It was not how the Dallas Cowboys wanted to start their divisional playoff game with the Green Bay Packers. And, despite a valiant comeback in the second half, the beginning beget the end as the Packers survived 34-31 with a game-deciding 51-yard field goal as time expired.
The Cowboys found themselves down 14-3 early in the second quarter and 21-3 with over seven minutes left in the first half. That is not conducive to their style of offense, which is to grind it out with a hefty portion of running back Ezekiel Elliott.
I think we did wear them down at the end but the problem is we just shot ourselves in the foot so many times early in the game.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
Instead, Elliott was limited to 10 carries for 44 yards in the first half while the Cowboys played catch up against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Three penalties, including an inexplicable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Bryce Butler, who joined the huddle but left without staying in for the next play. That penalty wiped out a 22-yard reception to Terrance Williams and eventually forced one of two first-half punts by the Cowboys.
“There were a couple of self-inflicted wounds,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I felt like we were in a good rhythm offensively, we just had a couple of things that got us behind the sticks and all the while [the Packers] were up and down the field.”
The Cowboys scored 10 unanswered points to pull to within 21-13 before the half thanks a to a 40-yard touchdown catch from Dez Bryant and a Dan Bailey field goal.
“I think we had a good game plan. We just got behind early and it changed,” Elliott said. “We should have played better earlier in the game. We got ourselves in a hole too early and you can’t do it against Aaron Rodgers, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play. Go back and watch that film and he’s making crazy throws.”
125 Yards on 22 carries for Ezekiel Elliott, who had eight 100-yard rushing games as a rookie, including seven during the regular season.
The Cowboys staged a heroic comeback in the second half, however, as Dak Prescott and Elliott led a 15-point fourth quarter surge to tie the game with 4:08 left.
“We have so much confidence in this locker room no matter how far behind we get we believe in each other, we believe we’re going to win the game,” said Elliott, who finished with 125 yards on 22 carries. “I think we did wear them down at the end but the problem is we just shot ourselves in the foot so many times early in the game. We just went too far behind and ended up a little bit short. [Losing] always hurts. It’s tough to deal with right now.”
We got ourselves in a hole too early in the game and you can’t do it against Aaron Rodgers, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play.
Elliott ran for 81 yards in the second half, including 40 yards on seven carries in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys tied it at 28-28 with 4:08 remaining. The teams traded 50-plus yard field goals before the Packers won it on Mason Crosby’s game-winner as time expired.
“I’m just going to take the feeling from this loss into next season. We made dumb mistakes and they made us pay,” Elliott said. “I’m very confident we’re going to have more teams as good as this one. Because of the core of this team. I’m not going anywhere for a long time. I couldn’t have been drafted to a better team, a better locker room, a better organization. Being here I’ve really found a home in Dallas. I appreciate the passion and the love of this team from the city.”