The fate of the season for both the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers fell on one play, a fourth and two late in the fourth quarter. Dez Bryant caught the ball off of Tony Romo, but it bounced on the ground as he fell towards it, stretching for the touchdown. That incompletion meant Aaron Rodgers and his team had a chance to chew out the clock and move on to the NFC championship game.
The Dallas Cowboys did everything the book says they should have when it comes to winning: Tony Romo didn’t turn the ball over, completing 15-of-19 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. DeMarco Murray ran for 123 yards and a touchdown. They turned the ball over once (Murray with a fumble), but the Packers also lost one as well. It came down to making this or that play, and in the second half, after leading for most of the way, a missed field goal and Dez Bryant not getting any help from the officials decided the game.
Not that the Packers were bad. Aaron Rodgers kept his home streak of no turnovers alive, throwing three touchdown passes with impressive improvising and doing well on a hurting leg. Rodgers said after the game he has exactly 120 minutes of football left in him, but he still has to go through the Seahawks in Seattle, a place the Packers were beaten quite memorably at in the beginning of the season and will now try to figure out how to score against a defense that specializes in shutting down offenses.
The Cowboys took away the option of finding Jordy Nelson, so Rodgers went in a different way. Shorter passes to Randall Cobb with 8 receptions for 116 yards and the most surprising, Davante Adams, with 117 yards and a touchdown catch. The biggest one was actually a Rodgers to Rodgers play, with Richard Rodgers at the end of a 13-yard touchdown pass. The Packers missed out on the conversion, which gave the Cowboys an opening to take the lead again, but they blew it.
Bryant was targeted only seven times through the two games in the postseason. Teams focused on him, and Romo went to Jason Witten, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. It almost worked for him. Bryant caught six passes on the seven targets. The only one he didn’t catch? The incompletion, as he caught the ball, fell towards the end zone but the ball bounced out of his hands hitting the ground. It was initially ruled as a touchdown, but the review, even if it backed up a rule that should be changed, was the correct call.
Championships rise and fall on these decisions. The little inches, the tiny adjustments, the big plays that get decided on small things. The Cowboys had a very good season and a very good game in a tough stadium. They simply couldn’t complete the play that would have brought them back the lead, and made bad offensive decisions in the second half, costing them a game they did so well in the beginning of, almost slowing down to a halt in the fourth quarter.