Monday’s Leftovers: Immaculate Deflection

Without Randall Cobb's incredible third-down catch of a deflected pass, the Cowboys would have had time to steal Sunday's game from the Packers. Plus, the offensive line turned in another powerhouse performance. (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY)

Call it the “Immaculate Deflection.”

With the Green Bay Packers needing a first down to run out the clock in Sunday’s playoff game against Dallas, they were on the receiving end of some incredible good fortune. On third-and-11 on the first play after the two-minute warning, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass for Jarrett Boykin. The ball was deflected at the line of scrimmage but Randall Cobb was in the right spot at the right time and made a diving catch.

“They took away No. 1, which was Jordy (Nelson) on the left,” Rodgers said. “He was in the slot. I kind of came back and liked the presnap to Jarrett, so it was giving him a chance with, I think it was (Anthony) Spencer in my face and he got a hand on the ball that was going to Jarrett, and Randall somehow made the catch."

Gain of 12.

First down.

Game over.

Had the pass fallen incomplete, coach Mike McCarthy would have faced an interesting dilemma. Attempt a 53-yard field goal? Make it, and the Packers lead by eight; miss it, and the Cowboys would have had the ball 57 yards from the winning touchdown. Punt? Maybe Tim Masthay could pin the Cowboys deep on their end of the field; maybe it’d be a touchback. Go for it? The give-and-take of that decision is obvious.

Either way, the Cowboys would have had the ball with about 1:45 remaining.

What would McCarthy have done?

“I don’t have to answer that question because it didn’t happen,” McCarthy said. “I was thinking about the options. Depending on the down and distance, based on where we were with the field goal spot and things like that, going for it fourth down was a consideration, kicking the field goal obviously is a consideration. I’m not a big fan of punting from the 30-yard line. Those are probably the two options for that particular decision.”

None of that matters now. Cobb made a great catch, then celebrated by chucking the ball toward the north end zone. It might be the happiest delay-of-game penalty in franchise history.

“I lost my mind. No lying, I lost my mind for a second,” Cobb said. “Luckily, with the situation, it didn’t cause any problems. I was just lost in the moment. I mean, obviously in a game like this in the situation we had, to be able to make the play right there in that situation, I kind of just was a little too passionate and did some things I probably shouldn’t have done.”

Unsung heroes: As has been the case throughout the second half of the season, the offensive line played a tremendous game to fuel the offense. Rodgers, his mobility taken away by an injured calf, was sacked only once. According to the official stats, Rodgers was hit twice. (Officially, Rodgers was not sacked when he coughed it up on a blind-side hit by Jeremy Mincey.) During the second half, Rodgers had ample time to survey the Dallas defense, which helped him throw for 226 yards with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 132.0 after halftime.

“We were aggressive,” Rodgers said. “Mike put us in some empty sets and the guys protected really well and we got open. It kind of made them a little more vanilla on defense, so it gives us the confidence if we’re down in the fourth quarter we can come back and get the job done.”

The line, which also fueled Eddie Lacy's 101-yard game, will have to turn in its best performance of the season at Seattle in next week’s NFC title game. The Seahawks allowed only 36 points in the final six regular-season games and just 16 when the teams met in Week 1.

“We know he’s going to be limited in the things he does running-wise and extending plays, but it’s our job to make sure that we’re keeping him clean and giving him time to make some plays,” guard T.J. Lang said. “Going up to Seattle, they’ve got some guys that can get after the passer. We know it’s going to be a challenge. Up front, we feel like we’re a different group than Week 1 when we went out there. We feel like we’re doing a lot of good things, too. We know everything starts with us up front as far as the run game and taking care of Aaron. If we get those two things done, we’ve proven we can be a dangerous team.”

Place your bets: The Packers are seven-point underdogs at Seattle.

Green Bay, by the way, plays in the early game on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 2:05 p.m.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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