‘Half Mary’ a winner: Rodgers’ pass gets halfway to end zone, setting up Green Bay Packers’ kick to beat Dallas Cowboys, 34-31
Maybe just call it a “Half Mary.”
Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal on the next play as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday.
The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook came on third-and-20 with 12 seconds left, and after the Cowboys tied the score twice in the final 4:08 after trailing by 18 in the first half and by 15 to start the fourth quarter.
“I love the opportunity to go out there and make plays,” said Rodgers, who threw for two touchdowns to give him 21 during the winning streak, although he threw his first interception during the run.
“I was disappointed we had a chance there at 28-13 to go up three scores and make it really difficult for ’em and I threw a pick there on third down. We were able to come down and have two good drives toward the end of the game.”
Dallas’ rally was led by rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their playoff debuts, and the first two career postseason touchdown catches for star receiver Dez Bryant along with the first for 14th-year tight end Jason Witten.
“We’re not going to stop no matter what the score is, no matter the game,” Prescott said. “It shows the true character of this team.”
Crosby’s winner was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:33 — two from Crosby and one from Dallas’ Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called timeout before the first attempt.
“It’s kind of a blur right now,” Crosby said. “When we have 35 seconds on the clock and that our offense can move the ball into field goal range and a manageable kick, that’s just special.”
Rodgers, who sparked last week’s wild-card win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before halftime, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan on Sunday.
It will be Rodgers’ third NFC title game — all on the road for Green Bay (12-6) — and he got there in his first game at the home of the Cowboys since he won his only title as the Super Bowl MVP six years ago.
Cook, who had six catches for a team-leading 104 yards, kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds on the decisive play. The play was confirmed on review.
“I saw him rolling to the right it was underneath coverage in front of me,” Cook said. “If I got over the top of them, Aaron would put the ball in the right place. Put it right on the sideline with enough room to get my feet down. It was a heck of a throw by him.”
Prescott, whose 11-game win streak during the regular season sent Tony Romo to the bench when he returned from a preseason back injury, rallied the Cowboys in a way to make Dallas’ 10-year starter proud.
The Cowboys (13-4) almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the playoffs after trailing by 15 in the fourth. The first was Dallas in 1972, when “Captain Comeback,” Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys in San Francisco.
Instead, top-seeded Dallas ended up with its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game.