By Dwain Price
ARLINGTON – Practically everyone knows Jerry Jones is not only the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, but also the owner of AT&T Stadium. And by now, everyone probably also know that Aaron Rodgers is an unofficial minority owner of the $1.15 billion state-of-the-arts stadium.
How else can anyone explain why the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback can continue to enter this facility and literally take whatever he wants, particularly when the game is on the line? That’s precisely what happened – again – this past Sunday when Rodgers reached into his bag of tricks and guided the Packers to a miraculous 35-31 triumph over the crestfallen Cowboys.
Just like he did in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Cowboys last season at AT&T Stadium, Rodgers waved his magic wand and literally made Jones’ team disappear in a cloud of dust. It was a proverbial heart-stopping defeat for the Cowboys, who lost a double-digit lead and a home game for the second straight week and limped into the bye week with a surprising 2-3 record.
Quarterback Dak Prescott zipped into the end zone on a read-option play with 1:13 left, pushing the Cowboys ahead 31-28 with 1:13 remaining and giving them hope of unseating the Packers. But almost immediately, it was as if everyone knew the Cowboys left too much time on the clock for Rodgers to perform another miracle.
And not only did Rodgers break the Cowboys’ hearts. He shattered it into itty-bitty pieces, climaxing a precision-like nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with a mere 11 seconds to go in the game.
That led Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford to admit in his description of Rodgers: “The guy is a magician getting out there and making plays.”
This all must have seemed like déjà vu to the Cowboys. Or like a horror movie that doesn’t end very well for the Cowboys.
After all, last year the Cowboys were hoping to get into overtime and ultimately reach the NFC Championship game when they were tied with the Packers at 31-31 once Dan Bailey booted a 52-yard field goal with just 35 seconds remaining. However, on a third-and-20 play, Rodgers scrambled, rolled to his left and fired a pin-point perfect 36-yard strike to Jared Cook, who dragged his knees on the sidelines while gathering in the jaw-dropping reception.
From there, a 51-yard game-winning field goal by Mason Crosby sailed through the crossbars as time expired and ended the Cowboys’ season.
All of that wizardry was on the Cowboys’ minds after Rodgers squashed their hopes again on Sunday. Especially since it happened again at AT&T Stadium where Rodgers and the Packers clipped the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, in the Super Bowl following the 2010 season in a game Rodgers was named the Most Valuable Player.
“He gets the ball out of his hands, but when he extends the plays, that’s when a lot of the big plays happen,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Every time the ball is snapped, that has to be on the forefront of your mind. It’s one thing to say, it’s another thing to do it for 60, 70 snaps in a game.
“He got out a couple of times and made some big plays, but our guys stayed after him and stayed after him and stayed after him. But he’s certainly a challenge.”
Of course, the Cowboys could have limited the amount of time Rodgers had at his disposal on that final drive. But with the Packers down to only one timeout with 1:24 left in the game, the Cowboys inexplicably threw a pass – it was incomplete and stopped the clock – on second-and-2 from the 11. Had the Cowboys ran the ball, the Packers would have been forced to use their final timeout.
“All we wanted to do was keep the ball away from (Rodgers), but we needed to score a touchdown,” Jones said. “We’ll be second-guessing those last two calls for a long time.”
A long time, indeed.
“You absolutely have to have the ultimate respect for Rodgers in terms of his team,” Jones said. “With a minute and a timeout in this particular case, it was more than likely a good chance for them to get three.
“Hopefully, you can keep them out of the end zone. The way to do that is to run the ball down to the end, but you take a chance of not getting the touchdown.”
The loss marred a solid game by Prescott, who went toe-to-toe with Rodgers and led the Cowboys on that late go-ahead TD with a sterling 17-play, 79-yard drive that chewed up 8:43 off the clock. Prescott tossed three TDs – all in the first half – and finished 25-of-36 for 251 yards.
But he also threw an interception, which Damarious Randall ran back 21 yards for a touchdown. However, that was more the fault of wide receiver Terrance Williams, since the ball glanced off his hands and into the waiting arms of Randall.
“This game meant a lot going into this bye week, needing this win,” Prescott said. “I was wanting to bounce back and play better individually, get this offense going.”
The Cowboys harassed Rodgers, who completed 19-of-29 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. They also sacked him four times, including twice by David Irving, who was playing his first game of the season after missing the first four contests following an NFL-mandated suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.
Irving came within a fingernail or two of recording a critical third personal sack of Rodgers on the Packers’ final drive. But Rodgers shook loose for an 18-yard scamper on third-and-8 that carried to the Dallas 12-yard line.
“It’s a missed tackle,” Irving said. “It is what it is. There’s no way to (sugarcoat) it.”
There’s also no way to sugarcoat what has happened to the Cowboys as a whole. Last week at home against the Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys blew an 11-point second half lead and lost, 35-30.
On Sunday, the Cowboys led the Packers 21-6 before gradually fading again. Now the Cowboys, who only lost three games last season, have to sit and stew for two weeks before they play another game, Oct. 22 at San Francisco.
“We knew how important it was for us to get this (game against the Packers) and go into the bye week 3-2, and now on the flip side it is just about staying focused,” Prescott said. “It’s a frustrating loss, but we will get better from it.
“There is a lot of football left to play. We’re going to self-evaluate in this bye week, get better and move forward.”