ARLINGTON, Texas – There's a lot to digest from that game – even more than usual, in my opinion.
As always, I'll know more when I've had a chance to watch the tape. But here are my primary impressions from having watched that 35-31 loss to Green Bay.
- Tremendous job by Dak Prescott of keeping his eyes down the field on the long completion to Brice Butler to open this game. Prescott was looking in the direct of Dez Bryant and then quickly came back to Ezekiel Elliott. Instead of taking the easy throw to Elliott, he somehow managed to see Butler running through the middle of the field with separation on Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. Prescott, with Nick Perry hanging on his legs, got just enough on the ball to allow Butler to come back to it for a big first down to keep the opening drive going.
- It's not often that I get to write about Rod Smith during a game, but he made a clutch catch on third down early in the game. La'el Collins got driven back into Dak Prescott by Nick Perry, which forced Prescott to have to spin to his left. With three receivers covered on that side of the field, Prescott somehow managed to once again avoid the rush by backing up, then stepping up. Once he got past the driving Perry, his eyes once again located Smith down the field working on Kentrell Brice. Like Butler, Smith came back to the ball, making the reception right in front of Brice -- who lost him on the play.
- Credit Tyrone Crawford's sack of Aaron Rodgers to Kyle Wilber for playing his assignment. Rodgers wanted to throw a screen left to Aaron Jones, but Wilber sniffed the play out all the way. Lane Taylor allowed Crawford up the field too quickly, and by the time that Rodgers got his eyes around to Jones, Crawford was right on top of him. Wilber beat the block of Justin McCray to be in great position if Crawford hadn't captured Rodgers.
- Missed opportunity for the Cowboys to get points on the board right before the half when Tyron Smith couldn't control Nick Perry. Smith missed with his left hand, which allowed Perry to capture the edge and knock the ball loose. Prescott was loading up to throw the ball to an open Dez Bryant, breaking across the field at the Packers 37-yard line. With two timeouts, there would have been plenty of time to stop the clock and potentially set up for big things. Instead, the ball was knocked out of Prescott's hand and the half ended without those points.
- Really nice design of a screen to Terrance Williams that had a chance to pick up a key third down to start the second half. Prescott faked a throw to the right to Ezekiel Elliott, which allowed Tyron Smith and Jonathan Cooper to get to the outside on the left to get out in front of Williams. Prescott came back to Williams inside as the play started up the field. Williams was able to make Blake Martinez miss -- but somehow, Quinten Rollins split the blocks of Smith and Cooper and tripped Williams up two yards short of the line to gain. If Smith or Cooper had taken care of Rollins and Williams managed to keep his feet, the play had a chance to not only result in a first down -- but a huge gain deep into Packers territory.
- I hate to fault a guy for his effort, but Benson Mayowa took a terrible penalty on DeMarcus Lawrence's sack that would have put the Packers in a big hole. Aaron Rodgers had nowhere to go with the ball due to some outstanding coverage in the secondary. The Cowboys had him right where they wanted him, playing backwards in the pocket. Terry McAulay was blowing the play dead with Lawrence wrapped around Rodgers' legs, but Mayowa took a run at Rodgers, trying to finish him off. Once Mayowa ducked his head and made contact with him, McAulay really had no choice but to throw the flag.
- It would have been a heck of an athletic play if Orlando Scandrick had been able to intercept Rodgers on that slot blitz in the fourth quarter. Scandrick timed his blitz perfectly as Rodgers tried to throw the ball over the top of him to Randall Cobb in the flat. Scandrick just couldn't get his hands together in time or even knock it into the air to have a better shot. Had he made that play, the Dallas offense would have set up shop on the Packers' 18-yard line with a chance to go up 31-22.
- I don't know what Prescott could have done any differently on his pass to Terrance Williams that was intercepted. Prescott read that the Packers were in a zone defense, and he knew that he had to get the ball in there quickly before the secondary had a chance to react. The ball was a little to Williams' left -- but instead of extending his hands, he tried to cradle the ball, as we've seen him do before. Jason Witten tried to stretch Damarious Randall away from the throw with his route, but Randall read Prescott throwing the ball to Williams and didn't go with Witten. He was in the right place at the right time to come up with the interception and the score.
- The Cowboys caught a huge break on the fourth down run by Ezekiel Elliott. Not because of what Elliott was able to do by extending the ball, but prior to the snap, James Hanna flinched big time and the officials missed the call. Hanna had a difficult block to make on the inside cut off of Clay Matthews, and if not for some help from Terrance Williams, Matthews would have closed down and been right in the middle of the play to make the stop.
- On the Aaron Rodgers 18-yard run in the final minute of the game, this is where Sean Lee could have made a difference. The Cowboys went to a three-man rush with Justin Durant and Anthony Hitchens as the linebackers. Initially, Hitchens took Aaron Jones out of the backfield, but Justin Durant committed to him, as well. With Benson Mayowa up the field and wide, Rodgers saw the lane develop with both of the linebackers out of position and started up the field. David Irving spun late to try and chase down Rodgers, but it was too late. It is my belief that if Lee was on the field, he would have been able to read Rodgers, play the correct technique and force him to either throw the ball away or accept a short gain. That would have caused the Packers to have to run their field goal unit on to tie.
- Jourdan Lewis might have been beaten for the game-winning touchdown, but prior to that, he had a really good shot at a game-ending interception. He was in outstanding position to play the Davante Adams route, as Adams tried to go over the top of him. Lewis was only able to get his right hand up due to him holding off Adams with his left. If Adams could have had both hands in position, there was a pretty good chance that the ball would have hit him right between them, with Adams trying to play defense. Instead, he could only knock it away, forcing the Packers to come back at him the next play.
- I hate to be critical because I've never coached a down of football in the NFL. But I just don't understand the purpose of throwing ball to Dez Bryant on the goal line with 1:24 left in the game? As a staff, you've managed the game perfectly to kill as much time off the clock as you could to not leave Aaron Rodgers any time to mount a comeback. Short passes and timely running gave you a chance to win the game by keeping Rodgers off the field. If you hand the ball to Elliott, he is going right between Frederick and Martin for the first down. You get a fresh set of downs and the Packers have to use their final timeout. At worst, you're on the Packers' 8-yard line now with the chance to take more time off the clock and attempt the same play you scored on or throw the ball later to Bryant. Dak Prescott said after the game that it's a slippery slope to play that way, but knowing Aaron Rodgers was on the other sideline, it's a chance I take.