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Game recap: 5 takeaways from Packers' OT victory over Cowboys

Win was as emotional as it gets in the regular season

Packers players swarm kicker Mason Crosby after his game-winning field goal in Green Bay's 31-28 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
Packers players swarm kicker Mason Crosby after his game-winning field goal in Green Bay's 31-28 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

GREEN BAY – The Packers snapped their five-game losing streak with a dramatic 31-28 overtime victory over the Cowboys on Sunday at Lambeau Field, spoiling former coach Mike McCarthy's return to Green Bay.

Here are five takeaways from the triumph:

1. The losses were weighing on everybody, and that weight has finally lifted.

The Packers hadn't lost five in a row since Aaron Rodgers' first season as the starting quarterback, 14 years ago. Head Coach Matt LaFleur hadn't experienced as much as two straight losses in a regular season before this, as his team went from 3-1 to 3-6 before finally notching its fourth win of the year.

The postgame catharsis was inescapable, especially after rallying from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and LaFleur addressed it at different moments in his remarks at the podium.

"Man, it's been a long time to stand up here and have a smile," he began. "It's been too long to have that feeling to go into the locker room and see the just sheer joy."

A little later he added: "I know for myself it was hard not to get emotional after that game," and then he proceeded to get emotional a few minutes later, choking up briefly and apologizing to the assembled media.

"We put a lot into this. And it is tough at times … It means a lot to us. And to be down and fight and continue to fight, that's what you want to see."

2. A star may have been born.

Rookie receiver Christian Watson has been through a lot in his young career – a knee injury that forced him to miss most of training camp, a drop of a potential 75-yard TD pass on the first offensive play in Week 1 at Minnesota, a subsequent hamstring injury and concussion that also kept him sidelined.

Then Sunday's game began with Watson dropping passes on back-to-back plays in Dallas territory, leading to a missed field goal.

Both Rodgers and LaFleur stressed they were going to come back to him, and boy did they. Watson's speed was on display as he wound up scoring his first three NFL touchdowns among four receptions for 107 yards.

His TDs covered 58, 39 and 7 yards, the second one on fourth-and-7 to get the Packers back within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and the last one to tie the game at 28 with 2:29 left in regulation.

"We had a lot of plays designed for him, so I don't think there was any other option," Rodgers said of sticking with the rookie second-round pick. "I think that (first TD) catch probably on the atomic level shifted a lot of different things for him, exorcising some energetic demons. I'm proud of him."

The first score was on a deep shot similar to the big drop at Minnesota, and he punctuated the touchdown with a celebratory backflip in the end zone.

"It's been kind of a rollercoaster ride for him," LaFleur said, likening Watson's resiliency Sunday with that shown by the entire team. "He responded."

Added Rodgers, who finished 14-of-20 for 224 yards with the three TDs and season-best 146.7 passer rating: "That first one I feel like was the monkey, the 800-pound gorilla off his back, the weight of expectations and frustrations and drops and disappointment and hopefully that's a big jolt for him moving forward.

"We need him to stay healthy, because when he is, he's a different type of guy."

See scenes from the Sunday afternoon matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on Nov. 13, 2022.

3. A new defensive standout emerged as well.

Defensively, the Packers moved starting safety Darnell Savage to slot corner in the nickel defense and inserted Rudy Ford in his place at safety.

All Ford did was intercept two passes, both of which preceded Green Bay touchdowns in the first half.

His first pick came just three snaps after Rodgers fumbled on a sack, giving the Cowboys a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line, looking to add to a 7-0 lead. On third down, Ford cut in front of tight end Dalton Schultz at the goal line for the pick and a 34-yard return.

"Anytime you're taking points away from the opposition, that's big time," LaFleur said.

Then on Dallas' next possession, another Prescott pass over the middle found Ford's arms, and another 34-yard return set up the Packers to take a 14-7 lead on a 12-yard TD run by Aaron Jones.

"He plays with a lot of speed," LaFleur said of Ford, a waiver claim from Jacksonville at roster cutdown time who has played his way from a special-teamer into a regular defensive role. "You can feel his speed out there, and he's physical, too."

4. A change was made on special teams, and the defense rose to the occasion late.

With the score tied at 14 in the third quarter, punt returner Amari Rodgers fumbled for the fifth time this season (second lost one), and the turnover shifted all the momentum the Cowboys' way.

Dallas scored in four plays on a 13-yard run by Tony Pollard (22 carries, 115 yards), got a three-and-out, and then scored again in seven snaps on a 35-yard touchdown by receiver CeeDee Lamb (11 catches, 150 yards, two TDs) to go up 28-14.

Kickoff returner Keisean Nixon became the Packers' punt returner for the rest of the game.

Green Bay's defense also changed for the better, stopping Dallas on multiple fourth-quarter possessions plus on the opening drive of overtime.

Two incompletions by Prescott (27-of-46, 265 yards, three TDs, two INTs, 78.6 rating) on third-and-3 and fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 35, as Dallas turned down a long field goal, gave the ball back to the Packers for their winning drive.

5. The clinching play in OT had been in the works all night, but there's no time to celebrate.

Green Bay failed late in regulation to get a first down with a chance to win, a drive that upset Rodgers and LaFleur, but they cashed in with another shot.

Needing just a field goal to win, the Packers faced third-and-1 from their own 44. At that point, the offense had run the ball for over 200 yards – Jones had 138 rushing yards on 24 carries in all, with AJ Dillon adding 65 yards on 13 attempts – which allowed a play-action slant to Allen Lazard to work beautifully.

Lazard's defender fell down at the line of scrimmage, and he split the middle of the field after the short reception for a 36-yard gain to get into field-goal range.

"We'd kind of been setting that up for a while throughout the game and it hadn't been there, hadn't been there, hadn't been there," Rodgers said. "Allen and I had a conversation on the sideline and felt like if we came back to that play, it had a chance to be there and he's pretty proficient at that route."

One more run by Jones for 5 yards, plus a facemask penalty, put the ball inside the 10. Rodgers took a knee – leaving the team rushing total at 207 yards – to put the ball in the middle of the field, and Mason Crosby was good from 28 yards out nearly seven minutes into OT.

The Packers kept their season alive by getting to 4-6 but have a similarly critical task again in just four days, on Thursday Night Football against Tennessee (6-3) at Lambeau.

"In our world, it is Wednesday, so we've got to flip the script quickly," LaFleur said, "because we've got a damn good football team coming in here."


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