Two years ago, the divisional round playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers was determined by a controversial dropped pass by Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.
This time around, with the Cowboys looking for revenge, it was Jared Cook's securing a spectacular toe-drag catch for a 35-yard gain with 3 seconds left in the game, propelling the Packers into field goal range. Mason Crosby took care of the rest, nailing his second field goal of over 50 yards in 90 seconds to push the Pack past the 'Boys, 34-31 in a wild, divisional round classic.
Easily the best game of the playoffs so far, the game saw the Packers lead by 15 points late in the third, only to see the Cowboys rally to tie with 4 minutes left. Crosby then nailed a field goal with 1:33 left. However, Dak Prescott drove his Cowboys down the field in 58 seconds, bringing them to the 35, where they stalled. Dan Bailey made a 52-yarder to tie it once more. With help from Cooks and Crosby, Rodgers used the final 35 seconds to spur his Packers to victory, avoiding overtime and clinching a spot in the NFC championship. They'll travel to play the Atlanta Falcons for a Super Bowl berth.
Packers dominate first three quarters
For the majority of the game, it looked like the Packers were going to do what they did to the New York Giants last week. Up 15 points heading into the fourth, the Packers seemed to primed to shift into auto-drive for the homestretch. Even though the Cowboys came back, Green Bay's domination for 45 of the 60 minutes proved to be too much to completely overcome.
Dallas received the opening kickoff and were driving fast, when Green Bay's Micah Hyde came up with a big play, sacking Prescott for a loss of six on first down. Prescott did well to get the Cowboys into field goal range on a 14-yard completion to Cole Beasley, but he could not convert the first down. Bailey made a 50-yard field goal to give the Cowboys the lead.
The Pack appeared stalled and ready to punt, but a penalty for too many men on the field gave them new life. After that, Ty Montgomery sped through for a gain of 15 yards. Rodgers then ripped off passes of 16 and 34 yards to put six up on the board. Randall Cobb caught one pass, while Richard Rodgers hauled in the touchdown.
After a Dallas punt, the Packers put together a spectacular drive spanning the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. Rodgers converted three third downs with his arm, including a 3rd and 7 completion to Cooks for 14 yards. A 32-yard completion to Davante Adams on third down was the key play near the end of the first quarter. Three plays into the second quarter, Montgomery followed his blockers left and picked up a 3-yard touchdown run.
Dallas punted again, and Green Bay put together yet another touchdown drive. The drive did not feature many flashy plays, but Green Bay consistently moved the chains, facing only one third down, which Dallas converted via a penalty. The biggest play was a 20-yard plunge from Aaron Ripkowski that brought Green Bay to the Dallas 11. Two plays later, Montgomery punched it in from the one, and Green Bay was out to an astounding 21-3 lead on Dallas's home field.
Dallas responds late in first half to narrow gap
Dak Prescott, in his first playoff game, responded to the adversity about as well as possible. After handing off to Ezekiel Elliot on the first play of the drive for nine yards, Prescott hit Bryant twice in a row, first for 21 yards, then for 40 yards and a touchdown. Dallas then backed Green Bay up, thanks to a muffed kick return that pinned the Packers on their own 6. The Cowboys would get the ball back near midfield, driving for a field goal to make it an eight-point game before halftime. Beasley had the big play for Dallas, breaking a tackle after a catch for an 18-yard gain that made for an easy field goal try by Bailey.
Packers start second half strong
Green Bay took the wind out of Dallas's sails early in the second half, driving for a quick touchdown on the strength of Rodgers' arm. He hit Cobb for 25 yards, bringing the ball to midfield, on the first play of the drive. Three plays later, Rodgers hit Adams for 14 yards, then Cook for 26. He hit Cook one more time for three yards and a touchdown to polish off a near-flawless drive and increase the advantage to 15 points.
It looked like Dallas would get it back, when Elliot started the drive with a 22-yard run, but, after reaching the red zone, Prescott was picked off. However, the Cowboys would return the favor, as a spectacular diving interception and 27-yard return gave Dallas the ball back with about 2 minutes to go in the third quarter.
Dallas comes all the way back to tie it
Dallas looked to be in bad shape, facing a 2nd and 21 early in the drive, but the ever-composed Prescott found Bryant for gains of 19 and 10 yards to move the chains. Deep in Green Bay territory later in the drive and early in the fourth quarter, Prescott found Jason Witten on a 3rd and 14 for a 15-yard gain, setting up another toss to Witten, this one for a touchdown from 6 yards out. The PAT made it 28-20.
The Packers pushed the ball close to midfield, but they ultimately punted the ball away for a touchback, setting the stage for a dramatic tying drive for the Cowboys. The 'Boys marched fairly methodically down the field, not facing a third down until a 3rd and 8 at the Green Bay 29, with just over five minutes left. Bryant drew a pass interference to get the first down at the 15 yard line. Elliot put a dirty spin move on Green Bay's Clay Matthews on the following play, gaining eight yards. Prescott found Bryant again in the end zone for a touchdown to make it a two-point ball game. The rookie QB did it himself on the 2-point conversion, bulling his way in on the quarterback draw.
The game was far from over. Rodgers hit Adams for 16 yards on the second play of the drive to get the Pack moving again, and Montgomery and Rodgers brought them across midfield with runs of nine and five yards respectively. An interception was called back due to a holding penalty on Dallas, and Green Bay's drive lived on. Green Bay got no further, stalling at the 38. They called in Crosby, who nailed the kick from 56 yards out with 93 ticks left on the clock. With what was still to come, that 93 seconds was an eternity.
Prescott didn't look like a rookie in his first playoff game on the ensuing drive, as he eclipsed the 300-yard mark with a series of quick completions. He hit Terrance Williams for 24 yards to open the drive, then Witten for 11. After spiking the ball, Prescott found Beasley for seven yards to the Green Bay 33. That was where they stopped after his third down pass was batted down. Bailey came on and his 52-yarder, his longest postseason kick ever, sailed straight through the pipes for a tie game.
The Cowboys had done their job too well. They had left 35 seconds for Aaron Rodgers, who had no intention of going to overtime in this one. A connection with Montgomery for 17 yards gave the Packers hope, but a ten-yard loss on a sack pretty much seemed to close the door on the ideas of a game-winning drive. Then came Cook and the toe drag.
And suddenly Green Bay was in field goal range. Crosby coolly knocked the kick through, but not before a timeout was called, forcing him to make the high-pressure kick twice. Yet it was still no problem. The ball drifted farther left than most people wanted to see, but it still snuck inside the left post to give the Pack their eighth straight win.
Rodgers threw for 356 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Prescott totaled 302 yards and a pair of TD tosses as well. Elliot was the game's leading rusher with 125 yards, while Montgomery bruised his way to 47 yards on the ground for Green Bay. Bryant had 132 yards receiving for Dallas, while Cook pulled in 104 yards, none bigger than his last 35.