Cowboys aim to exact revenge versus Packers
The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys engaged in a playoff shootout in January that will remain in the memory of both teams' fans for quite some time.
So naturally, the NFL powers-that-be set up a rematch as the Packers return to Arlington, Texas, to face the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
Thanks to the quick return, Dallas coach Jason Garrett spent more time than he wanted answering questions about a particular play from the Packers' NFC Divisional playoff victory on the Cowboys' home turf.
Dallas backed Green Bay into a 3rd-and-20 play from the Packers' 33 with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 31. But instead of kneeling and heading to overtime, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers spun to his left, avoided the Cowboys' pass rush and threw a 35-yard dart to tight end Jared Cook, who managed to catch the ball at the sideline and keep his feet in bounds. On the next play, Packers kicker Mason Crosby nailed a 51-yard field goal as time expired to win the game.
"It certainly was a significant play and they made a great play and we have to give them credit," Garrett said, reluctantly answering the question the first time it was asked at his Wednesday press conference.
The Dallas media persisted and Garrett politely obliged.
"We had them in a good situation and they made a really good play," Garrett said. "Unfortunately, it put them in a situation where they could kick a game-winning field goal with very little time on the clock."
One more Dallas media member had the gumption to press the question and this time Garrett skipped a reply and moved on to another subject.
When Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked about the January game and returning to Arlington, McCarthy slyly interpreted the question as being about AT&T Stadium itself.
"It's nice to talk about it," McCarthy said. "It's a great facility, a wonderful place to play. But at the end of the day, we're fighting to get to four wins. We understand that they lost a tough game Sunday there against the Rams. This is an important game, two high-quality football teams getting together to play."
Green Bay enters Sunday's contest with a 3-1 record as the Packers appear to be finding their rhythm early in the season.
Dallas (2-2) looked like it was on its way to the same record until an 11-point lead late in the third quarter melted away to a 35-30 defeat against the Rams. The Cowboys' loss to Los Angeles distills some of the hype going into the rematch with the Packers.
Dallas doesn't seem to have the same fire as it did when it won 11 straight games a year ago on the way to the NFC East title. That's due mostly to the fact that Ezekiel Elliott has been mired in controversy and ineffective on the field.
Elliott faces a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy in relation to a domestic violence claim against him. However, the NFLPA applied for and received an injunction against the league in early September and the case is still tied up in the court system.
It has apparently affected Elliott's play as he has rushed for 277 yards and only 3.6 per carry through four games. A year ago through four weeks, Elliott rushed for 412 yards and 4.4 per carry.
However, McCarthy wasn't ready to downgrade Dallas' offense just yet.
"You compare a 17-game season to four games? I know I don't," McCarthy said. "You've got to look at the video, look at the things they're doing and (Elliott and Dallas QB Dak Prescott are) fine, good football players. Very productive. That will be a big challenge for our defense."
And, as always, Dallas has to find a way to slow down Rodgers and the prolific Green Bay offense.
"Hopefully, we'll make our share of plays and hopefully derail (Rodgers) and that offense," Garrett said. "You feel like at times you do a really good job of defending him and somehow, some way he gets outs of it and makes a play anyway. You've got to tip your cap to him and keep going."
Updated October 4, 2017