DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
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Gameday: Health A Major Concern For Cowboys, Packers
Cowboys: The bitter taste left after a bitter defeat in the bitter cold in Chicago couldn’t have subsided yet for the Cowboys. As they took off on flight to play the Bears on Sunday for a Monday night game, the Eagles trailed by 14 in a blizzard and the Cowboys had their sights set on sole possession of the division. Instead, the opposite occurred as Philadelphia came back to win and Dallas got trounced, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The only way for the Cowboys to fully control what happens to them now is to win out, otherwise they’ll need the Eagles to lose more than the final matchup between the two teams to capture the NFC East.
Allowing a lot of yards has been nothing new for the Cowboys this season as they sit in last place in total defense, 25 yards a game worse than any other team. The amount of takeaways they’ve created this year had largely made up for that until recent weeks. A flurry of injuries continue to limit what they can do defensively, but the lack of a pass rush has also limited what the defense can accomplish. A group that bothered the quarterback frequently early on has just four sacks the last four weeks. As a result, the Cowboys have just one interception in their past four games. It’ll be an uphill battle the last few games of the season if the Cowboys continue to allow that many yards without any takeaways to show.
The Cowboys’ rushing attack shined as one of the lone bright spots from Monday night’s otherwise catastrophic performance in Chicago. Really, the Cowboys have done well running the ball the latter part of the season. DeMarco Murray’s gone for at least 80 yards on the ground in three of the team’s last four games, and the only time he went for fewer than 80 yards he scored three rushing touchdowns. The dedication to a running game means more time eaten up and likely a closer contest. The way the defense has played, that’s meant few possessions for the offense and less margin for error on drives.
Packers: The Cowboys obviously aren’t the only team with health concerns at this point in the year. The Packers’ backfield is rife with question marks, as Aaron Rodgers recovers from a broken collarbone and starting running back Eddie Lacy deals with an ankle injury. At this point in the week, it looks like Lacy’s more likely to go than Rodgers. The Packers still have a lot to play for, particularly after the Eagles’ win against the Lions and Green Bay’s one-point win against the Falcons last weekend. At 6-6-1, the Packers are right on the heels of the 7-6 Lions and Bears. While it’s still likely Matt Flynn lines up behind center for Green Bay, the Packers may have shut down Rodgers entirely had last week gone differently.
Obviously, the loss of Rodgers has been devastating for the Packers this year. Green Bay had won four straight games with their primary signal caller, then he went down and the Packers went 0-4-1 their next five games before a 22-21 win against the Falcons on Sunday. Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn have all played quarterback with Rodgers out, but it’s been Flynn’s job the last three weeks and the Packers have gone 1-1-1 with him as the primary quarterback. Despite all the fluctuation at the position, the Packers still rank in the top 10 in the league in passing offense and rushing offense and are the No. 5 overall total offense. A lot of that can be attributed to Lacy, who’s a top 10 rusher this year.
They’ve also got weapons outside, despite losing Rodgers and star receiver Randall Cobb. They’ve still got Jordy Nelson and James Jones, while receiver Jarrett Boykin’s having a breakout year with 36 catches and 536 yards since the Packers’ fifth game of the year, when Boykin got his first target. The Packers still have dangerous threats offensively, but they’ve been struggling on the other side of the ball, where they rank 21st in the league. The Packers have allowed at least 20 points in each of their last seven games, including six games where they allowed at least 25 points. They also hold a minus-4 turnover ratio.