Charles Woodson wouldn't let the Green Bay Packers' season slip away.
The veteran cornerback forced two fumbles and picked off a pass by Tony Romo on the goal line as Green Bay's defense finally played up to its potential against a big-time opponent, beating the Dallas Cowboys 17-7 on Sunday.
It wasn't a pretty win for the Packers (5-4), but it might have saved their season after back-to-back demoralizing losses.
"It seemed like guys had a lot of passion out there today for the game," Woodson said. "Where it came from, I don't know, but we were happy to have it and got a big win for this team. We've got to have that passion every week, and it's got to show up on the field."
The Packers sacked Romo five times and allowed the Cowboys to convert only three of 12 third-down chances. It was a momentum-killer for the Cowboys (6-3), who had won four straight.
Dallas also lost starting right tackle Marc Colombo to a broken left fibula.
"Their defense is good, they've got a good scheme," Romo said. "I don't know how they are normally, but today they definitely got good pressure on the quarterback, slowed our running game and they played good behind it. The secondary, they've got good players."
The defense's dominant performance bailed out an offense that looked lost in the first half.
Aaron Rodgers rallied the Packers after halftime, scoring on a quarterback sneak and throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Spencer Havner. Afterward, Rodgers acknowledged that players knew fans were writing them off after back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Tampa Bay.
"I think a lot of people were thinking this was going to be the end of our road," Rodgers said.
Rodgers was 25 of 36 for 189 yards and a touchdown in another rough day, taking four sacks and spending much of the day under pressure.
But he took matters into his own hands to lead the Packers on a 15-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard sneak for a 10-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"I'm proud of the fact that when we needed a big drive in the third quarter, we came up with it," Rodgers said.
Rodgers converted two third-and-long situations against a thin secondary on the drive, as Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Dallas lost cornerback Mike Jenkins to a left arm contusion, safety Ken Hamlin to an ankle injury and cornerback Alan Ball to a leg injury.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick committed a pair of penalties on the drive.
"Most of our secondary went out in that one drive, which really hampered us," Phillips said. "We didn't have enough DBs to play even a nickel defense."
With the Cowboys pinned deep in their own territory on their next possession, Woodson burst through the line unblocked to sack Romo and strip the ball, allowing rookie outside linebacker Clay Matthews III to recover the ball at the 3.
Phillips tried to challenge the play, saying a Dallas player had recovered the fumble, but officials ruled that the play was not reviewable. That decision didn't sit well.
"They said because they ruled it a fumble all the way through, that I couldn't challenge it even though we recovered the ball and our guy was touched and he knew the guy was down," Phillips said.
Referee Jeff Triplette told a pool reporter recovery of a loose ball in the field of play is not reviewable by rule.
Facing third-and-goal after the turnover, Rodgers threw to Havner for a touchdown -- the fourth score of the season for Havner, a former linebacker who switched positions in training camp.
Romo then drove the Cowboys to the Packers 4, where Roy Williams drew a pass interference penalty on cornerback Tramon Williams in the end zone. But Woodson answered again, picking off Romo's pass on the next play to keep the Cowboys out of the end zone.
The Packers generated plenty of pressure despite playing without outside linebacker Aaron Kampman, who is recovering from a concussion. Even when they did allow a big play, Woodson was there, stripping the ball from Williams after a long completion in the first half.
"He's definitely one of our prime-time players," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers switched to a 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers in the offseason. So far, the new-look defense has dominated some weaker opponents but wilted against Cincinnati and in two games against Minnesota.
McCarthy comes from an offensive background, but said he prefers to win with defense.
"I love this kind of football," McCarthy said. "Maybe I was a defensive coach wannabe."
Romo threw a touchdown pass to Williams with 38 seconds left, avoiding a shutout. ... Phillips said Colombo would likely have surgery Monday but wasn't necessarily out for the season. ... Packers LG Daryn Colledge left the game with an ankle injury but was able to return.