Packers-Cowboys: What we learned

Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ARLINGTON, Texas -- All but left for dead by the Dallas Cowboys, the Packers roared back for a 37-36 victory that keeps Green Bay very much alive in the NFC playoff race.
Quarterback Matt Flynn led an improbable second-half comeback as the Packers trailed 26-3 before scoring five touchdowns against a beleaguered Dallas defense, including running back Eddie Lacy's game-winning 1-yarder with 1:31 remaining. Flynn threw four touchdowns after halftime.
"What a feeling," Flynn said after his second straight win as starter. "We were all just sitting around at the end taking knees (and) we were like, 'Is this real? Is this happening?'"
Green Bay (7-6-1) remained squarely in the playoff hunt with two games left. The Packers trail both Chicago (8-6) and Detroit (7-6) in the NFC North. Green Bay has games left with Pittsburgh and at Chicago.
The Packers could also get quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who missed his sixth straight game against Dallas, back in the lineup from the collarbone injury he suffered Nov. 4. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy wasn't tipping his hand about the status of his star quarterback.
"Nothing's really changed," McCarthy said.
The Cowboys (7-7) didn't do themselves any favors with their second straight loss to a backup quarterback. Dallas does control its own destiny in the NFC East, despite being a game back of 8-6 Philadelphia.
The Cowboys end the season at home against the Eagles on Dec. 29 with the division title likely on the line. Dallas is at Washington next week.
"We are in the same situation we were in when we woke up this morning," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said, referring to Philadelphia's loss. "We have to put this one behind us."
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo delivered the kind of December performance that has plagued him for much of his career. Romo, now 11-17 lifetime in the season's final month, threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but had two costly interceptions in the fourth quarter. His second pick by cornerback Tramon Williams ended the game with 1:08 left in the game.
The Cowboys abandoned the running game in the second half despite a 23-point lead and DeMarco Murray piling up 93 yards at the break. The Cowboys averaged a staggering 7.4 yards per carry but with the ball and a lead late in the fourth quarter, Dallas continually put the ball in the air.
Garrett intimated that Romo audibled out of a number of runs in the second half.
"We decided to be a little more aggressive and felt it was the right approach with the way the game going," Romo countered. "It's easy to look back now and say run the ball, run the ball, run the ball."
Flynn, the third consecutive backup quarterback to start against Dallas, threw for 299 yards, as the Packers spent most of the game playing catch-up.
Flynn's 11-yard screen pass to James Starks early in the fourth pulled Green Bay within 29-24 before what nearly was another epic Romo mistake.
Williams appeared to intercept a tipped Romo pass on ensuing drive, returning the pick inside the Dallas 10. But the play was challenged and officials ruled the ball hit the ground as Williams was attempting to secure it.
With new life, Romo took the Cowboys the length of the field for a touchdown and 36-24 advantage. Receiver Dez Bryant hauled in a throw over Green Bay defenders in the back of the end zone.
Flynn again took the Packers down the field for a touchdown, connecting with receiver James Jones from three yards out with 4:23 left. Green Bay would get the ball back with 2:50 remaining.
This time Romo wasn't as lucky, as cornerback Sam Shields picked up an intended throw for receiver Miles Austin at the 50-yard line. Lacy bowled in from the 1 seven plays later.
"It was a run call that he threw the ball on," Garrett said.
Williams' interception on Dallas' last drive preserved the win. The play was initially rule a no-catch before replays reversed it to Williams' and Green Bay's satisfaction.
"The one that I didn't get credited with, I thought I caught it," Williams said. "But the one I did get credited with, I never felt more sure about a catch in my life."
Lacy rushed for 141 yards, his fourth game at least 100, and upped his total to 1,028 on the season.

What the Packers said
"I was drained. Just to see the emotion of the guys, what the guys overcame. It took me everything not to cry." -- Coach Mike McCarthy, on the scene in the Green Bay locker room after the come-from-behind win.

What the Cowboys said
"Disappointing loss, no question about that, independent of what anybody else does." -- Coach Jason Garrett, on losing to the Green Bay Packers and missing an opportunity to overtake the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.

What we learned about the Packers
1. Matt Flynn is an effective Plan B at quarterback. The Packers remain without Aaron Rodgers, but Flynn proved capable enough Sunday. He threw four touchdown passes in the second half as Green Bay rallied to top the Dallas Cowboys.
"Matt just stays the course," coach Mike McCarthy said.
2. Green Bay is alive and well in the playoff hunt. The Packers are 7-6-1 with two games left: home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, then at the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears. Sweep the last two games, and Green Bay has a good shot.

What we learned about the Cowboys
1. Dallas gets away from what is working at the most inopportune times. Running back DeMarco Murray ran for 93 yards on 11 carries in the first half, but he got only seven more attempts despite the team holding a 23-point halftime lead.
"At different times in the second half, we probably could have run the ball more," coach Jason Garrett said.
2. The defense isn't likely to get any better. The Cowboys' banged-up D gave up five touchdowns in the second half, continuing its season-long trend of ineptitude.
"We couldn't get stops when we needed them," Garrett said.

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