Rodgers, Crosby’s Late Heroics Send Packers to NFC Championship

In a game on January 15 that pitted the visiting red-hot Green Bay Packers led by experienced quarterback Aaron Rodgers, against the host Dallas Cowboys, led by rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, it was the experienced Packers who stunned 93,396 fans in attendance at AT&T Stadium by defeating the top-seeded Cowboys by a score of 34-31. The contest featured two ties and two lead changes in the final 4:08 of the fourth quarter, which ended when Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby drilled a 51-yard field goal that hooked in the left upright as time expired, ending the Cowboys’ impressive season and granting the Packers their seventh trip to the NFC Championship Game.

Coming off of a convincing 38-13 win on January 8 over the New York Giants in the Wild-Card round, the Packers marched into AT&T Stadium with no fear and raced out to a 21-3 lead in the second quarter, aided by wide receiver-turned running back Ty Montgomery’s two rushing touchdowns, silencing the usually hostile Cowboys faithful [Cowboys fans]. However, the Cowboys were far from done as quarterback Dak Prescott led Dallas back with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant and then set up Dan Bailey for a 33-yard field to cut the lead to 21-13 at the half, energizing the crowd into a  frenzy.

Now a one-score game, the Cowboys went into the second half with a tons of momentum, but it was quickly sapped as Aaron Rodgers found tight end Jared Cook for a three-yard score, increasing the Packers’ lead to two scores at 28-13. The Cowboys got the ball and proceeded to drive to the Green Bay 19-yard line before Packers cornerback Micah Hyde jumped a screen pass and intercepted Prescott’s pass, returning it out to the 38-yard line and sending fans into a panic in the process. Rodgers led the Packers to the Dallas 38-yard line, but on 3rd &8 he was intercepted by Dallas’ Jeff Heath who returned it 27 yards out to the 41, giving the Cowboys a little hope. Prescott and co. took advantage of the good field position and once again cut the lead to single digits as tight end Jason Witten hauled in a 6-yard pass from Prescott, bringing the Cowboys to within eight points of the Packers at 28-20. After the Cowboys defense came through with a much-needed stop, Ezekiel Elliott churned out 34 yards on the ensuing drive which ended with Dez Bryant’s 7-yard touchdown reception followed by Prescott’s 2 yard run on the conversion attempt to tie the game at 28 with 4:08 to play.

On the Packers’ next drive, Rodgers completed a 16-yard pass to Davante Adams and then decided to take matters into his own hands two plays later with a 5-yard scramble that put the ball at the Cowboys 45-yard line and was the final play before the two-minute warning. On the next play, Rodgers threw a deep pass down the right sideline that was intended for Montgomery. But the ball sailed over his head and was intercepted by Heath once again. However, there was a penalty on the play for defensive pass interference against Dallas, which negated the interception and moved the ball to the Cowboys 35 yard line. Kicker Mason Crosby  calmly drilled a 56-yard field goal with 1:33 left to give the Packers a 31-28 lead.

But once again, the Cowboys came roaring back, as Prescott found wide receiver Terrance Williams for a 24-yard reception and then Jason Witten for eleven more yards, bringing the ball to the Green Bay 40 yard line in almost warp speed. Now it was Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey’s turn to make a long field goal, and he too came through in the clutch by sinking a 52-yard field goal with a mere 35 seconds remaining in the game. After Bailey’s kickoff soared into the end zone for a touchback, overtime seemed certain to some. But not to Rodgers and the Packers. After four plays that netted a mere seven yards, the Packers faced third and 20 from their own 32 yard line with only 12 seconds to play. Rodgers proceeded to do the seemingly impossible, as he rolled left and fired a laser of a pass down the left sideline where Jared Cook made a spectacular play by hauling in the pass and keeping both feet inbounds while doing so, resulting in a 35 yard gain that set up Crosby once again with an opportunity to nail a clutch field goal, this time from 52 yards out. He made the kick, but the Cowboys had called time out, forcing Crosby to try it again. But he was true once more, as the kick just hooked inside he left upright as time expired, stunning the Cowboys and ending their season, while sending the Packers to Atlanta to face the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game in the process.

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