DALLAS—With a Lions loss on Monday night, the Packers will, again, be in control of their playoff destiny.
That’s the significance of one of the most spirited and memorable rallies in the storied history of the Green Bay Packers. When Tramon Williams’ interception sealed a 37-36 win over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, the hopelessness of halftime became the hopefulness of a team hot in pursuit of its third consecutive NFC North title. A Lions loss and two Packers wins will crown the Packers champions, again.
What was the emotion like in the Packers’ postgame locker room?
“Just how you think it was,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said as he recounted the Packers’ rally from a 26-3 halftime deficit. “I was drained. Just to see the emotion of the guys, what the guys overcame. It took me everything not to cry.”
Throughout Packers nation, there were tears at halftime. The Packers were being strafed by a Cowboys offense that had gained 332 yards of offense in the first half. The second half would be very different.
The Packers offense came to life on the first play of the second half, as Eddie Lacy broke loose for a 60-yard run quarterback Matt Flynn said was the turning point in the game.
“For us to get that big run, we all felt a little momentum,” Flynn said.
The Packers rode the combination of Flynn’s passing and Lacy’s running, combined with two key second-half interceptions. Sam Shields intercepted a Tony Romo pass at midfield when the Cowboys were trying to protect a 36-31 lead just outside the two-minute warning. Flynn’s passing, Lacy’s running and a pass interference penalty against the Cowboys led to a game-winning, 1-yard touchdown plunge by Lacy with 1:31 to play. It left a crowd of 91,054 stunned.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of every player, coach. Their approach in the second half to get back to a standard offensive philosophy; run the ball, play action. Our guys stayed the course. The thing that jumps out at me is the adversity,” McCarthy said.
Flynn threw for 299 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 113.1 passer rating. Lacy rushed for 141 yards, a 6.7 yards-per-carry average and the game-winning score. After gaining just 132 yards in the first half, the Packers gained 301 in the second half.
“We were pretty frustrated. We knew there was a chance we could do it. Let’s be men. Let’s execute the way we know how to. We had to look down deep and dig ourselves out of a big hole,” Flynn said.
The defense had helped dig that hole with a soft performance in the first half. In the second half, that defense got tough, just as it had in the second half the previous week in a comeback win over the Falcons. The Packers allowed the Cowboys just 134 yards in the second half and, of course, made the big takeaways at crunch time.
“They were moving the ball on us. At halftime, we went back to the beginning. We weren’t going to panic. I felt we got into a track meet. I didn’t want to play that game,” McCarthy said.
“I said this is the biggest adversity situation in our time here,” the coach added of his halftime message to his team. The previous week, with the Packers down 21-10 at halftime and having been booed as they left the field, McCarthy told his team “it’s lonely being warriors.”
Had the Packers lost to the Cowboys, the Bears could’ve eliminated the Packers from the division title race with a win.
Might Aaron Rodgers be the Packers’ starting quarterback in the final two games?
“Nothing has changed (since Friday),” McCarthy said when asked to give an update on Rodgers’ condition.
“This comes down to Pittsburgh. We have to beat Pittsburgh,” the coach added, focusing his team and its fans on the Packers’ next opponent.
First, his team and its fans will focus their attention on Monday night’s game between the Ravens and the Lions.
Are the Packers aware that a Lions loss would leave the Packers in control of their destiny?
“I’m sure they are, but we have to beat Pittsburgh,” McCarthy said.
The plot thickens. The Packers have real hope.
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