ReFo: Cowboys @ Packers, Divisional Round
The divisional round is often the best weekend of playoff football and this year’s games provided plenty of drama and unfortunately, controversy. The Dallas Cowboys trip to Green Bay to take on the Packers will likely be remembered by the catch that wasn’t by Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The talented receiver appeared to make a miraculous catch over cornerback Sam Shields on 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter, but replay overturned the call and subsequently ended the game for Dallas.
The rest of the game was pretty good as well, as both teams traded blows with Dallas pulling ahead to a 21-13 lead late in the third quarter. From there, it took a pair of special touchdowns to win the game for the Packers as rookie wide receiver Davante Adams had a 46-yard catch-and-run on a strike from Aaron Rodgers followed by a 13-yard pass from Rodgers to tight end Richard Rodgers for a 13-yard touchdown on the throw of the game. Dallas appeared poised to strike back, but the Bryant catch was ruled incomplete and Green Bay picked up two first downs to run out the clock.
Green Bay heads to Seattle next week for a Week 1 rematch as the two top seeds in the NFC collide with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Here’s a look at the key performances from the game.
Dallas Cowboys – Performances of Note
Struggles in the Secondary, -5.5 for the starting five
Breakdown: Going up against the Packers’ receiving corps is no easy task and the Cowboys were done in by a few big plays given up on the back end. Perhaps the ugliest was the 46-yard touchdown by Adams that saw him lose CB Sterling Moore on the in-route, and then free safety JJ Wilcox took a terrible angle to allow Adams to get to the outside for the touchdown. Other key missed tackles in the second half include:
- Q3 3:21: Moore unable to tackle Adams on 3rd-and-3, resulting in a 16-yard gain.
- Q4 13.29: Orlando Scandrick fails to take down TE Andrew Quarless turning a short gain into a 13-yard first down.
- Q4 2.36: Moore against Adams once again, this time Moore goes for the strip and loses Adams for the 26-yard gain on 3rd-and-3.
The secondary had to deal with some outstanding throws from Aaron Rodgers throughout the game, but missed tackles and bad angles really came back to hurt in key situations.
Signature Stat: Cornerbacks, Moore, Scandrick, and Brandon Carr were targeted a combined 22 times, allowing 15 receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown.
DeMarco Murray, RB, +0.2
Breakdown: The Dallas offensive line struggled to create room for Murray for much of the game, though he did a nice job of making the most of what he had. His two biggest runs came on a pair of well-blocked, poorly defended plays. Green Bay allowed him to get to the edge at Q3 4:51 and Murray burst up the sideline for a 26-yard gain. His 30-yard run was perfectly blocked and a nice cut by Murray combined with a poor angle by free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix turned it into a big gain. Beyond the two big plays, Murray gained 69 yards on 23 carries, which doesn’t look great, but he actually did a fine job even getting to that mark as he constantly turned one or two yard gains into four or five yards.
Of course the big play for Murray was his fumble at the 11:11 mark of the third quarter, as it was the one other play that was perfectly blocked, and Murray lost the ball on a Julius Pepper forced fumble. It was an up and down day for Murray who often made the most of what he had, but in the end, his one mishap proved costly.
Signature Stat: Murray picked up 26 yards on 11 carries (2.4 yards per carry) to the left of center and 97 yards on 14 carries to the right of center (6.9 yards per carry).
Ronald Leary, LG, -3.5
Breakdown: It was a rough start for Leary who was being easily handled by Packers defensive end Mike Daniels early and often. While he recovered to make a few key blocks, including a nice kick-out block on Murray’s 30-yard run and an outstanding block on 3rd-and-1 late in the first, it was a tough day overall that saw Leary finish at -1.4 as a pass blocker and -2.2 in the running game. He allowed two sacks and a hurry on the day, including a strip sack by Peppers on the first drive of the game. The aforementioned run blocks were the highlights of his day, but for the most part, he was moved about by the Packers’ defensive front.
Signature Plays: Leary allowed Peppers outside of him for the strip sack at the 13:38 mark of the first quarter. The second sack came on the first play of the fourth quarter and while the fact that the play resulted in a sack is partially on Tony Romo, Leary was pretty easily handled by Daniels on the bull rush.
Green Bay Packers – Performances of Note
Mike Daniels, DE, +4.8
Breakdown: Daniels was his usual disruptive self, grading at +4.1 against the run and +0.5 as a pass rusher. A couple highlights:
- Q1 6:01: Daniels nearly walks Leary into the point of attack from the opposite side of the formation
- Q1 6:42: Daniels stands up Leary and controls both sides of him before shedding and making the tackle for a 1-yard gain.
- Q4 8:22: Daniels fights off the cut block by left tackle Tyron Smith to get down the line and make the tackle for a 2-yard gain.
If Green Bay is going to move on, Daniels will have to continue to make an impact as he did against Dallas.
Signature Stat: Daniels played 84 percent of Green Bay’s defensive snaps, his second-highest percentage of the season.
Julius Peppers, OLB, +4.0
Breakdown: There weren’t a lot of plays made by Peppers on Sunday, but the ones he did make were huge. He had the strip sack early in the first quarter, which of course looks much better if the ball bounces Green Bay’s way, but it was a great play nonetheless. Peppers then made perhaps the play of the game when he forced the fumble on Murray early in the third quarter. As mentioned, the play was well-blocked and on its way to a big gain, but Peppers side-stepped right guard Zack Martin’s pull block and reached out to knock the ball free from Murray.
Signature Stat: Peppers’ strip sack was his only pressure on his 16 pass rushes.
Davante Adams, WR, +2.1 and Randall Cobb, WR, +3.4
Breakdown: The Packers’ wide receiver duo made huge plays throughout the game as they combined for 15 catches for 233 yards and a touchdown. Adams’ 46-yard touchdown brought the Packers’ within one point late in the third quarter and he came up with a key conversion on 3rd-and-3 with 2:36 to go in the game. Adams ran the curl route and wrestled the ball away from Moore on a pass that was a bit too far into the cornerback’s leverage. Adams broke free for the 26-yard gain. As for Cobb, his deep corner route and sideline work was impressive at the end of the first half, a big 31-yard gainer that set up a Green Bay field goal. He then sealed the game with his diving catch on a batted pass on 3rd-and-11 with 2:00 to go in the game.
Signature Stats: Nine of Adams and Cobb’s 15 catches went for first downs. Adams picked up 79 of his 117 yards after the catch.
PFF Game Ball
As well as the wide receivers played, it was Aaron Rodgers that made it all work. The 46-yard TD to Adams was perfectly placed and his 13-yard touchdown to Richard Rodgers was thread through the finest of needles. Rodgers finished at +2.7 as he peppered the field with big-time throws throughout the afternoon.
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