Sighs of relief, shouts of joy, and arms pointed straight in the air filled the homes of Packers fans around the world on Sunday as Davante Adams caught what proved to be the game-winning touchdown catch in another dramatic Packers victory. Green Bay moved to 4-1 in the early season, besting the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium yet again in what has become a renewed NFC rivalry with memorable endings.
In the moments following the final whistle, this author couldn’t help but reminisce on the crazy swing of events that occurred just within the last two minutes of the game. Had even the first three plays of those final 120 seconds been played out differently, Green Bay fans may have seen the game decided in overtime. Then again, the Packers may not have even gotten the ball back in time for an iconic comeback from Aaron Rodgers.
Here is a look back at the final two minutes that led to a Green Bay victory and an analysis of each play.
With the Packers leading 28-24 on 1st and 10 at GB 19 - (2:00) Ezekiel Elliott runs off left tackle to the GB 11 for 8 yards.
Elliott had just stretched for a fourth-and-one conversion on the previous play and with Green Bay carrying just one final timeout, the Cowboys handed off to their stud running back to milk the clock and move closer to the end zone. It was a predictable play considering the circumstances, yet Dallas moved into dangerous scoring position and left very little doubt that a touchdown would be the ultimate result of a drive that started with 9:49 on the clock.
2nd and 2 at GB 11 - (1:24) Dak Prescott passes incomplete to Dez Bryant in the corner of the end zone.
Perhaps the Packers do not win this contest if a run play is called instead. Rather than run the ball on a short second-and-two and force Green Bay to call its final timeout or leave the clock to tick down under a minute to play, Jason Garrett decided on a passing play that stopped the clock. Even if Bryant catches that pass for a touchdown, the Cowboys would’ve given the Packers a ridiculous amount of time for a final scoring drive. In a string of games with questionable clock management against Green Bay dating back to the Packers’ 23-point comeback in 2013, the Cowboys again helped keep the Green & Gold alive.
3rd and 2 at GB 11 - (1:13) Prescott runs for an 11-yard touchdown and a 31-28 Cowboys lead.
Yet again, there is a lot of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” with this play. As mentioned earlier, the Packers defense showed little signs of being able to prevent the Cowboys from reaching the end zone on that final Dallas drive. Could Prescott have slid down at the one yard line and made Green Bay call its last timeout with Dallas in a first-and-goal situation? Would the Packers have had enough time to lead a drive that put them in field goal range in that case? Should a team philosophically take six points whenever it can get them in the final two minutes? Those are all legitimate questions. But at the end of the day, Prescott scored, Dan Bailey made the extra point, and Dallas took a three point lead with 1:13 to play.
1st and 10 at GB 25 - (1:13) Rodgers completes a pass for 14 yards to Davante Adams, who is pushed out of bounds at GB 39.
In a foreshadowing of what was to come, Rodgers picked on rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis for a back-shoulder throw to Adams. It was a substantial first down gain that stopped the clock for Green Bay, giving the offense a bit of momentum to open the ultra-important drive. The Packers also needed roughly 20 more yards for a realistic shot at a field goal to force overtime. But as Rodgers said after the game, the “key to any two minute drive is the first play” and Green Bay got a very positive one.
1st and 10 at GB 39 - (1:09) Rodgers passes to Martellus Bennett for 14 yards to DAL 47.
Bennett turned a four-yard pass into fourteen as he broke an arm tackle at the legs and rumbled forward for another first down. Although Bennett didn’t get out of bounds, Green Bay was officially nearing field goal range. It’s been a sketchy start to Bennett’s Packers career, but the tight end’s phenomenal catch earlier in the game and improbable scamper on this play were big-time moments. If Bennett doesn’t pick up an extra ten yards here, the clock is still ticking after just a minimal gain and doesn’t allow Green Bay to have the same creativity as it had on its next plays.
1st and 10 at DAL 47 - (0:47) Rodgers passes incomplete to Adams.
Green Bay almost hit on a big play over the middle as Adams appeared to have his man beat on an intermediate slant pattern. It might have been another 15-20 yard play on what was an impressive possession, but the pass fell short to Adams’ feet. The bright side is that the clock stopped and allowed Green Bay’s offense a moment to reset.
2nd and 10 at DAL 47 - (0:45) Aaron Jones runs right for 15 yards and is pushed out of bounds at DAL 32.
With the Dallas secondary playing back and linebackers showing blitz, Green Bay executed a perfect rushing play. Jones, who had already had a big night, not only gained 15 yards on the play but ran through an arm tackle to reach the sideline. It was a “headsy” play for a rookie. As they had done the entire drive, Green Bay continued to manage the clock to perfection. The playcall caught the Cowboys beautifully off guard and put the Packers in no-doubt field goal range. But, at this point with 39 seconds to play, Green Bay fans are beginning to wonder: could the Packers win in regulation?
1st and 10 at DAL 32 - (0:39) Rodgers passes incomplete to Geronimo Allison.
With Jordy Nelson out of the game with an undisclosed injury, Rodgers took a shot down the sideline to Allison, but fortunately threw the ball too far right and out of bounds as safety help arrived. No harm with taking a deep shot here and moving to second down.
2nd and 10 at DAL 32 - (0:35) Jones runs for 2 yards to DAL 30.
Green Bay tried to catch Dallas napping once more with a running play, but failed this time around. On a drive that featured several great calls, this one was a bit perplexing. The Packers seemed to be knocking on the door of a touchdown drive, but this play from the 32-yard line with under 40 seconds to play seemed to make six points less likely. Had the play worked, the narrative would have certainly been different. But as it stood, Green Bay was forced to burn its last timeout and approached a critical third-and-eight scenario.
3rd and 8 at DAL 30 - (0:29) Rodgers scrambles left and runs out of bounds at DAL 12 for 18 yards.
In this author’s mind, Rodgers’ run was the play of the game. Stepping up to his left and finding no one open, the franchise QB eluded one tackler in the pocket before high-stepping through another’s arms and sprinting for 18 yards. Getting out of bounds and stopping the clock, Green Bay had a real opportunity to win the game in the final seconds. Again, the “what-ifs” here are enthralling. An incomplete pass forces a 47-yard field goal attempt to tie the game in a day in which the field goal unit had already missed two extra points. A sack from either of the Cowboys’ defenders makes that field goal tougher in addition to forcing Green Bay’s special teams players to sprint on to the field with no timeouts remaining. It’s hard to predict how a rushed field goal attempt would have ended up. Instead, it was an 18-yard gain for the Pack and enough time for possibly three or four shots at the end zone.
1st and 10 at DAL 12 - (0:21) Rodgers passes incomplete to Adams on back-shoulder throw to the end zone.
Rodgers targeted Adams on a well-designed play, but Adams was heavily guarded by the rookie Lewis and the pass fell incomplete. Safety help was late to arrive on the play as Adams had a one-on-one matchup, but Lewis was able to get his head around and locate the ball. Watching the replay, it appeared Lewis may have had a chance to intercept the pass had he turned around sooner. Again, this game could have finished much differently.
2nd and 10 at DAL 12 - (0:11) Rodgers completes a 12-yard touchdown pass to Adams for a 35-31 Packers lead.
Rodgers revealed in his post-game press conference that he went back to the same play as the one before from a nearly-identical formation after Adams told Aaron to “throw it again” on his way back to the huddle. This time the back-shoulder throw was placed perfectly for Adams to come down with the catch and Lewis was too late in turning around. The enormous catch from a player who many assumed wouldn’t be able to play in Sunday’s game capped off an improbable 75-yard drive that lasted just 62 seconds and put Green Bay in position for a victory.
Here it is...with the Titanic music.
AARON RODGERS DOES IT AGAIN TO THE COWBOYS!!!!— Titanic TD (@TitanicTD) October 8, 2017
HIS GO AHEAD TD PASS WITH SECONDS LEFT IS EVEN BETTER WITH TITANIC MUSIC!!!
1st and 10 at DAL 25 - (0:11) Prescott passes incomplete to Cole Beasley.
Following a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, the Cowboys had about two plays to amass a comeback for the ages. They almost did it in one. Had Prescott hooked up with Beasley, who had beaten his Packers’ cover man deep down the middle of the field, the Cowboys may have had, at the very least, a manageable last-second heave opportunity. But the pass sailed too far for an outstretched Beasley with just five ticks left.
2nd and 10 at DAL 25 - (0:05) A series of laterals ends the game.
With Green Bay’s secondary in absolute prevent mode and keeping everything in front of it, the Cowboys tried school yard, hook-and-ladder lateral passes to take the ball all the way down into Packers territory. After what seemed like an eternity of uneasiness, the game seemingly came to an end on a forward pass. But then, it just kept going as the Cowboys stripped the ball from Nick Perry and continued to run. Green Bay finally recovered a loose ball to end a contest that literally came down to the final play.
What a finish.