Coming off of probably their most embarrassing loss of the year, the Green Bay Packers come back to Lambeau to host the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys. The Packers are in shambles right now, with injuries all over the place and barring some vintage Rodgers late-season heroics, the Packers are in for a tough matchup against a hot Dallas team. The Packers defense will face a tough challenge today against a Cowboys offense that is great on all levels, and without De’Vondre Campbell and Eric Stokes for this game, and without Rashan Gary for the rest of the year, the defense may be in for a rough game. As for the offense, the Cowboys struggle to stop the run, so will the Packers offense finally lean into the run game to maybe put up a fight against the Cowboys? Or will we see more ineptitude from the Packers offense as we have all year? Every time the Packers and Cowboys face off sparks fly, but with the Packers struggling this year, are we in store for another great game between two of the NFL’s most historic franchises?
This matchup between the Cowboys and Packers was once again an instant classic as past matchups have been. After a first quarter where the offenses traded punts and the Packers missed a field goal on their opening drive, the Cowboys opened up the scoring early in the second quarter on a touchdown strike from Dak Prescott to Ceedee Lamb. After the following drive for the Packers was abruptly ended thanks to a strip sack by Demarcus Lawrence, it looked like the Cowboys would jump out to a 14-0 lead, but Packers safety Rudy Ford had other ideas and picked off Dak in the endzone. The Packers would capitalize on this turnover and Aaron Rodgers would hit Christain Watson on a beautiful 58-yard touchdown pass for his first career receiving touchdown. The following drive for Dallas would end the same way as their last one, with Ford undercutting a route and picking off Prescott at mid-field for his second of the day. Once again the Packers offense would capitalize off the turnover, and Aaron Jones would run all over the Cowboys defense as he had all day on his way to a 15-yard rushing score to put the Packers up 14-7. This lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Prescott would execute a textbook two-minute drill drive and find Dalton Shultz for a touchdown to tie the game at 14 going into the half.
The Packers looked great on both sides of the ball in the first half, and the offense looked like the Green Bay offenses of old, but the momentum they built up in the first half was quickly dashed in the 3rd quarter. The Packers would punt the ball on their first possession coming out of the half, despite a great 23 yard catch by Sammy Watkins on second and 22 to overcome a Yosh Njiman hold. A quick three-and-out forced by the defense would be all for naught as yet another Amari Rodgers fumble would put the Cowboys in perfect position to retake the lead. They would do just that as Tony Pollard would gash the Packers defense and score to put the Cowboys up 21-14. Another Packers punt and another CeeDee Lamb touchdown would put the Cowboys up 28-14; 21 unanswered points for the Dallas Cowboys as it looked like the Packers would once again only play one good half of football.
Then the fourth quarter came. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, on a fourth and seven, Rodgers would hit Watson on another beautiful pass for a 39-yard touchdown, his second of the day. The defense would step up on the next drive as Preston Smith would pressure Dak on a third down to force an incompletion and a Dallas punt on the next play. Jones would continue to gash the Cowboys weak rush defense and set up another Rodgers-to-Watson touchdown connection, a hat-trick of touchdowns for Christain Watson as the Packers tied the game at 28. The defense would lock down the high-powered Cowboys offense on the following drive and give Rodgers a chance to execute yet another game-winning two-minute drill drive against the Cowboys. That drive was not meant to be as they would punt but run enough time off the clock to force overtime.
With the Cowboys getting the ball first, the comeback seemed not to be. The Cowboys would easily drive down the field all the way to the Packers’ 35-yard line. The Packers defense would lock it down though and force a fourth down and three. Now for some unexplained reason, instead of attempting the 52-yard field goal to take the lead in overtime, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy elected to go for it on fourth down to continue the drive in hopes of eventually ending the game with a touchdown. Dak Prescott’s pass to Ceedee Lamb would be broken up by Jaire Alexander, giving the ball back to the Packers with a chance to win it with a field goal. The Packers would do just that as a 36-yard catch and run by Allen Lazard and a facemask after an eight yard rush by Jones would set the Packers up at the Dallas seven yard line, where Mason Crosby would attempt and make the 28-yard game-winning field goal.
Another great installment in the Packers-Cowboys rivalry as the 3-6 Green Bay Packers take down the 6-3 Dallas Cowboys in an overtime shootout 31-28.
Players of the Game:
Just before the regular season, the Packers signed Rudy Ford to the active roster, a move that I was not a fan of at the time due to the breakout performance of Micah Abernathy in the preseason. Currently, Rudy Ford is the highest graded active defender for the Green Bay Packers with a grade of 81.0, according to PFF (second to Rashan Gary who was placed on IR with an ACL injury). Ford hasn’t been given a lot of snaps prior to today, but today he absolutely took over the game for the Packers. Picking off Dak Prescott twice, and flying all over the field making tackles to contain the Cowboys’ run game. Rudy Ford was the Packers best defender today, and he could make a push for a starting spot at safety with the poor performance of Darnell Savage so far this year. Ford could be a solid piece to this Packers defense the rest of the year.
After a disappointing start to the rookie’s season, dealing with severe drop issues and struggles to get healthy, Christain Watson finally had his breakout game. Despite two early drops on the opening drive, Rodgers didn’t lose faith in the rookie and went his way on multiple crucial downs and he delivered. Putting up an insane statline of four catches for 107 yards and a hat-trick of touchdowns, Watson finally proved he could be the deep threat receiver they drafted him to be.
For the first time since the week two matchup against the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers played a complete game, and this was against an opponent who was having a much better season than them on both sides of the ball. The Packers leaned into the run game, rushing the ball 39 times compared to only 20 passing attempts on the day. They continued to feed Aaron Jones the ball, giving him the ball 24 times on the ground and a pair of touches in the air as he rumbled for 156 yards and a score. AJ Dillon was also key to the Packers success, as they gave him the ball in key short yardage situations and to tire out the Cowboys defense. Dillon’s 13 carries for 65 yards allowed the Packers to rack up over 200 rushing yards against the Cowboys. Hopefully this is a sign of what the Packers play calling could be the rest of the year.
Because they leaned into the run game, the passing game was the best it has been all year. Rodgers went 14 for 20 for 211 yards and three touchdowns, with clutch catches made by Lazard, Watkins, and the star of the night, Watson. Because of the success in the run game, the Packers offense was able to thrive, find its stride, and look like the Packer offenses of old.
While the defense came up clutch in many moments, especially in moments when it mattered, there are still some really questionable choices by Joe Barry. Too many times during the game I asked myself “Why is Jaire not on CeeDee Lamb?” and “Why are they playing such soft coverage on short yardage situations?” The defense did play well despite being without Eric Stokes, De’Vondre Campbell, and Rashan Gary; however with the defensive scheming we’ve seen all year, we can only wonder if they’ll continue to play well. Campbell will likely return soon, but the Packers will have to continue to play without their CB2 and star edge rusher.
With Amari Rodgers fumbling the ball on yet another punt return, special teams coordinator Rich Biscaccia and Matt Lafleur need to seriously start considering putting someone else back there to return kicks. Too many times has an Amari Rodgers fumble killed momentum for the Packers and arguably lost them games. This fumble didn’t come back to haunt them today, but it has in the past and if Amari Rodgers continues to return punts it will happen again.
The Packers snap a five game losing streak with this win, but there is no time to celebrate as they stay in Lambeau to host the 6-3 Tennessee Titans, who are coming off of a defensive victory over the Denver Broncos, on a short week for Thursday Night Football. The Packers run defense will be put to the test against all-pro running back Derrick Henry.