GREEN BAY, Wisc. - The difference between heading to Seattle for the NFC Championship game and heading to the offseason wasn't only the reversed call of what looked like a Dez Bryant touchdown or at least a reception to the 1-yard line.
Another big factor was the play of Aaron Rodgers, whose mobility was in question all week because of a partially-torn calf.
"He did what he was supposed to do," said Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford. "He did his job. He's a great quarterback. Everybody knows that. He makes plays."
Play after play after play in the second half, Rodgers was surgical as he carved up the Cowboys secondary time and time again. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 316 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
In order to rally his team from behind, Rodgers completed his final 10 pass attempts for 163 yards, two scores and eight first downs. The likely choice for 2014 NFL Most Valuable Player did it all in the final two quarters and he did it with an injured calf.
"It felt like he was making time," Orlando Scandrick said. "Felt like he was moving along pretty good, sliding in the pocket. He wasn't a runner today but it felt like he had some good mobility in the pocket."
Green Bay seemed to catch a bit of a spark on the final possession of the second quarter when Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb for a 31-yard gain on 2nd and 20 from their own 42 yard line. Replay officials upheld a close call in which the ball appeared to hit the ground on some angles, but was ruled on the field as a catch.
The Packers cashed in with a 40-yard field goal two plays later, cutting into the Dallas lead at halftime at 14-10.
"It was a good play," Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said. "He threw it into the open zone and did a good job of running us out and making it a hard decision for us to make as far as who we should go after. It was a good play and sometimes it happens."
Late in the third quarter, Davante Adams broke free for a 46-yard touchdown on third-and-15 cutting the Dallas lead to 21-20. Adams, along with Randall Cobb had quite the day, both hauling in over 100-yards through the air. Rodgers averaged 8.5 yards per pass because he wasn't affected by the Cowboys pass rush or lack thereof. The Achilles heel with the defense all season was not being able to get to the quarterback and was the case against Rodgers Sunday afternoon. He was sacked only once and took advantage of the time.
"We didn't rush how we were supposed to rush," Crawford said. "Going into the second half we didn't do it, I personally did not do what I'm supposed to do. I didn't get to the quarterback and I'm mad at myself for it, but the game is over and I gotta get better. Just a bad day, bad day for me as a d-lineman and for us as d-linemen. We felt like we let our secondary down, We just need to do a better job."
Blank stares into lockers were had by the majority after the loss to Green Bay, however the Cowboys knew a golden opportunity slipped through their hands and now they're left with what could've been.
"I know the weapons we have in this locker room, i know the abilities of all the guys around here and I felt like this is our year to win it all," Brandon Carr said. "Regardless of what people say, what the predictions were. It's entertaining but we knew we had the tools in house to get the job done and we just fell short."
Fell short, yet it was a job well done. Still doesn't take the sting away from the most heart-breaking defeat of the year. The season is over and reality is already setting in.
"Can't leave here taking a moral victory. It does nothing for us," Scandrick said. "I'm never going to play with this (exact) team again. Guys are going to go to free agency, guys are going to go to other teams, new players are going to make the team soon so it is exactly what it is."
The defense is a work in progress, but it's just part of the process for Jason Garrett and the Cowboys.
"I walk out of this locker room with head held high and shoulders back because it's a hell of a football team," Garrett said.
Dez Bryant's catch that was reversed with four minutes to go in the game will be the hot button issue as this game is remembered, however there wasn't anything hotter than the game of Aaron Rodgers. Just ask the Cowboys defense.