ARLINGTON, Texas– With 66 points scored, including two touchdowns in the final minutes, there were plenty of fireworks to be had in this game. The highlight reel is full of exciting plays from this wild 35-31 finish.
But several plays throughout the game might have gone unnoticed but still had a big role in the final outcome. Here are a handful of hidden plays that changed the game.
Hitchens' Penalty Extends Drive – In his first game back from a knee injury, linebacker Anthony Hitchens nearly had a penalty for a late hit on the Packers in the first quarter. But it was his second-quarter facemask that helped extend a drive for Green Bay, which was facing second-and-17 from the Cowboys' 33-yard line, trailing 21-6. The penalty moved the ball to the Cowboys' 18, where the Packers marched into the end zone for a momentum-changing touchdown to cut the halftime lead to 21-12.
Confusing Penalty on Mayowa – When the officials argue with each other, you know it had to be something strange. And midway through the second quarter, the Cowboys looked to have a favorable play one way or another when DeMarcus Lawrence had Aaron Rodgers' legs wrapped up at the 2-yard line. But Rodgers was able to throw a pass just before getting hit by Benson Mayowa. One official ruled that the play was dead with a sack by Lawrence, but never blew the whistle. So a hit by Mayowa was ruled after the play and a 15-yard penalty. He did award the sack – a 16-yard loss – but the penalty gave Green Bay a first down. Instead of third-and-20 from their own 2, the Packers had first down at their 17. Of course, they drove down and took the lead with a touchdown that occurred early in the fourth.
Penalty and Punt Flipped Field Position – The Cowboys had just made a key defensive stop in the fourth quarter with a 24-22 lead, but a 5-yard penalty for illegal substitution gave the Packers more room on the punt. What happened next was a perfect 59-yard punt by Justin Vogel that pinned Ryan Switzer back at his own 12. He was dropped immediately for a loss of one. The punt gave the Cowboys no chance for a return and two plays later, Dak Prescott was picked off after a pass ricocheted off Terrance Williams. The ball was returned for a touchdown giving the Packers the lead once again. Had the Cowboys drove the ball like they did on the next series, the game could've been out of reach. But it all started with the punt and field position.
Second Down Pass to Dez – The Cowboys were in great position to take the lead and had second-and-2 from the Green Bay 11 with 1:24 to play and a running clock. Not only did Dak Prescott snap the ball with about 10 seconds left on the play clock, but the pass to Dez Bryant in the end zone stopped the clock. The Cowboys were having success running the ball and another run not only probably would've resulted in a first down, but chewed up more clock. The Cowboys scored on the next play, leaving 1:13 for Rodgers to work with.
Third-Down Scramble by Rodgers – With a third-and-8 from the Dallas 30 with 29 seconds to play, Rodgers not only got away from defenders to avoid a sack, but he picked up some critical yards for a first down and got out of bounds after the 18-yard run. Had David Irving been able to get him down, even after a first down, it would've forced the Packers to use a timeout or spike the ball. Of course, the Packers needed just two plays to get into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Without that scramble, it could've been headed to overtime.