Clutch Aaron Rodgers leads Green Bay Packers past rallying Dallas Cowboys 34-31
Green Bay advance to NFC championship final after thrilling last-gasp win over luckless Dallas
This time it was a catch, and another win for the Green Bay Packers.
Call it a “Half Mary” from Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a huge Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the play-offs on Sunday night.
The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook – confirmed on review – wasn’t nearly as debatable as Dez Bryant’s famous catch that wasn’t in the Cowboys’ divisional round loss to Green Bay two years ago.
Cook kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds.
And it came after the Cowboys tied the game twice in the final five minutes behind rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their play-off debut.
It was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:38 – two from Crosby and one from Dallas’ Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called time out before the first attempt.
Rodgers, who sparked last week’s wild-card win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before half-time, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan next Sunday. It will be his third NFC title game – all on the road.
Green Bay’s win was the first by a road team after 12 straight home victories in the play-offs dating to last season.
The Cowboys (13-4) almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the play-offs after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. The first was Dallas in 1972, when “Captain Comeback”, Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys for a 30-28 win over San Francisco.
Instead, Dallas ended up with its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game.
Prescott got the Dallas rally going with a 40-yard touchdown toss in the first half to Bryant, the first play-off TD for the star receiver.
Then he set the stage for the first tying score on a 6-yarder to Jason Witten, also the first post-season touchdown for the 14th-year tight end.
Rodgers led the Packers to a go-ahead 56-yard field goal from Crosby with a big boost on a pass interference penalty against rookie Anthony Brown that wiped out an interception from Jeff Heath, whose pick earlier in the game helped Dallas rally.
The Cowboys answered with a 52-yarder from Bailey.