10 yards. Dallas found the end zone, with Jason Witten setting up a first-and-goal with a 15-yard game then catching a 6-yard score on the next play. That score made it 28-20 in favor of the Packers.
Green Bay got nothing going on the following drive, leading to a punt. Dallas had their ball at their own 20, trailing 28-20. Elliott finally got going and Dallas drove all the way down to the Green Bay red zone with Prescott throwing another touchdown to Bryant. Prescott then kept the ball himself for the two point conversion and suddenly it was a tie game.
Packers fans sat on the verge of mass cardiac arrest, having seen their teams blow playoff leads before. After Jeff Janis’ touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Rodgers hit Davante Adams on a skinny post for a 16-yard gain over the middle. A wayward Rodgers pass fell into Jeff Heath’s hands again, but Rodgers was bailed out by a pass interference penalty on Barry Church. That set the Packers up at the Dallas 35 just under the two minute warning. Two runs set up a third and 13 at the 38, and Rodgers’ pass fell incomplete. That set up a 56-yard field goal attempt for Mason Crosby. With Packers fans’ hearts in their throats, Crosby drilled the field goal to give the Packers a 31-28 lead.
However, Dallas had 1:33 left on the clock and a timeout to go. They drove down the field and set up Dan Bailey for a 52-yard field goal, which he drilled down the middle with 35 seconds left.
It was too much time, with Rodgers having two timeouts left. After a screen pass to Ty Montgomery and a sack set him up with 12 seconds left at the Packers’ own 32, Rodgers found Jared Cook for a miraculous catch up the left sideline, setting them up inside Crosby’s field goal range. After nailing his first 51-yard kick just after a Cowboys timeout, Crosby snuck his second attempt just inside the left upright, sending the Packers on to Atlanta.
- Mason Crosby: Crosby actually hit three field goals from 50-plus in the last two minutes, as he had his first attempt at the game-winner wiped out by a timeout by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. His first, from 56, gave the Packers the lead with a minute and a half to go, and his 51-yarder finally gave the Packers a playoff win on the last play of the game instead of a loss, for once.
- Aaron Rodgers: Despite a couple of uncharacteristically inaccurate throws - one that was picked off by Jeff Heath and a second interception that was erased by a defensive penalty - Rodgers led the Packers’ offense to a ridiculously hot start and got the yardage they needed to get back into field goal range with three seconds left. Rodgers threw for over 350 yards on the day, and had one of his most impressive plays in holding onto the football despite a blind-side sack by Heath on the third-to-last play.
- Jared Cook: The Packers’ tight end was a one-man wrecking crew on Sunday, regularly beating the Cowboys’ secondary on third downs and in the red zone. Cook caught the final pass, somehow sneaking his toes inside the sideline, and he added a touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Packers a 15-point lead. In total, he caught six passes for 104 yards and the score.