Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackleTyrone Crawford
(98) fights with Green Bay Packers guardT.J. Lang
(70) in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
We’ll start with some areas that made a strong impact on the outcome of the contest, but most likely aren’t being given their proper due.
The Bricks Of The Wall
Once again, the offensive line was shining bright for Green Bay. This always-underrated group managed to let up only one sack and two QB hits total despite the inability of Rodgers to move around like the team is accustomed to.
They were also a key part of the Packers garnering a strong game on the ground as well (more on that later).
Because of their play, Green Bay’s offense is able to put their impressive collection of skill-position players to use to the best of their abilities.
Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys running backDeMarco Murray
(29) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Green Bay Packers outside linebackerJulius Peppers
(56) in the third quarter in the second half in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Julius Peppers may not be the force he used to on the field, but he has shown at multiple times this year that he’s found at least some of that gear that was missing from his play in recent years.
Sunday was no different. He didn’t impact every play, but he did manage a few major ones. He garnered one of Green Bay’s four sacks on the day, while also forcing two different fumbles. One of those happened on a play where DeMarco Murray looked like he would surely take it to the house too, so it was hugely positive for the defense that Peppers came up with the strip when he did.
Another impactful game like this from Peppers against the Seahawks would go a long way towards helping keep Green Bay in the game and giving Aaron Rodgers more opportunities to put up points.
Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiverDez Bryant
(88) is unable to catch a pass against Green Bay Packers cornerbackSam Shields
(37) in the fourth quarter in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Unlike the previous two areas, this one probably receives way too much credence in terms of the effect on the game.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me break it down for you (and here’s a link to the play as well).
With under five minutes in the game and the score 26-21 Green Bay’s way, Dallas faced a 4th-&-2 in Green Bay territory. Tony Romo drops back, sees nothing short, then launches a deep ball to Dez Bryant. Bryant jumps up high, snags the ball over excellent coverage by Sam Shields and comes down with what looked like a truly exceptional reception to put Dallas at the GB 1-yard line.
Mike McCarthy challenges the play. After review, it turns out that the ball moved around after Dez went to the ground. Which means what appeared to be a catch was actually now an incompletion. Green Bay got the ball back, kept moving and eventually ran out the clock to win.
A majority of people out there are probably outraged over this, but here’s the thing: based on the rules, it was the correct call. The ‘process of the catch’ or ‘Calvin Johnson‘ rule, as it tends to go by, states that any time a receiver goes to the ground during an attempt at a catch, they must hold control throughout the entire process.
Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) is unable to catch a pass against Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) in the fourth quarter in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Taking that into account, it doesn’t matter how many times Dez put his feet to the ground (3 times in this case); because he was going to the ground as part of the process of catching the ball, he needed to control it all the way through his fall and contact with the ground.
When the play happened real-time, I knew this would be the outcome if called correctly, based on the way the rules are written; the original Calvin Johnson play that got the rule dubbed with his name has stuck heavy in my mind since I saw it live. Despite what anyone may think of the rule — I personally don’t like it myself despite benefiting from it this weekend — the refs made the right call based on it.
The biggest thing with getting stuck on that ruling though is that even with that play being called a catch, the Cowboys don’t necessarily win. They would be on the one-yard line, so they probably score a touchdown. But there were still over 4 minutes left at this point, so even if they run time down before a score Green Bay would most likely see the ball again in one of three situations with at least 2 minutes remaining and multiple timeouts:
– 27-26 (TD + missed PAT or 2-pt conversion)
– 28-26 (TD + PAT)
– 29-26 (TD + made 2-pt conversion)
That situation doesn’t mean an automatic win for Dallas or Green Bay — anything can happen on any given play or drive — but if you were supporting the Packers at that point, you would probably feel pretty confident in Aaron Rodgers to lead the team to either a victory or at least overtime. Even with his calf injury, he had managed to overcome a slow start to get hot in the second half and play like the likely-MVP candidate that he has been this season.
Picking against him there just wouldn’t be smart; that’s why this point only ends up as a ‘quick hit’ for me rather than a main source of why Green Bay won. I’m not saying that the overturning of the catch doesn’t matter — it does, to a high degree actually — but it is not the sole reason for the Green Bay victory; more credit should be given to what Green Bay made happen on their end, not whatever the officiating decided to take away.
Next: Lacy keeps the defense honest