Packers rally to beat Cowboys 26-21

January 12, 2015

             

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a pass against Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) during the second half.

GREEN BAY, Wis.  No need for ice and wind and record low temperatures. Even in relatively balmy conditions for Green Bay, and with a somewhat stationary All-Pro quarterback, the Packers survived against the Dallas Cowboys.

Green Bay rallied from an 8-point deficit as Aaron Rodgers threw for two second-half touchdowns to beat Dallas 26-21 Sunday. The Packers (13-4), helped immensely by a video reversal with 4:06 remaining, went undefeated at Lambeau Field this season. They head to Seattle next weekend for the NFC title game.

The Seahawks (13-4) beat Green Bay in the season opener, 36-16.

"I think I got 120 minutes left in me," Rodgers said.

Dez Bryant's leaping, bobbling catch at the Packers 1 on fourth-and-2 was reversed by referee Gene Steratore after Green Bay challenged. Instead of first-and-goal for Dallas (13-5), the ball went over to the Packers.

"Some people think throwing the red flag is fun," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It was such an impactful play, you had to challenge. It was a confident challenge. And a hopeful one, too."

             

Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (81) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens (59) during the second half.

Green Bay closed it out before a Lambeau-record 79,704 on Randall Cobb's diving 12-yard reception on third-and-11. That gave Cobb eight catches for 116 yards and set off a raucous celebration at the iconic venue.

"Well, I was happy it went the right way," Rodgers said of the reversal. "That's one of those plays that could go either way."

The Cowboys' first postseason trip to Green Bay since the 1967 Ice Bowl for the NFL championship resulted in their first road defeat of the season after eight victories. Dallas got 123 yards rushing from league leader DeMarco Murray and a courageous effort from Tony Romo, who hurt his left leg in the third quarter.

That meant there were two hobbling quarterbacks. All-Pro Rodgers, bothered by a left calf he injured in Game 15, lost much of his trademark elusiveness as the game wore on.

             

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks on the field and greets Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 26-21.

But he was on-target for a short pass to Davante Adams that turned into the 41-yard score to make it 21-20. Then he sharply guided the Packers 80 yards to the winning points, a 13-yard bullet to backup tight end Richard Rodgers in the back of the end zone.

Murray atoned in style for a third-quarter fumble, gaining 32 yards on the Cowboys' ensuing possession, including a 29-yard sprint one play after Romo hurt his leg. The hobbling Romo handed to Murray for the 1-yard plunge that made it 21-13, then limped to the bench for treatment on the leg.

When he came back in, Romo was sacked on consecutive plays, the first ending the third period, the second forcing a punt.

Rodgers stood firm in firing over the middle to Adams, who cut right, shrugged off a weak tackle by J.J. Wilcox and sped into the end zone. The 90-yard drive got the Lambeau faithful back into it.

Then came the decisive series on which Rodgers went 7 for 7. He finished 24 for 35 for 316 yards and extended his record string without a home interception to 442. He has 39 TD passes in that span.

             

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo speaks at a news conference after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers

Adams had seven catches for 117 yards.

Rodgers looked fine on a precise opening series. Of course, he mostly handed to Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 45 yards on the 60-yard drive. But Rodgers had to step up away from the rush and did so spryly before hitting Andrew Quarless in the back of the end zone.

Back came Dallas with just as efficient a possession that took 7:25. Tyler Clutts was wide open at the goal line for his 1-yard TD catch.

Rodgers got Green Bay close on its next drive, but was clapping his hands when rookie Corey Linsley snapped the ball. Rodgers dropped it, recovered, but then was hit by Jerome Mincey, who grabbed the loose ball.

It was a rare turnover for the Packers, who tied for the league lead with only 13 giveaways. Cornerback Tramon Williams' botched tackle attempt on a short pass to Terrance Williams turned into a 38-yard TD and the Cowboys led 14-7.

Green Bay had not trailed at Lambeau since Week 2 against the Jets. But it drew closer at halftime thanks to a 31-yard completion to Cobb that set up Mason Crosby's 40-yard field goal.

Crosby added a 30-yarder in the third quarter, making him the franchise's career points leader. But Green Bay could have had more.

After recovering Murray's fumble at the Dallas 44 and getting to the 13, a 15-yard personal foul on guard T.J. Lang set the Packers back.

But not for long.


NFC championship game set: Packers at Seahawks

Look out, 12th Man: Here come the Green Bay Packers.

The Seattle Seahawks and the Packers are set for an NFC championship showdown in a rematch of this season's NFL opener.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns and the Packers rallied from an 8-point deficit to beat the Dallas Cowboys 26-21 on Sunday and advance to the conference title game for the first time in four years.

The Packers (13-4) will travel to Seattle (13-4) next Sunday to face the defending Super Bowl champions, who dominated Green Bay in a 36-16 win Sept. 4. The Seahawks opened as seven-point favorites in Las Vegas.

Rodgers overcame a calf injury that limited his mobility to lead the Packers over the Cowboys. His 13-yard TD pass to backup tight end Richard Rodgers in the fourth quarter gave Green Bay the lead for good.

A video review reversed a 31-yard catch by Dez Bryant to the Packers 1 on fourth-and-2, and the Cowboys didn't get the ball back.

"I'll do everything I can to get ready to go to Seattle and play a great team," Rodgers said.

In the AFC, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (13-4) were waiting to find out if they would host the Denver Broncos or Indianapolis Colts.

The Packers finished the season 9-0 at Lambeau Field, but they'll have to go on the road to face a team with a similar home-field advantage in a noisy environment created by the 12th Man. The Seahawks are 25-2 at CenturyLink Field in quarterback Russell Wilson's three years, including 8-1 this season.

In Week 1, Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 yards and two TDs as the Seahawks blew past Green Bay. Rodgers was 23 of 33 for 189 yards, one TD and one interception. He looked almost exclusively for Jordy Nelson matched up against Byron Maxwell and never threw in Richard Sherman's direction.

Eddie Lacy, who ran for 101 yards against the Cowboys, was mostly a non-factor at Seattle with 34 yards rushing on 12 carries and left in the fourth quarter with a concussion.

Brady and the Patriots will meet Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the title game for the second straight year if Denver beats the Colts. Manning led the Broncos to a 26-16 win at home against the Patriots a year ago.

It would be the fourth time Brady and Manning went head-to-head in the AFC title game. The first two came when Manning played for the Colts. The Patriots won in 2004, Indy in 2007.

Brady ran his record to 11-5 against Manning with a 43-21 victory over the Broncos at Gillette Stadium in Week 9.

If Andrew Luck guides Indianapolis to an upset at Denver, the Colts would return to the AFC championship game for the first time since Manning led them past the New York Jets in January 2010. The Patriots beat the Colts 42-20 on the road in Week 11.


Why Dez's catch wasn't a catch in Cowboys-Packers

For a league that already has The Catch and The Drive, this incomplete pass may go down as The Reversal.

The Cowboys' Dez Bryant appeared to make spectacular 31-yard catch on fourth down to give Dallas the ball a yard away from the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of Sunday's 26-21 divisional round playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Replays showed that Bryant bobbled the ball as he rolled into the end zone, with part of it touching the field. After reviewing the play, officials overturned the call, saying Bryant didn't maintain control all the way to the ground.

The rule states:

"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."

Bryant said there was never a doubt in his mind that he caught the ball.

"I had possession of the ball coming down. That's possession, right? One, two, reach," Bryant said. "Bam, that's possession."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he thought Bryant got his feet down, then made a move common to the game.

"Dez reached out to the goal line like he's done so many times," Bryant said. "It's a signature play for him. He maintained possession of it throughout, in my opinion."

Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields said the call was a relief on a play that could have been a touchdown at a critical point.

"These playoff games come down to the inches. A good call on the refs. He went up for the ball and made a good catch," Shields said.

Athletes, celebrities and others quickly weighed in on the ruling.

Odell Beckham Jr., the receiver for the rival Giants who made his share of dazzling catches as a rookie, tweeted: "I by no means cheer for Dallas but I have no idea what or how thts not called a catch . Thts a joke."

The Detroit Lions also chimed in. Their star receiver, Calvin Johnson, had a similar catch reversed in 2010, and they also were stung last week in the wild-card round against the Cowboys when the officials picked up a flag that would have given them a critical fourth-quarter first down.

They tweeted: "Sorry @dallascowboys. We know the feeling," with a link to the Megatron play and the hashtag "CompletingTheProcess."

The NFL has used the Johnson play in explaining the rule to coaches and players.












 

Associated Press