The Play That REALLY Changed The Cowboys/Packers Game
It was a cold Sunday afternoon, but at a pedestrian 24 degrees, it could hardly be deemed worthy to receive the name Ice Bowl II. Some players were actually removing extra protective layers to be more comfortable on the field. Maybe me being a native New Yorker living in Boston has made my tolerance for cold a little bit higher than the average bear, but I hear 24 degrees and think "that's not so bad." What no one can dispute is that this was an intense game with many storylines, including Aaron Rodgers playing on one good leg and the Coyboys' validity of advancing against the Lions with the big break they got with the referees. As much as I dislike Dallas, I really wanted to watch this game. For the many people that did watch the game, it failed to disappoint. The running attack for both teams were most effective in the first half. DeMarco Murray was in MVP form and the two headed monster of Eddie Lacy/James Starks moved the ball downfield for their respective teams. Rodgers obviously looked limited in his mobility, but Tony Romo was dealing with some injury issues himself as this season winded down. Both certainly did what they could but needed other players to step up. They got it.
This game was too good to have the referees snag the headlines and make this debatable. The eye test will tell you that Dez Bryant caught the ball. I was rooting against the Cowboys, but Dez Bryant caught that ball. I know the ruling on the field was correct by the letter of the law and had been consistent, but that was still an amazing play, especially on a 4th and 2. If it was over/under thrown, intercepted or much more visibly dropped by Bryant, Dallas would have caught a lot of flak for it. Of course if the play stood, there would have been no denying DeMarco from getting into the end zone, and Dallas would have taken the lead. I think most football fans made that same assessment, and it would have been up to Mr. Discount Double Check to hobble his way down the field and win the game for the Green Bay Packers. Could this have happened? Of course it could. A limited Aaron Rodgers has a better chance than most healthy quarterbacks, Getting back to the no catch call, there is no denying this call was controversial and indeed what might have decided the outcome, but there is one play that stands out in my mind that turned the game around even more than this, and the referees had nothing to do with it.
Early in the third quarter, Dallas had possession of the football. A couple of plays after Mike McCarthy attempted to challenge a pass interference call by saying Julius Peppers tipped the ball, which replay showed he didn't, Julius Peppers' right hand actually did make a monumental play. DeMarco Murray was handed the football and the offensive line made a running lane for him so big, he could have cartwheeled his way to what would be just about a 60 yard touchdown run. With no real chance to tackle him, the swipe of the football was Peppers' last ditch attempt to make a play. Murray fumbled the ball and Green Bay recovered. Why would I say this play was more important than even Dez Bryant's controversial play? If course with sports, nothing is definite and after all, Dallas was only ahead by a mere four points with most of the second half still ahead of them. However, the Cowboys had recovered nicely after Rodgers led his Packers to paydirt on their opening drive. Dallas ran Murray because they knew they could count on him today, just like they did all season 392 times, accumulating a very impressive 1,845 yards, and that doesn't count his 57 receptions also! So clinging to their lead and having a first down and five after an offsides penalty go against Green Bay, if Murray was not stripped of the ball, it would be 21-10 Cowboys and the Packers would perhaps have started to feel a little pressure to look away from a running game that treated them kindly. Up until that point, Jason Witten was catching a lot of passes and Dez Bryant had not yet been unleashed. As much as I don't want to admit it, without Peppers making that play, the signs point toward Dallas winning. On Green Bay's second play after the turnover, Eddie Lacy made a long 29 yard run and Davante Adams, who stepped up big time in the second half, made an awesome catch and run which could have set them up for a touchdown if not for T.J. Lang's 15 yard penalty. Though the Packers had to settle for a field goal, it took a lot of pressure off of them and not having to be down two scores when your star player is not at full capacity certainly affects the gameplan.
Julius Peppers is a legend. While he is not quite the same terror he was with the Carolina Panthers and when he first signed with the Chicago Bears, he is a very valuable piece to a Packers defense that really needed his veteran leadership. That's part of what made that play so awesome to see. This Packers defense has never been confused for the Steel Curtain, but it had been underrated at times. They played well against the Patriots earlier in the regular season, right in the middle of New England's resurgence and the MVP talk being between that Baaaaaad Man and Tom Brady. That game showed that Green Bay's defense is capable of stepping up when necessary. Julius Peppers on Sunday showed again that they will not back down.
Of course, with sports, we never really know what could or might or probably will transpire, that's why each and every game has to be played. There was no clear favorite or underdog in this game. Both played their hearts out and left it all on Lambeau Field. This truly was playoff football and everyone who took that field should hang their head high, for they gave the fans of the NFL a great game.