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Spagnola: Come On, Not Again Against The Pack


GREEN BAY, Wis. – You gotta be kidding me.


Kidding me.

This didn't happen again. Not here at Lambeau Field. Again.

Not against these same Packers. Again.

Not here on a typical Green Bay-ish, gray, cold November day. With 78,433 folks huddled together with the Cowboys poised to squeeze the life out of this Packers season. Aaron Rodgers and them coming into this game 3-6, sloshing through a five-game losing streak, talk of this future Hall of Fame quarterback and now his second head coach starting to have problems.

Not after the Cowboys, despite two Dak Prescott second quarter interceptions on back-to-back possessions, had busted open a 14-14 game at halftime to score 14 consecutive points, taking a 28-14 lead going into the fourth quarter, having silenced that "Go Pack Go!" chant into No Pack No.

For sure, not after the Cowboys held the Packers to just 223 yards offense with 13:31 left to play and Rodgers to just 169 yards passing, 58 of those coming on one play, the first quarter 58-yard touchdown pass to rookie Christian Watson.

And on top of all that, the Cowboys were one play away from sending this chilling crowd to the exits, leaving the Cowboys faithful to dance on a sure Packers grave had they lost a sixth straight, with Green Bay staring down a fourth-and-7 at the Cowboys' 39-yard line and realizing the grim finality of the situation since eschewing even a field goal attempt in that direction.

Plus, to this point the Cowboys had even masked being compromised in the secondary. Not only was rookie cornerback DaRon Bland manning the slot a second straight game with Jourdan Lewis out for the season (foot surgery), but veteran corner Anthony Brown suffered a game-ending concussion while trying to tackle Watson on that 58-yard TD pass. In came second-year corner Kelvin Joseph, mostly a special teams guy with very little and not promising experience at corner.

No doubt, Rodgers was aware.

Still, what were the odds at that point of things going so badly?

And I'll be, that Rodgers, the Cowboys playoff killer, strikes again, with the time of day in the pocket on that fourth-down play leading Watson perfectly across the field, beating Bland with no safety help arriving soon enough for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Game on.

Cowboys 28, Packers 21, the uh-oh moment the Packers arose from this season likely being dead and gone while sending the Cowboys on their way home wondering what hoppin (sic).

For sure, foreboding Packers 31, Cowboys 28 in OT.

"I think it's disgusting," said Micah Parsons, far from a happy camper after the Cowboys fell to 6-3 and into third place again in the NFC East, a game behind the Giants and potentially three behind Philadelphia if the 8-0 Eagles beat Washington Monday night. "It's something that you can't let happen. It's bad.

"Just got to finish games, especially against Rodgers. Bad things can happen."

The Cowboys know bad things just generally happen playing the Packers. There's the 1967 "Ice Bowl" 21-17 loss in the NFL Championship Game right here with Packers QB Bart Starr sneaking in for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds. There was the Packers' end zone interception of Don Meredith in the 1966 season NFL Championship Game to close out that defeat.

And you know the rest, the Dez Bryant "Catch, No Catch" play in the final four minutes in that 2014 season playoff loss, 26-21, followed by Rodgers deft throw on the run to set up the game-winning field goal in the Packers' 34-31 playoff victory over the 13-3 Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Dak Prescott's rookie year.

Now this.

And while a couple of weird penalties in overtime with the Cowboys driving, not only pushing them back a total of 15 yards (offensive offsides and a holding), but also negating 25 yards of gain that eventually had the Cowboys going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Packers' 35-yard line that failed, their defensive struggles on the following possession at the root of this loss.

Like, what did I tell you on Friday? What did I tell you? The Cowboys just had to stop the Packers running game, one averaging 131.5 a game, and rushing for at least 199 yards in three of their nine games. And they knew this going in – since opponents had run for at least 194 yards against the Cowboys in six of eight games, including the Bears for 240 the last time out before the bye – that the Packers were going to test their run defense.

And what happens? The Packers marched down the field all game long as if in some Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, churning out 207 rushing yards (5.3 a carry), with Aaron Jones leading the way with 138 and AJ Dillon another 65, the third 200-yard rushing performance by a Cowboys opponent this year.

Can't have it. Can't win this way.

Great the Cowboys had two takeaways, evening out the turnover differential to 0, and added two more sacks to their now growing total of 35.

But if you can't stop the run, who in the hell will want to throw the ball? And when you are being gutted by the run, and now you are paranoid they'll keep coming, that's the best pass protection a quarterback could ever ask for.

Causing more heavy boxes trying to slow down the onslaught and giving receivers more single coverage for quarterbacks like Rodgers to eat you alive.

Think about this: Rodgers only attempted 20 passes. He only completed 14 of them. Yet totaled 224 yards passing. That's a whopping 16 yards a completion. Yet had three touchdown passes, 58, 39 and seven yards, all to his dear Watson, a rookie. That's a touchdown every 6.75 attempts. One touchdown every 4.66 completions.

And to think it was 10 games into his rookie season before Watson had a touchdown reception. Now he has three, and a likely NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

With all that, the Cowboys wasted Pollard's 115-yard, one touchdown performance. Wasted CeeDee Lamb's career-high 11-catch, 150-yard performance, his first 100-yarder of the season, and two touchdowns.

And guess what? Next up are the Minnesota Vikings, on the road next Sunday. Their running back, Delvin Cook, must be smacking his lips at the prospect of facing a Cowboys defense now officially susceptible to the run. Heck, just Sunday afternoon against a supposedly a stingy Buffalo defense, Cook ran for 119 yards, 81 of them on a touchdown jaunt, and the Vikings for 147 total.

Not only that, but the Cowboys also must recover mentally from the shock of losing in the manner they did. Can't have a carryover. Nor a hangover.

To a man, they said, "It is only one game." To a man, they said, "There still are eight games to play." Yep, get all that. But here is what hurts the most in a game the Cowboys had no business losing.

"They were just better than us in the moments that mattered," Dak correctly rationalized. "Period."

And in the bitter end, period, just another chapter in a legacy of "Bad Moments" against these darn Packers, and mostly in this darn place where the Cowboys need to perform an exorcism before returning for another game.

Just hard to believe even when seeing before your very eyes.

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