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Monday, Dec. 16, 2013

Packers' Crazy Comeback Victory Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive

Looking Pack: Week 15

packers at dallas cowboys 2013 eddie lacy
Photo credit: Jim Biever / Packers.com
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The last time the Packers went to Dallas, the team was paying its inaugural visit to Cowboys Stadium (now called AT&T Stadium), playing for the right to take the Lombardi Trophy back home. For those with even a passing interest in Green Bay football, the events of that Feb. 6, 2011 contest are unforgettable. Sunday’s subsequent trip to “Jerry’s World” was almost as memorable for Packers fans. Only this time, confetti and cheers weren’t raining down into billion dollar architectural marvel. Rather, hometown boos and growing doubts about the Cowboys playoff chances came crashing down around Tony Romo and company—minus Dez Bryant, who retired to the locker room early—as the Packers overcame a 23-point halftime deficit to top Dallas 37-36 in the craziest Packers game since Super Bowl XLV.

The outcome would’ve been much less thrilling had it not been for the Packers’ utterly dreadful first half. Aside from a 57-yard Mason Crosby field goal, to tie the game 3-3 after the first Packers possession, Green Bay’s offense (led by Matt Flynn) was virtually absent though two quarters. Meanwhile, Dallas had no trouble putting up points in the first half—scoring in six of the team’s seven opening half possessions. Cowboys diva receiver Dez Bryant had six receptions and 102 yards through two quarters; DeMarco Murray put up 93 yards on the ground (112 total) and Romo amassed 250 passing yards during Dallas’ 26-point half. Kicker Dan Bailey even booted four field goals.

Luckily, there’s no mercy rule in the NFL. Given fewer than a one percent chance of winning at the half, Green Bay found itself on favorable end of an absolute role reversal in the gripping on-field drama between the pair of playoff hopefuls. Thanks to a 60-yard Eddie Lacy dash, the Packers offense stopped its scoreless streak at six straight possessions with an outstanding Jordy Nelson grab from 13 yards out. Bailey added a fifth field goal moments later, but a Flynn-to-Andrew Quarless connection narrowed the Cowboys margin to twelve points. A Flynn screen to James Starks on the third straight Packers touchdown-scoring possession put Green Bay within one score, 24-29.

A near-Tramon Williams interception would’ve put the Packers inside Dallas’ 10 yard line, but an official review determined he didn’t maintain control. Romo made good on his second chance—not to mention an uncalled Cowboys false start and a Brad Jones facemasking penalty—to find the end zone for the first (and only) time in the second half, as the Burlington native incited a Bryant cup-throwing, gum-flapping celebration with a fourth quarter score that put Dallas up 12 with under eight minutes remaining. However, Flynn (with James Jones’ help) and Lacy taking advantage of the porous Dallas D for a couple touchdown—not to mention the Cowboys’ reluctance to run the ball combined with Romo finding familiar December form with two head-scratching interceptions, proved enough to enable the Pack to come back for an unlikely road win. With Aaron Rodgers potentially returning next week, this exhilarating come from behind victory could be the key to Green Bay surging to a division title virtually everyone thought was gone at halftime—virtually everyone not wearing a Packers uniform, that is.
 

Player Of The Game (Offense) – Matt Flynn
Beyond his commendable quartet of touchdown passes and decent 299 yards through the air, Flynn also provided a great deal of intangibles that, while not present in the box score, were invaluable in Green Bay’s incredible comeback. The Texas native spread the ball to nine different receivers and showed poise in the historic second half performance.
 

Player Of The Game (Defense/Special Teams) – Tramon Williams
In a different timeline, Williams’ muffed interception early in the fourth quarter would’ve been the turning point that halted Green Bay’s comeback effort. Fortunately, for the veteran cornerback (and Packers fans), this universe saw Williams redeeming himself and punctuating the unforgettable win with an incredible diving interception to seal the game. Moreover, Williams led the Pack with nine tackles.

Up next: hosting Pittsburgh Steelers at 3:25 p.m. on Sunday, December 22

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