Packers oust Cowboys in thriller
The Green Bay Packers recorded a thrilling 34-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL playoffs on Sunday.
Green Bay's victory over the Cowboys was eerily similar to the Packers' win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
The Packers jumped out to a 21-3 lead in that win and did the same thing to the Cowboys on Sunday.
After Dallas grabbed a 3-0 lead on their opening drive, the Packers (12-6) rattled off 21 straight points as quarterback Aaron Rodgers caught fire.
RODGERS THE TRICKSTER
Rodgers drew the Cowboys offsides and hit tight end Richard Rodgers on the free play for a perfectly placed 34-yard touchdown pass.
But just as the Steelers climbed back from a 21-3 deficit with a pair of touchdowns, the Cowboys (13-4) scored 10 straight points before half-time to make it a one-score game. The big play was a 40-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Dez Bryant with five minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the half.
After Pittsburgh got back in the game, Rodgers made it a two-score game with a touchdown pass to Greg Jennings. He did the same again Sunday, opening the second half by leading a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a three-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook. The drive began with Rodgers scrambling out of the pocket to find Randall Cobb, who caught a 25-yard pass up the sideline and stayed in bounds thanks to a remarkable toe drag.
The Cowboys clawed back Sunday, capitalising on a Rodgers interception with a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten with 11:39 remaining in the game. It was the first postseason touchdown of Witten's 14-year Hall of Fame career. The Cowboys tied it up with 4:08 remaining as Prescott and Bryant hooked up again from seven yards out. Prescott ran in the two-point conversion to lock it up at 28-28.
Prescott was 24 of 38 for 302 yards and became the first rookie quarterback with three touchdowns in a postseason game.
RODGERS THE MAGICIAN
But Rodgers showed his MVP form with a go-ahead drive that ended with Mason Crosby's record 56-yard field goal with 1:33 remaining. Even after the Cowboys tied it up on Dan Bailey's 52-yard field goal, the Packers got the ball back with 35 seconds remaining and Rodgers again worked his magic.
An incredible 35-yard pass to Cook on a third-and-20 got the Packers in position for Crosby's game-winning 51-yard kick as time expired to send the Packers to next Sunday's NFC championship game at Atlanta.
"It was a great catch by Jared," Rodgers told Fox Sports. "It's just kind of schoolyard at times. Jared just kept on coming and make a hell of a catch.
"We're going to enjoy the heck out of this game."
Rodgers finished 27 of 42 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the Super Bowl victory six years ago.
RUN THE TABLE
Sunday's win helps erase years of pain from the Packers' divisional playoff losses to the Cowboys in 1993 and 1994, and in the NFC championship game in 1995. This time it was the Packers winning in Texas and ending the Cowboys' hopes for a Super Bowl.
The Packers, who have now won eight straight, went through Atlanta to reach the Super Bowl six years ago and will have to do the same again this year to get to Houston.