The stage was set Sunday for the Green Bay Packers to play a tough game against the Dallas Cowboys; Brett Favre was honored at the halftime show and all week there had been talk of the vaunted Cowboys running attack squaring off against the Packers run defense. It was supposed to be a game of opposites, matching young talent against experience, a run heavy offense against a passing heavy offense and all the signs pointed to this being one of the games of the week. Spoiler: It wasn’t.
Drive by Drive Recap
The Cowboys came out of the gate doing the exact same thing they’ve been doing all year and the Packers had no answer for it. They ran Elliot right up the middle and every now and then threw in a bootleg pass for Prescott or a quick bubble screen to keep stretching the defense. The ensuing drive the Packers were helped by Cowboys penalties and a big run by Lacy to answer with a Mason Crosby field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 1. The Packers defense stopped the Cowboys but a Jordy Nelson fumble gave the ball right back to Prescott and the Cowboys offense and they were driving once again. Prescott then set the record for the most pass attempts without an interception before the Packers got the football back due to Prescott’s first NFL interception. The first quarter ended 7-3, with both teams looking fairly evenly matched.
The Packers drove down the field to start the second quarter and got another field goal on the board, again with the offensive line dominating the Cowboys. Rodgers had almost all day to throw the football and still managed to miss a few throws when he had a clean pocket, and it ultimately led to the Packers having to settle for another field goal, making the score 7-6. The Cowboys got the ball back and drove down the field before a Prescott fumble put the Cowboys in a hole they couldn’t get out of, and they settled for a field goal.
The Packers then drove down the field again with some solid play by Lacy and sensational pass protection and got it to the Cowboys side of the field. McCarthy then elected to go for it on 4th and 5 and the Packers didn’t convert, giving the ball back to the Cowboys with 2:09 left to play in the half.
After both teams couldn’t do anything with the football, Dallas got the ball within their own five yard line and only 58 seconds on the clock with no timeouts and through some big plays and an amazing throw by Prescott. It was a 5 play, 97 yard drive to give the Cowboys a 17-6 lead at halftime.
The Green Bay offense actually looked pretty good coming out the locker room after halftime. They got a few good runs by Lacy and a couple first downs before Rodgers made a horrible throw and the Cowboys intercepted it. Elliot had a big run before the Packers’ defense tightened up and Dallas sent the field goal unit out, making the score 20-6. The Packers offense then drove the ball all the way down to the red zone before Rodgers tried to run into the end zone and lost the ball on a fumble. The defense bailed them out though, getting a quick interception to give the ball back to the Packers, but once again the offense couldn’t make anything happen and they settled for a field goal, making the score 20-9. Taking advantage of the banged up Packers secondary the Cowboys drove the ball down the field and Prescott threw another touchdown pass, making the score 27-9 with just over ten minutes left to play.
Rodgers had his best drive of the day in response, throwing a beautiful pass to Nelson and later a touchdown, his first second half touchdown thrown all season. The Cowboys responded with a huge drive running the ball the chewing up the clock before putting another field goal on the board. A big return by Montgomery was negated by another fumble on the offensive possession that followed, and the Cowboys got the ball back and chewed up the rest of the clock to end the game.
What to Takeaway
The Packers had almost the same time of possession as the Cowboys, the exact same number of first downs (24) and ran five more plays than Dallas. In the end the Packers only had 372 yards of offense (5.6 yards per play) and the Cowboys had 424 (6.8 yards per play), in a large part due to the absolute dominance the Cowboys showed running the football. The Packers allowed 191 rushing yards, more in one game than they previously had allowed all season.
For a banged up Packers defense, allowing 30 points looks bad but is understandable. For the Packers’ offense, only scoring 16 points against a Cowboys defense that isn’t that good on paper should raise some major red flags about this offense moving forward. All week we had heard about how “sick and tired” McCarthy and Rodgers were with people questioning the offense, but when you’re held to 16 points at home against a mediocre Cowboys defense questions need to be asked. Lacy was still getting carries when the Packers were down multiple scores late in the second half and it was met with boos from the home crowd. Why would the Packers continue to run ineffectively with a banged up Eddie Lacy when they have a future Hall of Famer at the quarterback position?
Make no mistake, the Packers deserved to lose this football game. Luckily for Green Bay they’ve got a home game against a struggling Chicago team to rebound off of, but if they lose on Thursday night to the Bears in primetime expect people to start hitting the panic buttons.