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Game Review: Packers Fall To 2-1

The Cowboys are known for their plethora of offensive weapons, but it was little-known wide receiver Miles Austin who made two of the biggest plays in the game as the Cowboys pulled away in the second half to beat the Packers 27-16 Sunday night at Lambeau Field. - More Packers-Cowboys Game Center


Packers S Nick Collins chases down Cowboys WR Miles Austin after a 63-yard pass play that set up a Dallas touchdown in the third quarter.

The Cowboys are known for their plethora of offensive weapons, but it was little-known wide receiver Miles Austin who made two of the biggest plays in the game as the Cowboys pulled away in the second half to beat the Packers 27-16 Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

Austin, a third-year player out of Monmouth University who entered the game with seven career receptions, caught a 63-yard pass to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Marion Barber late in the third quarter and added a 52-yard catch for a touchdown to put the Packers away in the fourth quarter.

Other than the two long receptions by Austin, the Cowboys did most of their damage on the ground as they rushed for 217 yards on 35 carries, which included a career-high 142 from Barber. It was the first time the Packers allowed 200-plus yards rushing since the Seahawks posted 235 yards on 48 carries at Seattle (Nov. 27, 2006).

"Any time someone runs for over 200 yards, that's significant," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "But how they did it is the thing that we're more interested in.

"They were able to run the ball for four quarters and kind of wear our defense down. I thought our defense was playing very well and the offense really didn't help them there in the second quarter. The time of possession at halftime was definitely tilted too far against our defense and I think it caught up to us."

The game proved to be a good measuring stick early in the season against one of the top teams in the league, as Dallas joined the defending Super Bowl champion N.Y. Giants as the only undefeated teams in the NFC.

"It's disappointing," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who completed 22-of-39 passes for 290 yards, but was sacked five times. "You'd like to win them all obviously, but Dallas is a very good football team.

"We unfortunately didn't play our best tonight. We're going to have to watch the film and be very critical of ourselves and get better."

For Green Bay's offense, it was their struggles in the red zone and on third down that proved to be the difference in the first loss of the season.

The Packers entered Sunday night with a 50 percent (13-of-26) conversion rate on third-down opportunities the first two games of the season, but were able to convert only 29 percent (4-of-14) against the Cowboys. Green Bay came away with just 13 points and only one touchdown in its three red-zone opportunities.

"We had opportunities early on and we came away with three field goals," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "That's a big problem there and we've got to fix that. We've got to finish those drives off with touchdowns and get momentum swings and score more points."

After Dallas took an early 3-0 lead that was set up by a Ryan Grant fumble on the second play of the game, Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings, who caught a career-high eight passes for 115 yards, on a quick slant for 26 yards. The two hooked up again later in the drive for 18 yards down to the Dallas 11.

Facing a 3rd-and-7 two plays later, Rodgers was sacked by cornerback Anthony Henry and the Packers were forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to tie the game.

The Cowboys led 13-6 at halftime, keyed by a 60-yard touchdown run from rookie running back Felix Jones down the left sideline, which McCarthy said was caused by an alignment error.

The Packers stopped the Cowboys on their first possession of the second half, and took over at their own 12-yard line. Running back Brandon Jackson ran for gains of 8 and 9 yards, and Rodgers then rolled out to his right and completed a deep pass down the sideline to wide receiver Donald Driver for 50 yards down to the Dallas 8.

But once again, Green Bay was unable to capitalize as the drive fizzled with two Dallas sacks. The first came from linebacker Zach Thomas and another by Henry on third down as the Packers came away with only a field goal, this time a 33-yarder from Crosby to cut Dallas' lead to 13-9.

"You've got to finish that drive off with seven," Rodgers said. "You get the momentum back, get the crowd back. The crowd was great tonight, but we just couldn't keep them involved in the game enough.

"We would have been 13-13 at that point, and then regardless of a Dallas score, we're still within a possession. That's very disappointing as far as that possession."

{sportsad300}After the Packers trimmed Dallas' lead to 4, the unheralded Austin stepped up as he was on the receiving end of a 63-yard pass from quarterback Tony Romo all the way down to the Packers' 3. Safety Nick Collins, who was injured making the tackle, lost his footing in coverage, allowing Austin to get open.

The Packers were unable to generate many yards on their next two possessions, and Romo found Austin once again, this time on a 52-yard touchdown strike down the sideline, giving Dallas a comfortable 27-9 lead with 9:09 remaining.

When the teams met last season in Dallas in late November, they were both 10-1 and knew that the game would go a long way toward determining home-field advantage in the NFC. While disappointed with the loss to the Cowboys for a second straight year, the Packers know that the '08 season is only three weeks old and there is much work ahead as they turn their focus to next week's game at Tampa Bay.

"It's a long season," said defensive end Aaron Kampman, who shared the team lead with Cullen Jenkins with 1.5 sacks. "Even if we would have won I would have said the same thing, not to get too high. The secret is you don't get too low either.

"That's what we'll kind of rally around. We're a resilient bunch. We'll bounce back."

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