On Sunday, the Packers improved their record to 4-1 with a 34-24 victory over the Cowboys. After starting the season 3-0, Dallas now falls to 3-2 after dropping two straight. Here is a recap of the Packers @ Cowboys game from Week 5.
For both teams, the opening possessions provided less than ideal results. The Packers began with the football but went 3-and-out and had to punt. The drive had a promising start until David Bakhtiari committed back-back penalties, one which nullified a 1st-down. Discipline was an issue throughout this game as Green Bay was flagged 9 times, not counting a few declined penalty calls.
The Cowboys moved the ball more effectively on their opening drive. Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliot each gained a 1st-down and put Dallas in scoring range. It was especially impressive for Cooper who was getting separation all game against Jaire Alexander. However, Cooper would also be the reason the drive ended. Dak Prescott put a pass right on his hands, but Cooper ended up tipping the football right to Alexander. Cooper created separation from the cornerback and probably could have scored a TD on that play. Instead, it ended up as an INT and the Packers regained the football.
Building Blocks of Success
This time, Green Bay made no mistakes as they converted the turnover into points. Marquez Valdes-Scantling got things started with an 18-yard reception, in what turned out to be his only catch of the day. On this drive, Aaron Jones began to establish his ground game dominance and capped it off with an 18-yard TD run. Jones took the handoff and ran through a hole on the right side of the line, created by Bryan Bulaga and Billy Turner. In an impressive move, after getting to the 2nd level, Jones cut left and his burst explosiveness allowed him to find the end zone.
Great offensive line play was a crucial component of this Packers victory. After forcing the Cowboys to punt, Green Bay’s offense got right back to work. The offensive line protected Aaron Rodgers very well, most evident on a 26-yard throw to Robert Tonyan to set up the team in the red zone. However, the true success of this drive (and game in general) was the run blocking. Whether it was Jones or Tra Carson, the running back had good holes to run through. On his 2nd TD of the contest, Jones ran through a hole created by Elgton Jenkins and Corey Linsley.
Unfortunately for Corey Linsley, the play that made the score 14-0 was his last of the game. Linsley entered the concussion protocol and sat out the rest of the game. After being relatively healthy through the first 4 games of 2019, the Packers were hit hard by injuries in this contest. On top of Linsley, 5 other starters left the game at various points. Rookie safety Darnell Savage, and linebacker B.J. Goodson both exited in the 1st half. In the final two frames, both of the team’s primary outside linebackers left. Preston Smith did not return, while Za’Darius Smith left the field but then came back on two separate occasions. Later on, cornerback Kevin King also exited the contest.
The only good news regarding injuries was that Bryan Bulaga played the entire game, after leaving midway through the previous contest. Also, the lack of Linsley’s presence was minimized by the great play of Lucas Patrick. Taking over at center is never easy, but Patrick did a great job of snapping the ball and fulfilling his run-blocking and pass-protecting duties. Should Linsley miss additional time, Patrick seems capable of keeping the offense in good hands.
Other reserve players also stepped up. Will Redmon had a great game both on special teams and on defense. Operating as a hybrid linebacker/defensive back, Redmon actually led the Packers defenders with 9 tackles in this game. Another member of the secondary that had to play additional time, and in multiple roles was Josh Jackson. He lined up as a safety, as a slot-corner and as an outside cornerback. Also, in his first game of 2019, linebacker Oren Burks played some snaps and contributed on defense. Look for all of those players, but especially Burks, to see their roles increase.
The Cowboys continued to move the ball well on offense. However, as they got into scoring range, Dak Prescott threw his 2nd INT of the contest. Unlike the 1st instance, where the fault fell on receiver Amari Cooper, this turnover had more to do with an impressive defensive play. In the Packers defensive zone, Chandon Sullivan made a leaping grab to snag the INT out of the air.
After exchanging 3-and-outs. The Packers got more points with a Mason Crosby FG to make it 17-0. It was a masterful drive orchestrated by Aaron Rodgers. Even though they did not get into the end zone, that drive took up over 6 minutes, as Green Bay got as far as the Cowboys 1-yard line. It was a slight flashback to the week 4 contest against the Eagles where the Packers were unable to punch in the football from the 1-yard line.
Afterwards, the Cowboys had a chance to score some points before halftime. Prescott led a drive that ended with a 54-yard FG attempt. Unfortunately for Dallas, Brett Maher missed the FG and the Cowboys went into halftime with 0 points scored.
The Cowboys got the football to start the 2nd half, and thus had another chance to cut into the 3-score game. Credit to the Packers defense as they forced a punt.
During the very next possession, Green Bay put more points on the board. Full back Danny Vitale contributed to this drive, including a 9-yard reception on the very first play. Vitale was used far more often as a route runner than as a lead-blocker. In fact, Aaron Jones seemed to have his best success running the football without a lead blocker. Some of his best runs came in either 2TE or 3 WR sets, personnel packages without a full back. That includes his 3rd TD of the game, which capped off this drive and made the score 24-0.
The Cowboys did score on the very next drive, but still only made it a 24-3 game. However, one good development in this possession was that Dak Prescott began to demonstrate his connection with both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. The back-shoulder throw now seems to be a key part of the Cowboys passing arsenal. This is great not only for this game but for the rest of the season. That type of throw requires good timing and anticipation on the part of the quarterback. These are elements that Prescott did not fully master earlier in his career, which demonstrates that the quarterback is improving. Even with all of the INTs in this game, it is a good sign that Prescott was able to connect on these throws.
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Aaron Jones joined the Packers record books with this performance. After the Cowboys finally got on the scoreboard, the Packers paused that momentum with yet another TD drive. On the first play of this possession, Jones took a direct snap and ran it for a 1st-down. The next play featured impressive pass-protection by the 3rd-round rookie Elgon Jenkins. In a move usually reserved for run-blocking, Jenkins pulled out to the right from his left guard spot and blocked an edge rusher 1-on-1. This provided enough protection for Aaron Rodgers to get the ball deep. A few plays later, Jones scored TD #4 on the day. That tied a Packers record and made it a 31-3 contest.
Jones’ contributions were certainly not limited to his TDs or even just the run game. Jones was actually the Packers leading receiver with 7 receptions (off of 8 targets) for 75 yards. It does seem like throwing to the backs was a big part of the Green Bay game plan. 13 of Rodgers’ 31 targets went to either Jones, Tra Carson or Danny Vitale.
The Cowboys retook the football with 3:30 left in the 3rd quarter. From that point on, they would outscore the Packers 21-3. That comeback attempt began with an efficient 6-play TD drive. Both Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb caught passes for 1st-downs. Cobb was playing against Green Bay for the 1st time in his career after spending 8 seasons with the team. It was not quite the revenge game that he wanted as he only caught half of his 6 targets.
The Cowboys passing attack was mostly centered around Cooper and Michael Gallup who each saw 14 targets. Cooper capped off this 3rd quarter drive with the 1st Dallas TD of the game.
After forcing the Packers to punt, the Cowboys scored another TD, this time courtesy of Ezekiel Elliott. It was arguably Elliott’s best drive of the contest as he also caught a 27-yard reception along the sideline to set up the Cowboys with good field position. His 5-yard TD run made it 31-17 and gave Dallas some hope with their 3rd consecutive scoring drive.
Yet another Packers punt was followed by a 3rd INT for Dak Prescott. Kevin King, who had provided good coverage most of the day, made an athletic play to pick off Prescott’s pass. Unfortunately, he was injured on the play and did not return. King did not practice at all in the week leading up to this game and it appears that he aggravated his injury. King could potentially miss some time moving forward.
The Packers managed to score 3 points off of the turnover and restored a 3-score lead. However, the Cowboys would not go away. With just over half a quarter left to play, Dallas quickly scored a TD on a 2-play drive. Prescott threw a bomb to Amari Cooper along the sideline. He caught the pass and made both Jaire Alexander and Will Redmon miss. Then Cooper proceeded to run into the end zone for a 54-yard score. It was the longest play from scrimmage for the entire game. Even in the loss, Cooper put up a career-high 226 receiving yards on 7 receptions.
With only a 34-24 lead and 7:46 left to play, the Packers needed a drive and they got it, somewhat. Aaron Rodgers orchestrated a 6-play possession that lasted 4:13. While it ended in a punt, Green Bay was smart in that they ran plays designed to drain the clock. Aaron Jones had -10 yard run, and a couple of plays later, Rodgers took an 11-yard loss in a sack. But they were not failures as the clock kept running.
The Cowboys got the ball back and needed 2 scores to tie the game. To his credit, Dak Prescott got them into FG range with a series on 1st-down throws to Randall Cobb, Michael Gallup and Jason Witten. However, Brett Maher ended any hope of a comeback by missing a 33-yard FG attempt. With no remaining timeouts for Dallas and only 1:41 left in the game, the Packers kneeled down 3 times to seal the 34-24 victory.
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