The Green Bay Packers have some fight in them after all.
Facing a 28-14 deficit early in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field against the favored Dallas Cowboys, the Packers didn’t roll over, as they have done so often in their five-game losing streak. Instead, the Packers found a new game-changing playmaker, as wide receiver Christian Watson broke out with a pair of touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to tie the game and send it to overtime.
There, Green Bay’s defense got a huge fourth-down stop on the edge of field goal range, giving Aaron Rodgers a chance for a game-winning drive against the Cowboys and his old head coach, Mike McCarthy. As he has done so many times in his career against Dallas, Rodgers delivered, finding Allen Lazard to get the Packers into field goal range for a game-winner.
It was Watson’s arrival that will dominate the storylines from this game, however. He hauled in a tremendous 58-yard touchdown in the first quarter, finishing the game with a stat line of 4 receptions for 107 yards and a trio of scores. All of that production came after a pair of early drops, as the Packers continued to use him as a major part of the game plan when it was clear that the Cowboys secondary had no answer for his speed.
When all was said and done, Crosby’s field goal pushed the Packers over the 30-point mark for the first time in a game this season and improved the team’s record to 4-6, keeping them at least theoretically alive for a playoff spot.
The Packers’ defense got a quick three-and-out to start the game, getting a stop for one yard on Tony Pollard on the first play before a pair of incomplete passes. Green Bay’s offense spammed the run on their next drive, with a series of consecutive runs by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. The two consistently picked up four or five yards on every play, with a bonus 15 coming on a late hit out of bounds, before reaching the edge of field goal range. On second and third downs, Rodgers threw to Christian Watson, who dropped back-to-back passes to force Mason Crosby on for a 54-yard field goal. His attempt sailed well right and short, keeping the game scoreless.
Green Bay got another three-and-out on defense, with a short run on first down followed by a Darnell Savage pass breakup. Savage appeared to have his other arm grabbed on the play, but made the swat with his free arm before a third-down pass fell incomplete. Jones and Dillon continued to pound the ball on the Packers’ second series, moving comfortably across midfield. However, on third-and-2 from the 40, the Cowboys snuffed out a toss to Jones for a loss, forcing a punt.
Dallas finally picked up a first down on their next drive, that coming on a 2nd-and-13 draw by Pollard following a holding penalty. Dallas ran up-tempo multiple times on the drive, and drew a free play that saw the Cowboys’ first big play of the day, a throw from Prescott to Ceedee Lamb for 21 yards to cross midfield. Green Bay stopped Pollard a yard short of a first down a few plays later, but Prescott got the offense up to the line quickly and ran a quick sneak to pick up the yard. After catching the Packers with 12 men on the field, the defense would force another 3rd-and-1 but Prescott converted with a sneak once again. The Cowboys finally converted, getting a short touchdown pass to Lamb to cap off a 17-play drive and take a 7-0 lead.
Following a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff, the Packers coughed up the first turnover of the game. On 3rd-and-3, Rodgers tried to escape pressure up the middle, but DeMarcus Lawrence closed that gap, stripping the football out. Safety Jayrone Kearse fell on it, giving Dallas the football at the ten-yard line. Rudy Ford would bail out Rodgers, however. The backup safety, pressed into action as a starter with Darnell Savage’s move to the slot, jumped a poor clearout route by Dalton Schultz at the goal line and intercepted Prescott, returning the football out to the 33-yard line and ending the Cowboys’ threat.
After a few runs from Jones and Dillon set up a 3rd-and-1, Christian Watson sent a message to his doubters. The Packers sent him on a go route off play-action and Rodgers lofted a perfect throw over his shoulder after he cooked Anthony Brown off the line of scrimmage. Watson made a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch, broke Brown’s diving tackle attempt, and coasted into the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown, the first true designed long-ball score of the season for the Packers. Crosby punched through the extra point, tying the game at 7 with just over five minutes left in the first half.
Here’s a look at the TD:
The Cowboys got yet another fourth-down conversion from Prescott on a sneak, going for it aggressively on 4th-and-1 from their own 41-yard line. A second effort pushed him just across the line to gain, keeping the drive alive — alive long enough for him to throw another interception to Rudy Ford. Yet again, Ford jumped a route over the middle, this time returning the football deep into Cowboys territory:
A few plays later, Aaron Jones delivered a score to give the Packers their first lead since playing the Washington Commanders three weeks ago. Jones scampered around the left end, taking the ball into the end zone from 12 yards out and adding a certain Marshawn Lynch-inspired celebration for good measure:
That play left 90 seconds on the clock for Dallas to try to tie the game before the half, however, with two timeouts in their pockets. A pair of passes to Lamb and another to Schultz got them to the 40-yard line and a pass to Michael Gallup pushed them down to first-and-goal from the 5 with 19 ticks left after using their final timeout. After a pass out the back of the end zone, Prescott found Schultz at the goal line and he slipped past Adrian Amos for a game-tying touchdown just before the break.
Green Bay received the opening kickoff of the third quarter and once again the offense moved the ball across midfield. Sammy Watkins picked up a big gain to move the chains on a 2nd-and-22, but another failed third down — this one due to Watson failing to track the football on a deep throw — led to a punt. The Packers defense got another three-and-out thanks in part to a Jarran Reed sack, but Amari Rodgers coughed up the football yet again while returning the Cowboys’ punt, giving Dallas the ball on the Packers’ side of midfield.
With new life, Prescott hit Lamb for a big gain of 30 yards with Savage in coverage, then handed off to Pollard on another 2nd-and-long draw. Pollard went untouched 13 yards for a touchdown, sending Dallas back ahead at 21-14.
A quick three-and-out for the Packers, their first of the game, came following a failed back-shoulder throw to Watson, a run, and then a sack on Rodgers, courtesy of poor pass blocking by Elgton Jenkins.
That sequence is when the game got away from the Packers. The ensuing drive saw Ceedee Lamb take over, with a pair of catches. First was a 14-yarder before he delivered a 35-yard touchdown, extending Dallas’ lead to two touchdowns at 28-14.
Watson continued his breakout game on the next drive, however, pulling the Packers back within seven points. The Packers drove across midfield, thanks in part to a 15-yard catch by Sammy Watkins over the middle. On a 4th-and-7 from the 39-yard line, Rodgers found Watson getting open over the middle out of a bunch formation, and he hauled in that pass and bounced into the end zone for his second catch and second touchdown of the game.
Good kickoff coverage set the Cowboys back up inside their own 15-yard line, but an alert hot route on 3rd down moved the chains early on the drive. After another first down on the ground, the Packers got a huge stop, with Preston Smith putting pressure on Prescott on third down to force a punt. Keisean Nixon was back on the return in Amari Rodgers’ place, and although he made an awkward catch at the 5-yard line, he maintained control of the football as he advanced to the 10.
Watson would deliver a big third-down conversion on the next drive, catching a three-yard pass on third-and-two after a pair of Aaron Jones runs to start the drive. After a 9-yard catch from Allen Lazard, Dillon burst up the middle for a 17-yard gain to get the Packers near midfield. Jones would push Green Bay into the red zone with a 26-yard gain. After another first down inside the 10, Watson found the hat trick, sprinting away from the Dallas secondary on a crossing route in the end zone to record his third touchdown and tie the game at 28.
Dallas took over at their own 25 with all three timeouts and 2:30 left on the clock, and a first-down run took the clock down to the two-minute warning. Coming out of the break, an awkward snap to Prescott led to an incomplete pass on second down, setting up 3rd-and-7, and Jaire Alexander had good coverage on Michael Gallup to ensure that Prescott’s throw fell incomplete. Nixon returned the Cowboys’ punt to the 33 with 1:38 to go.
The Packers exercised some questionable clock management from that point as two runs from Jones ate up some clock in a tie game and took the clock down to 30 seconds remaining. Matt LaFleur took a timeout to set up a 3rd-and-1 and the Packers would run a play-action pass, but Rodgers could not find an open receiver and had to throw away as the Packers punted to Dallas with 16 seconds left. Rodgers was caught on camera screaming — and swearing — at LaFleur on the sideline immediately after the third-down play, making for a headline that will surely last for some time.
The Cowboys then ran the clock out to send the game to overtime, where they won the coin toss and took over to start the extra period. Dallas started off with a quick run for 7 yards from Pollard, then Prescott hit Lamb for a 15-yard gain before the receiver took a big hit from Adrian Amos over the middle. Another 8-yard run from Pollard took Dallas across the 50, but Dallas receiver Jalen Tolbert lined up offside on second down. Pollard would take a swing pass for 9 yards to move the chains, setting up a first down at the Packers’ 42.
Jonathan Garvin snuffed out a first-down bootleg by Prescott, batting a pass down, then Dallas was flagged for a holding penalty on second down to set up a 2nd-and-20 back at the Cowboys’ 49. Prescott found Schultz in front of Alexander for 16 yards, getting back in field goal range for a 3rd-and-4. Alexander broke up Prescott’s pass to Lamb, but Dallas kept the offense on the field for 4th and 4 from the 35 instead of sending out Brett Maher for a field goal. Green Bay’s pass rush got to Prescott quickly on that opportunity, with Jarran Reed taking him down and forcing an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs.
The offense took the field and after two runs from Aaron Jones for 8 yards, Rodgers found Allen Lazard on a quick slant, letting Lazard sprint downfield for 36 yards and well into field goal range. Jones picked up another 5 yards on the ground plus a facemask for another 15, setting up Crosby and his bad back for a 28-yard field goal from the middle of the field. He delivered with a strike straight down the middle, giving Green Bay their first win since October 2nd.
The Packers had a remarkably balanced performance overall on Sunday, picking up 207 yards on the ground compared to 208 net passing yards. Rodgers finished the day 14-of-20 for 224 yards and three touchdowns, all going to Watson. Green Bay also got massive production from Aaron Jones (24 carries, 138 yards, and a touchdown) and AJ Dillon (13 carries for 65 yards) as the ground came dominated throughout the first quarter.