Exorcising Demons in Lambeau: Cowboys vs. Packers Week 6 Recap
For the first time since 2008 and only the second time in 57 years (!), the Dallas Cowboys emerged from Lambeau Field with a win in the ledger. What’s more, they went in and dominated the Packers in a game that was commonly referred to as the biggest test of the year. It was pegged as a showdown between the unstoppable force of Dallas’s league leading run game and the immovable object of Green Bay’s number one ranked rush defense; it wasn’t much of a contest as the Cowboys ran the ball at will. Ezekiel Elliott extended his streak of games with 130+ yards to four in emphatic fashion, tallying his career high in rushing yardage with 157 at a healthy 5.6 yards per carry clip against a team that had only allowed 1.9 yards per carry up until that point.
Dak Prescott would start the game on shaky footing and went on to make a few questionable decisions turning the ball over twice, but much like he did during the game against San Francisco he was able to shake it off and help lead the team to an impressive victory. Although the streak is now over, the rookie quarterback left Lambeau with sole possession of the NFL record for pass attempts without an interception to begin a career, snatching it from some guy named Tom Brady, whoever that is. Prescott would finish the day with a stat line of 247 yards, 3 touchdowns, one interception and one fumble. It really is incredible to consider, but the Cowboys found their quarterback of the future with a compensatory fourth round pick; a compensatory pick that was awarded to them for “losing” Jeremy Parnell to the Jaguars in free agency.
The pass rush for the Cowboys looked anemic against the stout Packers offensive line, but the secondary continued its run of impressive showings by holding up in coverage even though Morris Claiborne was lost to injury early on. There was however one bright spot on the defensive line in second year undrafted free agent David Irving who won NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors on the heels of a stellar performance where he forced three fumbles and recorded a batted pass. Even more impressive was the fact that he produced those numbers while playing only 19 defensive snaps; he was a man possessed.
While Elliott and Prescott get much of the attention with their inspired performances, there were two unsung heroes that helped turn the tide of the game: offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and wide receiver Lucky Whitehead. Linehan in specific could very well be considered the MVP of the game after an immaculately orchestrated performance. After a few offensive series, the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator realized that Dom Capers had his Packers defense over-pursuing in their attempts to stop the run game. He turned that against them throughout the game, two plays in particular stand out and both featured the speedster Whitehead.
Facing third down and one pinned deep in their own territory with less than a minute left in the first half with no timeouts, Linehan brought out a jumbo package that featured backup offensive lineman Joe Looney lined up as a tight end. To Green Bay, this looked like another set-up for an Ezekiel Elliott run and Linehan knew it. Instead, he put Whitehead in motion as he usually does during these plays, seemingly getting ready to block for Elliott; but at the last moment, while Prescott and Elliott sold the fake, it was Lucky who got the carry and picked up 26 yards. A few passes later Dallas would log their second touchdown of the day. The second instance would happen in a very similar manner with Jason Witten and Whitehead lining up in what looked like a run play, once again Green Bay sold out to stop the run. Everyone except for defensive back Ladarius Gunter moved forward to try and plug the running lanes to stop Elliott. By the time Gunter realized that Whitehead was running a route instead of blocking, he was already in the second level and picked up 36 yards. The play could have resulted in a touchdown if Prescott had been able to lead his receiver a little better with the pass but that’s mere nitpicking.
It was yet another impressive showing from the Cowboys who must now be considered legitimate contenders in the NFC. They didn’t simply go into Green Bay and win a game in a hostile environment; they punched the Packers in the mouth and left them flummoxed, making Aaron Rodgers look pedestrian in the process. Dallas enters their bye week riding high and will be welcoming back some important contributors from the injury report in Orlando Scandrick and Chaz Green. Their next game will be against the division rival Eagles in week 8 and it’s hard to consider them anything but heavy favorites.
HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS?