Packers Beat Cowboys to Set Date with Seattle in NFC Championship
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 26-21, Sunday, to clinch a spot in the NFC Championship next weekend with the Seattle Seahawks.
Green Bay completed a perfect 9-0 season at Lambeau Field and Rodgers finished the season without a single interception at home in 2014 and 2015 (29 touchdowns). All in all, Rodgers hasn't thrown a pick at home in 25 months.
Dallas got the ball first, but Green Bay forced the Cowboys to punt. Eddie Lacy led the Packers down the field and Rodgers found Andrew Quarless for a four-yard touchdown. It looked like Rodgers was going to run for the score, but his calf forced him to throw it and he passed to Quarless in the end zone. Dallas tied it at seven late in the first when Tony Romo threw to Tyler Clutts for a one-yard touchdown.
Romo passed to Terrence Williams and he burned the Packers' secondary, as he ran for a 38-yard touchdown with about eight minutes in the second quarter. Late in the quarter, the Cowboys were threatening, but the Cowboys got a first down reversed on fourth down and then missed a field goal. The Packers turned it into points as Mason Crosby kicked a 40-yard field goal to send Packers down four at halftime.
The play of the game may have came in the third quarter when Julius Peppers forced DeMarco Murray to fumble. If he hadn't Murray likely was gone for a touchdown. The Packers offense turned the Cowboys' turnover into a field goal and were down 14-13. But Dallas marched down the field fast, as Murray scored from one-yard out to give the Cowboys an eight-point lead again. With under two minutes in the third quarter, Rodgers hooked up with Davante Adams, who put the moves on the Dallas secondary and ran 46-yards for a touchdown. Green Bay trailed 21-20 going into the fourth quarter.
Dallas didn't do anything with its next possession. Green Bay got the ball and Rodgers directed the Packers down the field. He threw a 13-yard touchdown to Richard Rodgers, who caught the pass from Rodgers in a very tight window of defenders. Green Bay's two-point conversion failed.
But saddle up because this game was getting interesting. Dallas was driving and had fourth and two in Packers territory. Jason Garrett and the Cowboys offense called a gutsy play and Romo threw it up to Dez Bryant, who's 6'2" and leaped over Sam Shields, who's 5'11". Shields played excellent defense on Bryant, but Bryant jumped and grabbed the ball. He was ruled down a the one-yard line. Wait though, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play. Referee Gene Steratore reversed the call and Green Bay got the ball back. Steratore didn't rule it a catch because of the process rule, or better known as the 'Calvin Johnson' rule. Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 explains Steratore's reversal:
"If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete."
The Packers got the ball and didn't give it back to Dallas. Rodgers found Randall Cobb on third down, who made a terrific catch in traffic to extend the drive and allow Green Bay to run out the clock.
Rodgers' mobility was certainly limited, but the California quarterback stepped up and threw two big touchdowns in the second half to lead the Packers to a win. Two of Rodgers' three touchdowns were out of the pocket. Rodgers' performance was gutsy and clutch for Green Bay. He was 24 of 35 for 316 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against Dallas.
On the ground, Eddie Lacy ran 19 times for 101 yards. The biggest stars for the Packers was Adams and Peppers. Two of Ted Thompson's additions from the offseason. Adams caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. Peppers forced a fumble, recorded a sack and six tackles.
For Dallas, Romo was 15 of 19 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also played hurt in the Cowboys loss to the Packers. Murray ran the ball 25 times for 123 yards and a touchdown agains Green Bay.
Rodgers said in his postgame press conference, "I think I've got 120 minutes left in me."
Rodgers and the Packers will head back to Seattle, where they lost 36-16 in Week 1. The game is Sunday and will be on Fox and ESPN 99.1.
Sam Tastad will have pre-and-post game report for the Packers all season long. Follow him on Twitter @samtastad and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.