The NFC East has tried to keep the Dallas Cowboys in the playoff hunt this season. The three division rivals have continuously and graciously provided the Cowboys a little hope, as every team came into this weekend with a sub-.500 record.
But with Dallas losing 28-7 to Green Bay, combined with Washington and Philadelphia both coming out victorious, all hope may now be lost. While not mathematically eliminated, with just three games to go, the 4-9 Cowboys have a steep hill to climb to catch the Redskins and Eagles, who are tied at 6-7.
As has plagued them for much of the season, the Cowboys offense was largely anemic on the soggy tundra of Lambeau Field, although the ground game did its part, totaling 171 rushing yards. Darren McFadden picked up 111 yards total, reeling off a 50-yard run in the first quarter and then later a 45-yarder in the third. And along with him, Robert Turbin added another 51 yards and the team's only score.
But there was just no downfield threat to the passing game. Matt Cassel, who seemed to struggle with the wet ball, completed only 44.8 percent of his passes for just 114 yards. And the team's No. 1 wideout, Dez Bryant, was a complete non-factor, as he had only one catch, while dropping at least two, despite seeing one-on-one coverage for most of the day.
On the other hand, the threats were many for the Packers. The Dallas defense did what it could, but there was just no answer for Aaron Rodgers through the air or Eddie Lacy on the ground. The latter literally ran over the Cowboys, racking up 124 rushing yards on 24 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per try. In all, Green Bay finished with 230 rushing yards total.
And while Rodgers wasn't necessarily spectacular, he didn't need to be. Still, he threw for 218 passing yards, completing 62.9 percent of his attempts, with two touchdown tosses and no interceptions, Dallas once again unable to come up with a turnover.
Really, right from the start, it was all Packers as they held possession for 20:16 in the first half alone, compared to just 9:44 for the Cowboys. On its second possession of the game, Green Bay marched 79 yards down to the Dallas 1-yard line before the Cowboys put up an impressive defensive stand, stuffing Rodgers on fourth-and-goal to keep the home team out of the end zone.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys were unable to keep the Packers from scoring on their next two offensive possessions. With Dallas pinned down after the defense's effort, the offense couldn't make any progress and the ensuing punt provided Rodgers a short field with which to work, starting at the Cowboys' 48-yard line.
And while it took nine plays, Green Bay did find paydirt, running back James Starks bolting 13 yards down the right sideline on a screen pass for the score.
The Packers then followed that up by adding another seven points on their next series, this time Green Bay needing 11 plays, but traveling 81 yards to go up 14-0. Rodgers added his second touchdown pass of the day, finding tight end Richard Rodgers.
Down by two scores, the Cowboys could have easily thrown in the towel, but as they have done all season, the team kept fighting. On their second possession of the third quarter, McFadden again broke loose, this time streaking down the left sideline for his 45-yard scamper to the Green Bay 26-yard line.
That left Turbin to close out the drive, as he then rushed 22 yards to the 7-yard line before then taking the handoff right up the middle untouched on the next snap to narrow the gap to 14-7.
But that would be all the Cowboys could muster. With the Dallas defense wearing down, Green Bay put together yet another extended drive, this time using 12 plays to go 84 yards and take 6:34 off the clock. Starks again got Lambeau Leap honors after shooting up the middle and breaking free for a 30-yard touchdown run, the Packers comfortable with a two-sore lead, 21-7.
When Dallas was then stopped on fourth-and-4 at its own 38, Cassel throwing behind McFadden on a short pass over the middle, it was just a matter of time before Green Bay reached the end zone again against the weary Cowboys defense.
And Lacy made sure of it. He rushed four straight times, his third carry seeing him barrel 24 yards up the middle with what seemed a pack of Cowboys on his back. He then was rewarded with his own touchdown, wrapping up the game's scoring on a 1-yard run.
With the loss, the Cowboys must now win each of their three final games, and hope for even more help from their NFC East brethren, to have any chance of seeing the playoffs. They'll start the process in a Saturday night matchup at home against the 8-5 New York Jets.