Two key plays doomed the Green Bay Packers in their 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The first came late in the first half with the Cowboys leading just 10-6. With Dallas pinned at its 3-yard line, Green Bay had three timeouts to get a stop and give Aaron Rodgers and the offense another shot with the ball. On third-and-1 from the 12, all eyes were on the Cowboys’ prolific running back, Ezekiel Elliott. Instead, it was an end-around to receiver Lucky Whitehead.
By the time outside linebacker Julius Peppers knew who had the ball, a full-speed-ahead Whitehead had gotten around the corner. At this point, a first down is a formality but cornerback Demetri Goodson – who ran onto the field just before the snap – made a woeful effort to beat the block of oncoming tight end Geoff Swaim. Goodson yielded too much ground and created a big void for Whitehead. Goodson made a late dive at Whitehead but didn’t lay a finger on him, and Whitehead wound up gaining 26 yards to the 38. The Cowboys needed just two more plays to score. First, Terrance Williams used a double-move to beat cornerback LaDarius Gunter for a gain of 42. Then, Brice Butler ran past Gunter for a 20-yard touchdown.
With 424 yards of offense, a season-high 24 first downs and a season-best third-down conversion rate, it’s not as if the Packers couldn’t move the ball or get back in the game.
In fact, of their 11 possessions, nine reached Dallas territory. A 10th possession, Green Bay’s final one of the day, ended on Ty Montgomery’s fumble at midfield. But the self-destructing Packers just couldn’t make the key plays necessary to turn all of those yards into enough points.
The big play was a second-and-8 from the Cowboys’ 46 on the opening possession of the third quarter. The Packers needed to score. Instead, Rodgers threw an interception. It was a great play by Dallas safety Barry Church and it epitomized the Cowboys’ defensive approach.
With tight end Richard Rodgers staying in to block, the Packers had three receivers running routes and running back Eddie Lacy as a checkdown option. Because the Cowboys rushed only four, Green Bay’s four receiving options were facing seven defenders.
Aaron Rodgers had two options. One was receiver Jordy Nelson on an out against veteran cornerback Brandon Carr. The other was receiver Randall Cobb on a crossing route against safety Byron Jones. Cobb had Jones beat – or so it appeared. At the snap, Church goes to the line of scrimmage to cover Richard Rodgers. However, with Richard Rodgers staying in for protection, Church darted under the pass to Cobb for the interception.
“I just stayed low in the weeds and I don’t think he even saw me,” Church said.
“I never saw him,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, threw it right in his chest. Yeah, I never saw him. I was looking backside to (Davante Adams) and then to Randall. Peeked out to Jordy and didn’t feel him there.”
The Packers outgained the Cowboys 424-372 and dominated third down, lending some credence to their hope that they’re close to getting the offense on track. But it seemed like the same old story: Good enough to look impressive at times, not good enough to consistently string plays together.
Aaron Rodgers said he’d watch the film with a glass of scotch in hopes of figuring out what’s wrong.
“We’re hard on ourselves, and I’m as hard as anybody on myself,” Rodgers said. “I’m going to get it fixed. Just been a little bit off.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.