FRISCO, Texas – It's a lot to process, but here are some of my biggest thoughts from Sunday's 34-31 loss to Green Bay, which ended the Cowboys' season.
- I have preached throughout the season about the quality of the targets to Dez Bryant as opposed to the quantity. Bryant had 12 targets with 9 receptions – but as the game wore on, I found myself wanting the ball to go in his direction more. Bryant was on the verge of one of those types of games that we see from Julio Jones or Antonio Brown. I will need to watch the tape, but there is a side of me that believes that, even when they tried to help LaDarius Gunter in coverage, Bryant was still open.
- On the opening possession of the game, it was a nice effort by Cole Beasley on the screen to pick up 14 yards to make it a manageable 3rd-and-2. But the pass by Dak Prescott to Dez Bryant was too big of a risk. There was really no space for Prescott to fit that ball in there. Keep drives going and scoring touchdowns was going to be the key so coming away with a field goal was a big disappointment. I bet if Scott Linehan had to do it over he would have run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott.
- During the week, I asked Jason Garrett about Aaron Rodgers' ability to trap defenses on the field to secure free plays. Garrett felt like they were prepared for the situation, but in actuality they weren't. There was no reason to change personnel with the Packers facing a 3rd-and-5. Everyone knows he's watching what you are doing and it only takes the slightest bit of hesitation or indecision by the defense to get that free play or a first down.
- The numbers say four tackles with one pass broken up, but I thought it was a disappointing game for Morris Claiborne. He had a hands to the face penalty that gave the Packers a first down that later turned into a Ty Montgomery touchdown run. Later, he got bruised ribs and was on the sidelines for the remainder of the game with no chance to help the team. Maybe I was foolish to believe that he could have made a difference against this Packers passing attack, but that wasn't the case at all. If this was his last game in a Cowboys uniform, his inability to stay healthy will always be something that will always be associated with his name.
- Coming into the game, the Packers were the second-ranked team in the league when it came to converting on 3rd-and-10 or longer. They did get some help on that final conversion when umpire Bruce Stritesky, who was looking right at T.J. Lang, missed an obvious holding call on David Irving. Lang hooked Irving around the neck and threw him to the ground, but no call was made.
- On his interception, it appeared that Dak Prescott had a run/pass option on the play. The offensive line came off on the play like it was a run. Prescott made the choice to try and hit Cole Beasley on the screen. It was a play that the Cowboys had success on in the first meeting for a big chunk – so Prescott opted to try again. This time Micah Hyde was ready for it. Really bad red zone turnover.
- What a nice range play by Jeff Heath to read the route by Davante Adams and get over to snag that interception from Aaron Rodgers. Adams beat Anthony Brown badly off the line. Rodgers threw the ball inside to carry Adams that way, but Adams stayed to the outside. Heath was able to lay out to secure the ball and then take it back up the field where the offense was able to cash it into points.
- Very quiet night for DeMarcus Lawrence overall, but he almost made the play of the game with 1:48 left. Aaron Rodgers tried to quick snap the defense, as the Cowboys were confused where to line up due to an extra tackle being brought into the game. Rodgers handed the ball going wide to Ty Montgomery, but Lawrence and Terrell McClain were able to explode up the field to trap him for a loss of five yards on the play. On the next play Rodgers threw incomplete to Adams, but Mason Crosby was able to make the go-ahead field goal from 56 yards.
- Nice design by Rod Marinelli to come with the blitz on Rodgers where Jeff Heath ended up with the sack. Marinelli brought both Scandrick and Heath, which caused Ty Montgomery to hesitate about which man to block. Once he looked at Scandrick, that was all that Heath needed to get home. As I watched the play, I still do not know how Rodgers was able to hold onto the ball once Heath made contact -- because if it came loose, Scandrick was right there for the recovery.
- If Nick Perry doesn't knock that pass down on the Cowboys' final 3rd-and-3, Dez Bryant is going to have a 15-yard one-on-one run at Ha-Ha Clinton Dix for a chance to score. The design was good by putting Ezekiel Elliott in the slot and running him to the flat. By doing so, it picked LaDarius Gunter off to get Bryant clean inside. Prescott hung in there with pressure from Clay Matthews on the backside, but give Perry a lot of credit for jumping at the right time.
- You have to love the toughness of Dak Prescott on the two-point play. Ronald Leary and Travis Frederick couldn't secure Kenny Clark and Jake Ryan on the play. Ryan went unblocked and hit Prescott at the goal line. Prescott was able to spin – then, with a shove from Leary, fall backward into the end zone. It was Prescott's determination that was able to pull that play off.
- "If [a player] approaches the huddle and communicates with a teammate, he is required to participate in at least one play before being withdrawn," Rule 5, Section 2, Article 5 says. "Violations of this rule may be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. The intent of the rule, according to the NFL, is to "prevent teams from using simulated substitutions to confuse an opponent." After the game, Tony Corrente was asked about the call and this was his answer. "They brought in a two-receiver set on a substitution, and number 19 (Brice Butler) was one of those two players and came into the huddle, stayed in the huddle, then departed. He was substituted for. He has to stay either in the game or they can call a timeout to get out of it. Of course, he went out. It's not an obscure rule, it's just part of the substitution mechanics and part of the substitution rule."