Well, that happened. The Cowboys worked so hard to secure their second division title in three years, securing a playoff game at home in a stadium they hadn’t lost in since Week 1 of last year, and got absolutely humiliated by the Packers, a team that featured the youngest roster in the NFL and barely reached the postseason at all.
The Cowboys did a lot of work late in the game to make things closer, “only” losing 48-32, but this game got away from them in a hurry. Green Bay led 27-0 with just over 100 seconds left in the first half, and these five plays were a big reason why the game was over so early.
DaRon Bland’s illegal contact erases sack
It’s easy to forget after the fact, but the Dallas defense came out playing tough. The Packers elected to take the ball to start, and their very first play saw Aaron Jones get stuffed for no gain. It looked like the defense had shown up to play.
That was reinforced on the next play, too. Jordan Love dropped back to pass and had nowhere to go, eventually getting sacked by Chauncey Golston and Donovan Wilson. However, a flag was thrown downfield, as DaRon Bland had gotten wrapped up with the receiver.
Bland was called for illegal contact, which erased the sack and gave Green Bay a first down. The Cowboys were that close to a third and long on the opening defensive possession, but the penalty undid all of it. Green Bay didn’t see another third down on that drive until the play where they scored the first (of many) touchdowns.
CeeDee Lamb can’t reel in the ball on third down
The Packers’ dominant opening drive made it evident that the Cowboys would need to lean on their offense in this game. It was curious, then, to see them come out and run the ball on the first two plays. A scramble from Dak Prescott moved the chains, but they quickly drew another third down.
Needing eight to move the chains, and with the ball at midfield, the Cowboys were in a tough spot. Prescott took the snap and looked for CeeDee Lamb over the middle of the field. Prescott had to fit the ball around a defender’s hands, but he hit Lamb’s outstretched hand. In a shock, the star receiver couldn’t bring it in.
As a result, the Cowboys’ opening offensive drive stalled out and Bryan Anger came on to punt. This was the first real domino to fall, as the offense’s poor start set the stage for a very long night.
Jaire Alexander gets away with contact, picks off Dak Prescott
The Dallas defense managed to force a punt on their next appearance, creating what would end up being one last shot for the Cowboys to keep things close. A good Green Bay punt pinned them back inside their own 10, making it harder to really move the ball.
Two quick plays later and it was third down. Prescott dropped back and looked Brandin Cooks’ way on a slant, but Jaire Alexander got in front of it for an interception. On the replay, it looked as if Alexander had grabbed Cooks’ shoulder in order to get in position for the play, but no flags were thrown.
That set the Packers up at the Dallas 19, which made it pretty easy to predict what came next: a touchdown in just three plays. This was really the moment where it became clear that the Cowboys would not be winning.
Dak Prescott takes a bad sack on third down
After the interception, and trailing 14-0, the Cowboys started to really move the ball and look like themselves. A couple of big runs from Tony Pollard and a big throw to Jake Ferguson had them in business, reaching the Green Bay 35.
However, third down loomed for them on the cusp of field goal range. Prescott took the snap and looked Lamb’s way, but the receiver was covered. He then worked to scramble outside of the pocket, but nothing was open. Instead of throwing it away, Prescott let the defender close in for a sack, losing six yards.
It likely would’ve been a longshot field goal anyway, and it wouldn’t have done much good with a 14-0 deficit, but it was at least points. Prescott taking the sack here, and generally getting flustered in the pocket, was a disastrous end to what had been a promising drive.
Jordan Love’s ridiculous touchdown is a dagger in the Cowboys
The Cowboys were put in a position of having to rely on their defense once again, which hasn’t been the best case in the last month or so. That continued to be the case, as the Packers marched down the field, converting two different third downs to reach the Dallas 20-yard line.
The Cowboys eventually forced them into a third and seven, with a chance to let their pass rush loose. They even got a couple of free runners at Jordan Love, but the young quarterback launched a ball deep to the endzone to hit Dontayvion Wicks, who had beat Stephon Gilmore.
This play felt like a dagger in that moment, and proved to be just that. The defense showed little ability of stopping this young and inexperienced offense, and the Cowboys’ own offense was getting better each drive but just unable to put it all together. The offense did eventually get things going, but it was too little too late.