Explosive Plays Tip The Balance

In his final press conference Friday before this week’s game, Head Coach Mike McCarthy noted that the Packers-Cowboys showdown likely would come down to big plays. Three big plays that Dallas made turned out to be the difference. - More Packers-Cowboys Game Center


In his final press conference Friday before this week's game, Head Coach Mike McCarthy noted that the Packers-Cowboys showdown likely would come down to big plays.

Three big plays that Dallas made turned out to be the difference.

Rookie Felix Jones ran 60 yards for a touchdown in the first half, and receiver Miles Austin had two huge gains, a 63-yard catch-and-run to set up a score and a 52-yard TD catch midway through the fourth quarter. Those were the key blows in this Sunday night showdown of heavyweights that went the Cowboys' way, 27-16.

"We went out there, and we held up for a while," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "But they came up with big plays, and that was the game right there."

The Packers' defense was battling injuries much of the night, with players coming in and out of the lineup, sometimes for short stretches and other times for longer periods.

Green Bay got caught at perhaps the worst time on two of the big plays.

With cornerback Al Harris out of the game with cramps and safety Nick Collins sidelined temporarily with a back bruise (and regular starter Atari Bigby also out with a hamstring injury), the Packers were down three of their four starters in the secondary on a couple of occasions.

That's when Jones broke free down the left sideline in the second quarter. Jones ran through a tackle attempt by cornerback Charles Woodson, and then safety Charlie Peprah, who was getting his first action of the year after being out since early in training camp with a hamstring injury, was the defense's last chance to save the touchdown. But Jones got around the corner and Peprah was picked up by downfield blockers to clear Jones' way.

"Poor tackling," Woodson said, blaming himself. "The one long run, I gotta find a way to get the guy down."

On Austin's first big play, which came in the third quarter, the Packers just lost him in coverage as Collins stumbled when Austin cut across the middle of the field. Romo hit him in stride, and though Collins chased him down from behind at the 3-yard line, the Cowboys scored a couple of snaps later to make it 20-9.

That play ended up being Collins' last, as he re-aggravated the back bruise tackling Austin and came out of the game for good.

That left the secondary in the same state as the Jones run when Austin put the final dagger in the Packers' hopes. Running one-on-one down the right sideline with Williams, Austin hauled in Romo's deep ball for the 52-yard score on a crucial third-and-20 play, putting the Cowboys ahead 27-9 with 9:09 left.

Williams, who had otherwise had a solid game in place of Harris and helped to hold Terrell Owens to just two catches for 17 yards, was visibly upset with the officials after the play, gesturing as though Austin had pushed him in the back to gain separation as the ball came down.

Austin had just the two catches on the night, but for 115 yards and the one score.

"I know we're a lot better than we played tonight," Williams said. "We did some good things of course, but we can't let one or two plays make a game for us. We have to come out and stop those plays."

{sportsad300}On the flip side, the Packers had just one big play on offense and didn't fully take advantage.

In the third quarter, trailing just 13-6, the Packers got a 50-yard gain on an Aaron Rodgers pass to Donald Driver, setting up a first-and-goal on the Dallas 8-yard line.

But just like Green Bay's trip into the red zone in the first half, the drive ended with a sack of Rodgers that forced a field goal, and the Packers were never closer than 13-9 the rest of the night.

"We know what we've got to do -- we've got to put the ball in the end zone," running back Ryan Grant said. "We can't be satisfied with field goals, and that's not the type of offense we are. To be able to move the ball early on, and not to come away with the points we wanted, it was a little frustrating."

On both sides of the ball.

"It was tight early, and we matched them well intensity-wise," Woodson said. "But they hit a couple big plays, and those big plays kind of let the air out of you a little bit."

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