Learning the hard way

Packers' deep pass attempt strategy backfires against Cowboys

If the Big Game in Big D accomplished anything for the Packers, it proved that they have an awful lot of trouble attempting to throw the ball deep against the Cowboys, among other things.

We can also mention that the Packers will need all the help they can get on defense if they meet the Cowboys again down the road, but let's focus on the offense, and its handful of attempts to burn the Cowboys deep in the first half.

Not that the Dallas secondary is that great, but the blitzing front seven of the Cowboys defense got to Packers quarterback Brett Favre so quickly that he left in the second quarter with his right arm throbbing and left shoulder separated. Favre never had a chance and nearly got his block knocked off trying to find receivers sprinting toward the end zone.

"We felt that we had some opportunities in personnel coverage with our perimeter against their perimeter," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "Our pass protection was going to be the challenge, and I thought Dallas did a good job with the pass rush."

Favre and backup Aaron Rodgers were sacked just three times, but they were often pressured, or hit as they were throwing the ball as the Cowboys blitzed often.

If the rest of the season and playoffs unfold the way many feel it will, there is a very good chance that the Packers will be traveling to Irving again for the NFC Championship Game. If they do, they'll have to hope that they will be better stocked with key players on defense, and realize that throwing bombs too often can be disastrous. By holding defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (ankle) and Charles Woodson (turf toe) out, there's a good chance they will be ready for the stretch run. By watching the tape of Thursday night's first half, McCarthy will see that the Cowboys simply won't give Favre and his wideouts enough time to throw deep.

For a while in the first half it appeared as if the Favre of recent seasons returned to the lineup. The receiver in the white jersey was tough to spot amid the two or three Cowboys defenders. It was ugly, and got uglier when Favre was hit hard by blitzing cornerback Nathan Jones.

Rodgers moved the Packers on offense the way Favre has all season - with short to medium-range passes, including his ability to run with the ball for first downs. But playing from 17 points down, made it difficult for Rodgers to bring the Packers all the way back. He came close, but the Cowboys weren't about to let their lead slip away.

Favre has proved this season that he can throw the deep ball. When used in spots, he's very effective, but the Packers pushed the issue a little too much against Dallas with poor results. The Packers are better off with the rejuvenated and improved future Hall of Famer dinking and dunking the offense downfield, and setting records in the process.

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