After starting the season with three straight impressive wins, albeit all against some of the league’s weakest opponents, the Dallas Cowboys have now dropped two consecutive games to teams that are considered to be NFL heavyweights.
Leading many to question, are the Cowboys themselves really true contenders?
In losing to Green Bay, 34-24, Dallas once again fell victim to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers quarterback having never lost at AT&T Stadium. He didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet, finishing with 238 yards on 22 of 34 passing with no touchdowns and an 85.2 passer rating, but he was able to keep his team moving and the Cowboys guessing.
Rodgers’ effort, however, was perhaps to be expected. What wasn’t was the Green Bay ground game, which came into the day ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing. Aaron Jones led the visitor’s effort with 107 rushing yards and a career-high four touchdowns with the Packers as a group running for 120 yards.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were able to move down the field consistently as they actually outgained Green Bay in total offense, 563 yards to 335, and rushed for 122 yards of their own, Ezekiel Elliott picking up 62 on just 12 tries, a 6.2 yards per carry average.
Faced with an early deficit, though, the bulk of the workload fell on Dak Prescott, who threw for a career-high 463 yards with two touchdowns, having completed 27 of his 44 attempts. But he also equaled his career mark with three interceptions in the game, finishing with a passer rating of 83.8.
Too bad the Cowboys didn’t play as well in the first 40 minutes as they did in the last 20 or so. The Packers got off to a fast start thanks in part to the mistakes made by the home side, as the Dallas offense seemingly couldn’t get out of its own way early on. The Cowboys were moving the ball well enough, but two of the team’s first three possessions ended with an interception by Prescott, the 10th multi-pick game of his career.
Actually, the first one was more the fault of Amari Cooper, who had the pass slip through his hands and into the waiting arms of cornerback Jaire Alexander. Regardless, the Packers took advantage of the gift, needing only five plays to reach the end zone. Green Bay’s Jones earned the game’s first touchdown, darting up the middle from 18 yards out for the score.
Dallas was able to reach the Green Bay 34-yard line on its next offensive series, but again the unit hurt itself as this time Prescott was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third-and-7, which pushed them out of field-goal range. The ensuing punt eventually led to the Packers’ second touchdown, Jones once more getting the honors, this time from 3 yards out to give Green Bay a comfortable 14-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
Again, Dallas was able to move the ball on offense, as they reached midfield or better on each of their five possessions in the first half. But the Cowboys’ third try resulted in Prescott’s second interception and their last in the second quarter resulted in a missed 54-yard field goal by Brett Maher.
In fact, despite the lopsided score at the half – the Packers added a chip-shot field goal to push the advantage to 17-0 – the Cowboys were averaging 6.7 yards per play at that point, and had 215 total yards of offense compared to Green Bay’s 6.4 and 218, respectively.
Still, the Cowboys were shut out in a half for the first time this season, and unfortunately the third quarter, in which Prescott had been nearly perfect through the first four games, didn’t start off much better.
Especially when right tackle La’el Collins then left the game midway through the third frame due to injury. With left tackle Tyron Smith already out of the lineup because of an ankle injury, Prescott came under siege from the Packers defense.
The Cowboys did finally get on the board with Maher kicking a 36-yard field goal, but those three points were sandwiched around two more Packers touchdowns. Jones picked up his third rushing score on the afternoon on Green Bay’s first series of the second half, then followed that with yet another one on the visitor’s next drive, the Dallas defense struggling to contain the Packers.
Despite now being behind 31-3, though, the Cowboys showed they wouldn’t go down without a fight. Dallas came back with three scoring drives late, Prescott first finding Michael Gallup on a 40-yard completion to finally get Dallas in the end zone.
The team then saw Prescott connect on all four of his pass attempts for 80 yards on their next drive before Ezekiel Elliott capped things off by barreling across the goal line from 2 yards out to narrow the score.
Alas, it was too little too late. Prescott’s third interception of the game on the Cowboys’ next possession was perhaps the final nail in the coffin, as the short field allowed Green Bay to tack on another three points. Prescott did connect with Cooper on a 53-yard touchdown when Dallas got the ball back, but now down 10 points with just under eight minutes remaining, the Cowboys just couldn’t complete the comeback.
They gave it one last shot, giving Maher a chance to kick a 33-yard field goal, which if good, would have then given the Cowboys an opportunity for an on-side kick. But Maher missed his second attempt of the day, ruining any hopes for a miracle.
With the loss, thoughts of Dallas running away with the division have been all but forgotten. The Cowboys fell to 3-2 on the season, and with the Eagles defeating the Jets earlier in the day to improve to 3-2 as well, Dallas now finds itself in a tie for first in the NFC East.
Leaving many questions still to be answered.