It wasn’t always pretty, but the Packers scrapped their way to an overtime, 31-28 win over former coach Mike McCarthy and his Dallas Cowboys Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
After a scoreless first quarter, Dallas drew first blood on a Dak Prescott to CeeDee Lamb three-yard touchdown pass. Green Bay evened the game back on an Aaron Rodgers to Christian Watson 58-yard strike. The pass was reminiscent of the one Watson dropped in Week 1 on the Packers first play of the season.
Watson dropped that pass. And he dropped a couple of other passes on Sunday evening against the Cowboys. But the ones he caught were ones that etched his name into Packers lore.
In all, the rookie second round pick from North Dakota State caught four passes, three of them for scores, for 107 yards.
“I was calm, cool and collected,” Watson told reporters after the game, in reference to the two drops he had on the game’s opening drive.
“The ball is still coming your way, buddy,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers told Watson. “Let’s get one of these. Let’s make a play.”
Rodgers finished 14-20 for 224 yards and the three touchdown passes to Watson. So, while he threw the ball less than he usually does, the four-time NFL MVP was extremely efficient.
Turnovers proved costly for Green Bay. Beleaguered punt returner Amari Rodgers may have fumbled and muffed his way out of a job after bobbling one punt and fumbling another back to Dallas. After his final fumble led to a quick Dallas touchdown, he was replaced by Keisean Nixon.
“I think we have to go through and evaluate the situation,” LaFleur added when asked about who will return punts moving forward. “It was a critical turnover that we can’t have and that’s something that we talk about all the time. Obviously, the ball is everything, and when you have it in your hands, you hold it for everybody in this organization and we can’t put it on the ground.”
Late in the third quarter, Dallas took a 28-14 lead after blown coverage from Amari Rodgers and Darnell Savage led to an easy Prescott-to Lamb 35-yard touchdown pass.
But Green Bay stormed back, Rodgers engineering scoring drives of 76 and 89 yards, both ending in Watson touchdown receptions.
After the Packers tied the game at 28-28 with 2:29 left, Dallas and Green Bay traded three-and-outs. The Cowboys had the ball when time in regulation ran out.
Dallas won the overtime coin toss, but McCarthy elected to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Packers 35-yard line rather than attempt a 52-yard field goal.
Turning the ball over on downs, Rodgers marched his team to the 10-yard line, where Mason Crosby calmly kicked the game-winning 28-yard field goal.
“Man, it’s been a long time to stand up here and have a smile,” LaFleur began his postgame remarks with. “I’m super proud of our guys just being down 14 points in the fourth quarter. Being able to battle back. Obviously getting some key stops at critical times was huge for us and then to be able to convert some of those long drives into points. I wasn’t happy with the way the fourth quarter two-minute situation ended. but our guys bailed me out.”
McCarthy, in his return to Lambeau Field, was disappointed in the result.
“I am very frustrated with the end of the game obviously,” the Cowboys coach said. “I think just the biggest thing for us is we need to go there and just learn from these games. I love these kinds of games. You need these tight games to get to where you want to go. I thought we were in total control, but in overtime you know obviously the penalties and things. Very, very, very frustrating.”
The Packers (4-6) have a short week to prepare for Thursday Night Football when the Tennessee Titans (6-3) come to Lambeau Field. Kickoff is set for 7:20 PM.