Packers report card: Tale of two halves in Green Bay win
Handing out grades following the Green Bay Packers’ 37-36
road win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15:
Passing Offense: B-plus
It was a tale of two halves for the Packers in nearly every
area of the game, and the passing offense was certainly part of that group. In
the first half, Matt Flynn completed 10 of 17 passes (two of those completions
resulting in negative yardage), threw an interception and was sacked twice.
That lack of productivity led to Green Bay scoring just three points in the
first two quarters, and it was fortunate to even come away with that when Mason
Crosby hit a 57-yard field goal. There was little reason to believe things
would get any better in the second half.
But they did.
In the second half, Flynn orchestrated back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back
(yes, that’s five consecutive) touchdown drives. Flynn looked like the
quarterback who earned $10 million guaranteed from Seattle in March 2012 and
looked nothing like the quarterback who was released by the Oakland Raiders and
Buffalo Bills in the past couple of months. He threw four touchdown passes, did
not have an interception and was not sacked at all. Flynn finished the game
with a passer rating of 113.1, which is better than Peyton Manning’s season
Flynn spread the ball around nicely, too. Jarrett Boykin had
six catches for 83 yards, though he was the only top receiver who didn’t have a
touchdown. Tight end Andrew Quarless had six catches for 66 yards and a
touchdown (the exact numbers he had a week earlier), Jordy Nelson had five
catches for 61 yards and a touchdown and James Jones had three catches for 49
yards and a touchdown. The running backs got involved too, with Lacy’s four
receptions totaling 30 yards and James Starks’ only catch resulting in an
Rushing Offense: A
Even playing on a sprained right ankle, Lacy was dominant.
Yes, the Cowboys entered this game ranked 28th in the NFL as a run defense, but
Lacy exploited every bit of that weakness. He finished with 141 yards on 21
carries (6.7-yard average) and scored the game-winning touchdown.
With this performance, Lacy is now over 1,000 yards on the
season, making him the first Packers rookie running back since John Brockington
in 1971 to reach that mark.
Lacy immediately got Green Bay going in the second half,
taking the first play of the third quarter 60 yards and bringing the Packers
all the way from their own 20-yard line to Dallas’ 20 in a matter of seconds.
From there, Green Bay’s rushing offense kept rolling.
Passing Defense: B
Tony Romo didn’t do himself any favors in terms of public perception with his performance in this game. Romo, with the NFL’s eighth-best passer rating and with only seven interceptions coming into this game, added to the negative aspect of his reputation in front of a national audience in FOX’s Game of the Week.
For Romo, it was yet another tale of two halves. In the first half, he threw a touchdown pass, didn’t throw an interception and led the offense to 26 points. In the second half, he threw two costly interceptions and contributed to the Packers coming back from a 23-point halftime deficit. Just as bad as what happened on the field is what happened after the game when coach Jason Garrett — who was being greatly criticized for having 19 of the final 21 offensive plays be passes — told reporters that Romo optioned out of a run on the Sam Shields interception. An interception by Tramon Williams when the Cowboys were trying to march down the field for a game-winning score sealed it.
Shields’ interception was a spectacular play by the soon-to-be free agent as he showed both his speed and his hands on a play that seemed like a sure completion to Miles Austin across the middle. Williams, after missing out on an interception by the nose of the ball (replays overturned what was initially ruled an interception), ended the game with an impressive diving catch with less than two minutes remaining.
Green Bay had three sacks, two of which came in the second half. Mike Daniels had one, Clay Matthews and Datone Jones shared a sack and Mike Neal had a fourth-quarter sack that forced a long third-down situation for Dallas.
Rushing Defense: D
Ready for another round of ‘tale of two halves’? In the
first half, DeMarco Murray ran the ball 11 times for 109 yards (9.9 average)
with one touchdown. The Packers were living up to their billing as the NFL’s
25th-ranked run defense, and Murray was living up to his status as the league’s
most efficient running back (Murray’s per-carry average is No. 1 in the NFL).
Then, for some reason, the Cowboys seemed to forget about
Murray and the running game in the second half. And considering Dallas was
winning 26-3 at halftime, its near-refusal to run the ball made even less
sense. Murray was handed it just seven times in the final two quarters and
gained 25 yards.
On the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half, Murray was
tackled for a loss by A.J. Hawk, and apparently that scared Dallas off.
Inexplicably, from that point on, the Cowboys passed the ball 19 times and ran
it just twice. Yes, with a 19-point lead at that time and while racking up 7.4
yards per carry, Dallas almost completely stopped attempting to run. It made no
Green Bay’s run defense continues to be a significant
problem. The Packers allowed more yards even than their season average. With
only two games left in the season, it might be a problem that can’t be fixed,
but defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to at least find a way to
bandage this area up if Green Bay is going to win its final two games and give
itself a chance at making the playoffs.
Special Teams: A-minus
The career turnaround for Mason Crosby continued. Scoring
the Packers’ only points in the first half, Crosby drilled a 57-yard field goal
right down the middle. After going 2 for 9 last season from beyond 50 yards,
Crosby is 5 for 7 this season. So, not only has his overall accuracy improved
to a career-best level (88.2 percent), he’s also been consistent on the
Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey was too busy kicking the ball out
of the end zone to give Micah Hyde any chances on kick return, which probably
isn’t a bad thing for Green Bay considering that the Packers are still the
NFL’s worst return team (18.8 yards-per-return average). Hyde had one punt
return for 26 yards.
Of Tim Masthay’s four punts, one was a touchback and one
ended with a fair-catch interference penalty on Davon House. Not a single one
of Masthay’s punts resulted in the Cowboys starting with the ball inside their
own 20-yard line.
Coming back from being down 23 points is not supposed to
happen. When it does, one team has to really fall apart and the other has to
have just about everything go right. With Dallas’ unwillingness to run the ball
on offense and its defense performing horribly in the second half, the Cowboys
played their role. Green Bay’s unstoppable offense and its defense stepping up
in the second half made sure the Packers played their role, too.
After Flynn took a knee three times to run out the clock,
Green Bay had tied its franchise record for biggest second-half comeback. The
last time the Packers trailed by 23 points at halftime and won was in 1982,
when only two current Green Bay players were even alive. It was a historic game
for the Packers and one that kept their playoff hopes alive.
This win doesn’t solve all of Green Bay’s issues. Even
though the defense performed very well in the second half, the Packers still
gave up 36 points. That’s not a point total that often produces a victory.
Green Bay’s run defense continues its overwhelming struggles, and the Packers’
offense needs to stop waiting until halftime to get going (they were also down
by 11 points at the half a week earlier against Atlanta).
Now, Green Bay waits to see if Aaron Rodgers returns this
week. But, regardless of whether that happens, the Packers need to win their
final two games and watch to see if the Detroit Lions lose one of their final
three games (they play Monday night vs. Baltimore). If those two things happen,
Green Bay will have defied the odds and made it to the postseason. What the
Packers accomplished in Dallas keeps that as a possibility.
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