Arlington

‘It’s time for people across the country to know this is our stadium’

Juan Martinez of McAllen tailgates with family and friends Sunday outside AT&T Stadium in Arlington before the playoff game between the Cowboys and Packers.
Juan Martinez of McAllen tailgates with family and friends Sunday outside AT&T Stadium in Arlington before the playoff game between the Cowboys and Packers. gdickson@star-telegram.com

If the last-second field goal that added another chapter to the storied Packers-Cowboys rivalry wasn’t enough, there’s always the weather.

From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows for Cowboys fans — and then many of them got soaked by sideways rain on the way to the car and stuck in traffic listening to reports of tornado warnings. Only in Texas.

For Cowboys fans such as Juan Martinez, Sunday had been a day to plant a blue and silver flag at AT&T Stadium and establish a home-field advantage once and for all.

And plant that proverbial flag they did. A sellout crowd joined by thousands of standing-room-only fans in the Party Pass end zones gave their team what was arguably the loudest support ever — raising the stadium’s decibel meter to above 107, nearly the equivalent of standing within 200 feet of a turbo-fan aircraft at takeoff.

But despite that ear-ringing attack, the Cowboys fell short as Packers kicker Mason Crosby completed a shocking 51-yarder as time expired to give Green Bay a 34-31 win and send the Cowboys home from a season that will likely be remembered for equal parts dazzlement and missed opportunity.

Even so, late in the game as the two teams exchanged score after score, tens of thousands of fans waved white towels and screamed for joy when legendary players such as Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith appeared on the jumbo screen.

Officially, the paid attendance was 93,396 people, many of whom likely will wake up Monday with stuffy ears and sore throats.

“It’s time for people across the country to know this is our stadium,” Martinez, a McAllen emergency room nurse, said as he tailgated outside of the 8-year-old facility, waiting for the 3:40 p.m. kickoff against the Green Bay Packers.

Martinez, his wife and and family friends make the nine-hour drive to Arlington several times a year to catch games.

“Now that we have got Dak Prescott and Zeke [Elliott], I have noticed louder fans,” he said, referring to Dallas’ top two rookie sensations.

AT&T Stadium has hosted a Super Bowl, national college football and basketball championships, international soccer matches, and numerous megaconcerts.

But for NFL fans, Sunday’s game between the Cowboys and Packers was one of the biggest events in the stadium’s history.

For Cowboys fans, it was a time to finally give AT&T Stadium a reputation as a place to fear. The stadium is known for its subdued noises during Cowboys games, and when certain well-traveled teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants come to town, the visiting crowd is often as loud as the home crowd.

But on Sunday, Cowboys fans arrived with the hope of raising the raucousness to a new level.

“I feel like this is our year,” said Priscilla Espinoza of Lewisville, who tailgates along Collins Street. Espinoza said she had been to concerts at AT&T Stadium, but Sunday’s football game was her first at the landmark facility.

For Packers fans, it was all about reliving the joy of Super Bowl XLV, when Green Bay beat the Steelers 31-25 in February 2011 during the first Super Bowl held in North Texas.

34 Times the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers have played, with each team winning 17 games going into Sunday’s playoff matchup

Matt McPherson, a Keller native who now lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., maintained that the Arlington stadium will always be represented by fans wearing the green and gold of Wisconsin’s favorite team. He said he previously attended a game several years ago in which the Packers staged a second-half comeback against Dallas, and at that time the stadium sounded like it had equal numbers of Cowboys and Packers fans.

So why did a Keller guy end up cheering for the Packers?

For starters, the Cowboys weren’t very good during much of McPherson’s childhood. He is 26 years old.

But there are other factors.

“I had a crush on a girl in the third grade who liked the Packers. My birthstone is emerald. My eyes are yellow and green,” he said. “It just seems right.”

Staff writer Bryan Bastible contributed to this report.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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