|Cover by Green Bay Press-Gazette|
Being on vacation, we got to watch the game with old friends from our youth, Larry Bailin and Marc Blum, and with new friend Kathy Blum. Like everybody else, we suffered through the first half, watching the Packers limp along to a 26-3 deficit, and saw the Packers' realistic playoff chances dwindle away. The 3 points the Packers got were fueled almost entirely to a single big pass and run by James Jones. For the rest of the half, the Packers' defense looked inept, giving up chunks of yardage, rarely getting pressure on Romo, missing opportunities for interceptions, and the like. On offense, there were a few good plays, but lots of misfires, everything from dropped passes by Jordy Nelson (!) to penalties, to offensive line breakdowns, and of course Matt Flynn's interception.
It was the sort of half that might have caused sane people to switch the game off and find something more productive to do. Fortunately, we were all just crazy enough to keep watching, and we witnessed one of the great comebacks of all time. It was, to me, sort of the flip side of the famous Thanksgiving day "Jason Garrett" game I wrote about here. Re-watching that game, years later, it was hard to imagine how the Packers were going to end up losing the game, until it happened. Re-watching Sunday's game, I couldn't believe that the Packers would end up winning, until it happened.
I read somewhere that someone had calculated that, going into the half on Sunday, the Cowboys had a 99.7% chance of winning the game. Sounds about right, and that shows what a remarkable comeback it was.
The second half was a totally different game, and the Packers went on to score 5 touchdowns in the half to win the game, missing the 2 point conversion on the final one so that the final score was 37-36. We saw everything from a 60 yard run by Eddie Lacy on the first play of the half, to Jordy Nelson stealing the ball away from the defensive back in the end zone for a touchdown, to more planned rollouts, screen passes and more quick release passes, counteracting Flynn's lack of mobility. The Packers were still not consistently stopping the Cowboys, as they allowed 10 points to the Cowboys in the half, but they certainly looked better on defense than in the first half, by a large margin.
Let's not kid ourselves, this game could easily have gone the other way. Late in the fourth quarter, I actually expected the Cowboys to pull it out, either by stopping the Packers on one of their TD drives, or by scoring the winning FG on the final drive, or by forcing a single turnover somewhere in the fourth quarter. If Jordy doesn't steal that TD from the defensive back in the end zone, or if the evidence is not conclusive enough to reverse the call on the final interception, the Cowboys probably win. And then if the Lions had not lost on a 61 yard field goal in the final minute on Monday night, the Packers still would not control their own destiny. But now they do. Win two games, and they win the division. I am not sure they will be able to pull that off, but the opportunity is right there, waiting to be taken.