Cowboys Chronology: 'Taken Away' In Green Bay
Before the Dallas Cowboys could get to the point when the season was at its tipping point - lean one way and you are a step from the Super Bowl, lean the other and the Packers send you home - there were almost 60 minutes of other key plays, critical moments, and "mini-tipping points.''
The Cowboys and the cold-hearted controversy in Green Bay’s 26-21 playoff win? Obviously, when Dez Bryant’s acrobatic 31-yard fourth-down catch was almost a game-winner or the lip of the cup of the game-winner. Less obvious, of course: Why officials ruled it a non-catch because the ball was bobbled somewhere between the time Bryant caught the ball and moved toward the end zone.
“C'mon, man,’’ said Dez, trying to reason his way through a flood of questioners in the post-game locker room at Lambeau Field. "I think it was a catch. They took it away.”
Yes, yes, but first things first in Cowboys Chronology:
Dallas started out with a three-and-out, and avoided trouble. Pass-rusher Julius Peppers stripped Romo as the QB was in his throwing motion. Thankfully, Romo recoved and gave Chris Jones a chance to punt.
The Packers drove down the field with a 10-play, 60-yard drive that ended with Aaron Rodgers finding tight end Andrew Quarless for a four-yard touchdown. Rodgers' calf didn't bother him as he stepped up into the pocket to strike first blood with a 7-0 Packers lead.
Dallas responded immediately with a 12-play, 62-yard drive that was aided largely by two Green Bay penalties. On third-and-4 from the Dallas 44, linebacker Brad Jones held Murray and drew a call. Then, on second-and-8 from Green Bay's 18-yard line, cornerback Tramon Williams tripped up receiver Terrance Williams to set up first-and-goal from the one-yard line. Romo zipped a pass to fullback Tyler Clutts for his first career receiving touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
The Cowboys were able to stop the Packers thanks to a miscommunication between the center and Rodgers. Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey sacked Rodgers, stripped him, and then recovered the fumble to give Dallas a much-needed extra possession in Lambeau.
Dallas capitalized immediately. In five plays going 62 yards, Romo found Williams for a 38-yard catch-and-run touchdown, the second-year receiver's third career postseason score and third TD of this postseason. Dallas took a 14-7 lead.
The Cowboys were able to force a Green Bay punt and get the ball back late in the second quarter. On third-and-1 from the Green Bay 27, a bobbled shotgun snap (on a decision to pass that will long be questioned by many) forced Romo to heave it downfield to Williams at the right pylon incomplete. That set up a 45-yard field goal -- check that, 50-yard field goal due to long snapper L.P. Ladouceur's snap infraction. Peppers tipped the field goal to hook it right and no good.
This gave Aaron Rodgers a chance to put Green Bay into field-goal range. Packers kicker Mason Crosby nailed a 40-yarder to make it 14-10 Cowboys before halftime.
The Cowboys forced a Green Bay punt at midfield to start the second half, but Murray put the ball on the Frozen Tundra four plays into the drive when Peppers stripped him. The Packers recovered at the Dallas 44.
The defense was able to stiffen and hold the Packers to just a 30-yard field goal and still a 14-13 lead.
Dallas had its own six-play drive, going 80 yards with another Romo heroic performance along the way. Romo tweaked his left knee on a 15-yard completion to Witten on first-and-10 from the Packers 42.
Two plays after Murray's 26-yard run, Murray walked the dog for a one-yard touchdown to stretch the lead to 21-13.
Aaron Rodgers responded on the next drive with a 46-yard touchdown pass to receiver Davante Adams. Green Bay elected to kick the PAT to again cut the Cowboys lead to 21-20.
Rodgers, as great of a quarterback as he is, with a Super Bowl MVP and all, strangely had never led a fourth-quarter comeback in the playoffs. Well, he got that chance when the Packers got the ball back with 13:29 in the fourth quarter. Green Bay drove 80 yards in eight plays and punctuated it with a 13-yard touchdown strike to tight end Richard Rodgers to take a 26-21 lead after the failed two-point conversion attempt.
Dallas needed a miracle. And got one. Kinda.
Down five points with 9:10 remaining, Dallas got their comeback off on the right foot with Murray rushing 30 yards. All of a sudden, the Cowboys were at midfield.
After a Randle two-yard rush, Romo hit Dez Bryant for a 10-yard pass on second-and-8 to set up first-and-10 at the Green Bay 40.
Murray rushed for two yards, and then Romo took a three-yard loss on a sack on second-and-8 to setup a critical third-and-11 at the Green Bay 41. Romo hit Beasley for nine yards, just two yards short of the line to gain.
We knew Garrett and the Cowboys offense had "ones'' made of titanium, based on the fourth-and-six go-for-it last week that keyed the playoff win over Detroit, so of course Dallas went for it on fourth-and-2.
Romo lofted one beautifully down the left sideline, and Bryant skied acrobatically over defensive back Sam Shields for a 31-yard completion and then, reaching for the end zone, fell at the Packers goalline. The Cowboys had converted; first-and-goal ... inches! ... Cowboys with 4:42 left!
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was 0-of-5 on challenges all season. With odds like that and one timeout left, do you throw the protest flag? Instead, McCarthy challenged the catch. Gene Steratore, the referee, went under the hood and came out with a controversial decision that Bryant hadn't maintained possession.
The Cowboys had two timeouts and the two-minute warning left. But they couldn't get the Packers off the field, whether it was third-and-3 or third-and-11. Rodgers threw two nice completions both times, and salted the game away.
The Packers go on to CenturyLink Field in Seattle to face the NFC Champs, while the Cowboys will go back to Dallas to watch the playoffs from the couch. ... to ponder. To wonder.
"Never in my life have I seen, never in my life have I heard of ... something like that,'' Dez told CowboysHQ.com of the call ... and maybe of the cold-hearted nature of it all, too.
* Gene Steratore, Sunday's referee, is the same referee who ruled Calvin Johnson's game-winning catch against the Chicago Bears as being incomplete back in Week 1 of 2010.
* The Cowboys will not get a shot at playing in any of the Super Bowls in the 40 series. Dallas had played in each of the 0's (V, VI), 10's (X, XII, XIII), 20's (XXVII, XXVIII), and 30's (XXX).
* Of Romo's four playoff losses, 3/4 of them were blown fourth quarter leads.
* Dan Bailey has an 89.8 percentage in the regular season. Sadly, in the postseason, his career percentage is 33.3 percent (1/3).
* Mike McCarthy's Packers were 0-4 when trailing at halftime, as they did down 14-10 at the break. Well, make it 1-4 now.
* Romo posted a 143.6 passer rating. It's the third-highest playoff passer rating in franchise history. He is the only quarterback since 1960 to post a 143.0 or better rating and lose a postseason contest.
* The Cowboys are still owners of the third-longest NFC Championship Game appearance drought going on 20 seasons. Maybe Cowboys-hating mediots can have something new to kvetch about since the "one playoff win since 1997" shtick was put to bed last Sunday.
"I thought Tony made a great throw and Dez made a great catch. It looked like to me he had three feet down. … Dez reached out for the goalline like he's done so many times. It's a signature play for him. He maintained possession of it throughout, in my opinion. "But let me make it really clear: This game wasn't about the officiating. We had 60 minutes. We had an opportunity to come up here and win a football game, and at the end of the day we didn't get that job done.’' - Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
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