After a week off to relax and prepare for their matchup with the Cowboys, the Packers needed a win if they wanted to avoid another early playoff exit after a promising regular season showing.
With a 26-21 win and an NFC Championship game appearance on the horizon, let’s take a look at how each position group graded out.
Adam Schefter informed football fans earlier in the week about the seriousness of Aaron Rodgers’ calf injury. Rodgers was playing with two partial tears in his left calf and didn’t practice on a limited basis until Thursday. On the Packers’ first drive, you could see Rodgers was working off one leg by not venturing out of the pocket often.
A one-legged Rodgers still performed like a top-five quarterback in the second-half, despite making most of his deep throws using only his arm strength. There were certainly some throws he missed. Rodgers overthrew Randall Cobb on two corner routes, and he also misfired on a “free play” deep to Jordy Nelson. He still turned in a great performance, though.
Rodgers went 13-for-16 for 212 yards and 2 TDs on the final three drives. Finished game with 10 straight completions. What a performance.
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) January 11, 2015
When it came down to the wire, Rodgers showed everyone why he is the best quarterback in football. Dallas often opted to drop seven in coverage and their four-man front couldn’t get pressure, allowing Rodgers to pick his spots. He was sensational in the fourth quarter and Green Bay won because of it.
He now has less than a week to prepare his calf for a bruising game in Seattle.
The running game produced a mixed bag of results.
Things started off well. Mike McCarthy implemented a plan that featured Lacy pounding the ball early. After fighting for gains of 19, 5, 10, 8 and 4 yards, Rodgers threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless.
After one drive, Lacy was already at seven carries for 45 yards. That was essentially Lacy’s only action of the first half. He was immediately seen wearing his jacket on the sidelines the following drive and was replaced by James Starks. His next carry came with 8:19 remaining in the second quarter, and he finished the half with nine carries for 47 yards.
Lacy was featured again in the second half. McCarthy went back to the running game and was rewarded. After DeMarco Murray’s fumble midway through the third quarter, Lacy ripped off a 29-yard run, which helped set up a Mason Crosby field goal to cut the Dallas lead to 14-13.
He finished the game with 19 carries for 101 yards, giving the Packers big runs when Dallas played with two deep safeties. Starks received five carries and chipped in 16 yards, but his substitution for Lacy in the first half still seems odd.
Wide receiver/tight end:
Green Bay fans have been tough on Davante Adams over the past month. He seemed to hit the rookie wall and really struggled with drops and communication with Rodgers. If Green Bay wanted to win in the playoffs against an underrated Cowboys secondary, Adams needed to step up.
That’s exactly what the rookie did–in his first playoff game, Adams took Sterling Moore’s lunch money on several occasions. While his 7/117/1 stat line is impressive, two particular plays stand out.
With 1:58 remaining in the third quarter, Adams caught a 15-yard pass from Rodgers, then made J.J. Wilcox miss in the open field and ran 30 more yards for the touchdown, giving Green Bay the lead. Then with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter, Adams ripped an interception away from Moore on third-and-3 and moved the ball inside Dallas territory.
Dallas did a nice job taking Nelson away in this game, though. He dropped a great throw from Rodgers on one third down. While Nelson was quiet, Cobb stepped up with eight receptions for 116 yards. No catch stands out more than the dagger he delivered on third down late in the game, catching the 12-yard pass near the ground on third-and-11. He’s set for a big payday in the offseason.
Richard Rodgers was pretty quiet on Sunday, but he got open on a 13-yard touchdown catch to seal the Packers’ lead. Quarless also found the end zone, but his two false start penalties hurt the team.
No group was under more pressure than the offensive line heading into the game. The unit knew coming in that Rodgers would largely be stuck in the pocket, so it was crucial to keep it clean for its hobbled quarterback.
Fortunately, they were facing a Dallas defense that finished 28th in the regular seasons with just 28 sacks. Even with a healthy DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys front-four was largely unsuccessful at putting pressure on the quarterback.
Rodgers had time to sit in the pocket and throw throughout the game, with Dallas generating just two quarterback hits and one sack.
The offensive line kept the inside clean, pushing pass rushers to the outside and never forcing Rodgers off his spot. The one major gaffe was by center Corey Linsley who mistook Rodgers’ hand signal for “hike”, leading him to snap the ball early which resulted in a turnover.
Now as they prepare for Seattle, this is an improved group that should be more prepared for the loud noise in Seattle and the different looks the Seahawks will send their way.
Facing arguably the best offensive line in the game, it was up to Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion and Datone Jones to make something happen. Things were going to be physical in the trenches, but Daniels was certainly ready for it, getting in the face of his opponent early.
The unit did a solid job against the run, holding Murray to less than five rushing yards per carry. But Murray broke off two big runs to the outside with gains of 26 and 30, and was successful on first downs with multiple gains of six and eight yards.
Looked like Mike Daniels was getting held. Still gets to Romo, and Perry is there too. Third and 23 coming up. #Packers getting pressure.
— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) January 11, 2015
Daniels was once again a force to be reckoned with, creating penetration and wreaking havoc on Romo. Jones showed good alertness on Murray’s fumble, immediately jumping on it and covering it up. While Guion wasn’t a major presence, he took up blocks and did his part.
Many fans are still wondering, how does Brad Jones keep seeing the field? Just two weeks after keeping a Detroit Lions’ drive alive on a penalty, Jones was at it again against the Cowboys. Green Bay forced a stop on third down, but it was all for naught thanks to a Jones holding penalty. Dallas went on to score a touchdown and it was just one of the bigger mistakes Jones committed in the game.
While A.J. Hawk’s snaps have been on the decline recently, he started against the Cowboys, with Green Bay operating in its 3-4 base defense. He was largely a non-factor and was subbed out early on, with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers being moved around. Peppers forced two fumbles, including a crucial Murray turnover that would have been a Cowboys touchdown if not for the strip.
Green Bay didn’t have much success stopping Murray in the second half and Jason Witten had a big game as well, finishing with six receptions for 71 yards and picking up multiple first downs. The outside pressure from Nick Perry and Peppers worked well to confuse the Dallas offensive line, but there were stretches where they disappeared as well.
Things are never easy when facing Romo, Bryant, Witten and Terrance Williams. If you focus on stopping Murray, then the secondary is left out to win one-on-one battles. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers focused on stopping Murray, so it was up to Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Co. to step up.
Romo only attempted 19 passes against the Packers in a game that was more physical with long drives than many expected. He completed 15 of his 19 attempts and threw two touchdowns, but finished with only 191 yards.
The issue in this game wasn’t the coverage by Green Bay’s DB corps. The team just missed too many tackles.
Williams whiffed on tackling Williams on a short route, allowing the WR to take what should’ve been a moderate gain to the house. Tramon wasn’t the only Packer struggling to wrap up, Micah Hyde dove at turf and Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix took poor angles when coming down to try and stop Murray.
While holding Romo under 200 passing yards is a great accomplishment, he still finished with 10.1 yards per completion. Tackling has been an issue for Green Bay all season, and Seattle will certainly expose it once again next week.