FRISCO, Texas – It wasn't fun to spend the night with the tape of the Cowboys' loss to Green Bay, but I did it anyway.
As usual, there are so many factors that contribute to a football game. There were miscues by the Cowboys, and there were great plays by the Packers. There was no shortage of officiating problems for both sides of the matchup.
None of that is going to change the final score of the game. But it can help us gain a better understanding of what we watched on Sunday, and what the Cowboys need to work on going forward.
Here we go:
- Aaron Rodgers knew exactly what he was doing on the Packers' first touchdown of the game. With the empty formation, he got the matchup he wanted with Richard Rodgers one-on-one against Sean Lee out wide in space. The only chance Lee had in that situation was if he could have had a collision in the five-yard area, but Rodgers managed to avoid him. With Lee badly off balance and Barry Church as the single-high safety working toward Davante Adams on the opposite side of the field, it was an easy decision for Rodgers to make. Despite making up ground, Lee had no chance as the ball was placed perfectly between his arms and into the waiting hands of the tight end.
- It wasn't until Travis Frederick snapped the ball that Tony Corrente made the determination of the unsportsmanlike conduct call against Brice Butler. It appeared that Corrente waited to see if Jason Garrett would use a timeout to negate the potential call. Once Garrett didn't use the time out, Corrente felt it was necessary to make the call. The result of the play was wiped out, but what a job by Dak Prescott hanging in the pocket despite the rush closing in around him and Keith Smith crossing right underneath him to deliver a strike to Terrance Williams. If the call goes unnoticed, the Cowboys have the ball on the Packers' 15-yard line with a chance to go back ahead.
- Tremendous adjustment by Davante Adams on this 3rd-and-2 by Rodgers against Byron Jones in coverage. Rodgers once again saw that there was no help for Jones over the top, with J.J. Wilcox on the other side of the field. Jones gambled to try and cut Adams off from going inside and it worked. Adams was able to adjust his route to the outside, but Rodgers had thrown the ball to the inside where he initially started. Adams flipped his eyes from his left to the right, tracking the ball. Jones located the ball a split second late, as it dropped into Adams' hands. As good as the coverage was, the ball placement by Rodgers left Jones no chance.
- Offensively, the Cowboys had only one 3-and-out, which was a result of a terrible drop by Terrance Williams. The call from the sideline was perfect, taking advantage of the Packers' blitzing to stop a first down run. Prescott had two options on the play: hit Dez Bryant short or take the longer shot with Williams. He made the right call and threw the ball where Williams loves it – in his chest. There was such force on the pass that once it hit him, he couldn't get his hands up quick enough to cradle the ball, which is his strength. It was a wasted opportunity to get the offense some field position and keep the drive going.
- Really sloppy and unnecessary technique by Morris Claiborne with the Packers facing a 3rd-and-6. There was no reason for him to get his hands up in Davante Adams' in that situation. The coverage across the board was outstanding, and Rodgers was facing pressure in the pocket from Maliek Collins. There was no chance for a completion there, and Claiborne's error gave the Packers a fresh set of downs which later resulted in a touchdown and a 21-3 lead.
- One way to beat a blitz is to run your best receiver on a "9" route with no safety help for the corner. Superb job by Dak Prescott, moving Ha Ha Clinton-Dix away from Dez Bryant with his eyes, then coming back to him once he saw Clinton-Dix's hips flip. The cross blitz was not picked up well inside and Joe Thomas had a free run at Prescott, but he once again was able to hang in there, load up the ball and let it fly. Nice job of getting separation by Bryant and an even better throw by Prescott to lead him up the field for the touchdown.
- I am thinking that the field judge Buddy Horton got distracted by Terrance Williams' crossing route to the point that he didn't see Joe Thomas holding Jason Witten right before half. Prescott did throw the ball wide, which also might have had something to do with the no call. But in that situation – nine times out of 10 that call is going to be made when a defender wraps his arms around a receiver trying to get up the field. Instead of a fresh set up downs, they were forced to kick a field goal one play later. Jason Witten doesn't often complain during a game, but he was upset with that particular play.
- I am curious if Jason Garrett or Rich Bisaccia knew the league rules for a free kick -- and would they have considered it before the half with Dan Bailey? Since 2005, it had been attempted four times. The last successful one came in 1971. Cole Beasley fair caught the ball on the Dallas 38-yard line. With the Packers having no shot at a block and Bailey getting a running start like a kickoff – it might have been worth a try. Stranger things have happened in playoff games before.
- I am not sure who Dak Prescott was throwing to on 2nd-and-20, but it worked out well for him. Running to his left it appeared that he wanted to hit Lance Dunbar on the run across the field – at least his eyes showed that. Dez Bryant had curled in the middle of the field and once he saw Prescott start to run, he stopped and waited. Dunbar had split Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas and was well on his way to a big play -- except Bryant reached up to snatch the ball and make a big play of his own getting 18 yards back on the catch and run. On the next play, Prescott hit Bryant on a slant for 10 yards to keep the drive going.
- Anthony Brown was fooled by Ty Montgomery and a stutter-go, and he was thus was forced to grab him. It was a shame that he made that mistake, because Jeff Heath was in really nice position to help him on the play. What was surprising about the call in my opinion was the foul was committed before the ball left Aaron Rodgers' hand. That call is usually made as defensive holding with the referee saying prior to the pass and a five yard walk off. In the post-game pool report, Tony Corrente said that the ball was in the air and that wasn't the case at all. Those extra five yards kept the Packers in field goal range which they were successful making from 56 yards. The exact same situation happened earlier in the game when LaDarius Gunter grabbed Dez Bryant which resulted in a five yard penalty because the ball was not out of Dak Prescott's hand.
- I know it's easy to second guess now, but I wouldn't have spiked the ball with 49 seconds to play and one time out left. Why waste a play when you have them on their heels? You had just hit two chunk plays of 24 and 11 yards. Keep running your offense and burn the timeout when you actually needed it. When you watch the play, it was clear the receivers were in a relaxed position and were expecting him to spike the ball. The question now: was Prescott told to do it or did he do it on his own? I could not tell if there was any indication from the sideline with hand signals so it had to come through the communication system.