The Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys are set to battle in the 2023 NFC Wild Card round this Sunday, and this marks the ninth postseason battle between the two teams. This rivalry has had its dramatic moments, some that have become iconic fixtures when retelling the history of the NFL, and it has involved a Who’s Who of Legendary Coaches; Super Bowl winners Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, Mike Holmgren, and Mike McCarthy have all had their hands in this competitive friction.
However, the second-most memorable playoff matchup between the Packers and the Cowboys may best be known for the rekindling of a phrase that had been previously designated to first-time diamond buyers.
MEMORABLE MOMENT #2: January 15, 2017–”He went to Jared!”
With all due respect to Mason Crosby, who clobbered not one but two 50-plus yard field goals in the final two minutes of the game, and the famous diamond company that introduced nervous-to-be grooms to the economics of the engagement ring, this 2016 NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be forever known as the “Jared Cook Catch” game.
PACKERS THREATENED TO RUN AWAY WITH THE GAME EARLY
In the first half, the Packers looked like they were going to make quick work of the Cowboys and eliminate any drama and doubt of the outcome. After Dallas’ Dan Bailey kicked a field goal ending the Cowboys’ opening drive, Green Bay rifled off 21 straight points behind a touchdown reception by Richard Rodgers and two short scoring plunges by Ty Montgomery, the second coming with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter.
The Cowboys got off the deck thanks to a 40-yard scoring strike from Dak Prescott to Dez Bryant, and when Bailey kicked his second field goal, Dallas was within one score at halftime.
THE SECOND HALF FIREWORKS
Green Bay’s defense stiffened in the third quarter. They held Dallas scoreless while adding a touchdown of their own, a short 3-yard pass from Aaron Rodges to tight end Jared Cook, to take a commanding 28-13 lead heading into the final period.
Two Prescott touchdown throws in the fourth quarter, first to Jason Witten, then to Bryant, made the score 28-26 with 4:08 to play. Prescott ran in a two-point conversion to tie the game.
CROSBY TAKES OVER
After the Packers’ next drive stalled at the Dallas 38, Crosby drilled a 56-yard field goal to take a three-point lead with 1:33 to play. Green Bay hoped this was the dagger to end the game, but little did anyone know that the excitement was just getting started.
Starting their drive at their 25-yard line, the Cowboys needed only 26 seconds to gain 35 yards and invade Green Bay’s territory. On 3rd and 3 from the Packers’ 33, Nick Perry batted down a Prescott pass, forcing fourth down. Bailey calmly nailed a 50-yard field goal to tie the game at 31 with 35 seconds to go.
RODGERS TO COOK
Montgomery took a short Rodgers pass 12 yards to the 42-yard line on 2nd down, but safety Jeff Heath sacked Rodgers for a 10-yard loss on the next play. After an incompletion and facing a 3rd and 20 from their 32-yard line, Rodgers gathered his offense for the play of the game. In fact, this play was voted the 2017 ESPY Play of the Year.
Rodgers took the shotgun snap with 12 seconds to go in the game. Immediately, he turned his back to the line to move left. He drifted free of defenders to the numbers to buy time and space. Still finding nobody open, Rodgers moved forward, careful not to cross the line of scrimmage. From the 29-yard line and with both feet facing forward, Rodgers somehow flicked the ball down the left sideline. 40 yards in the air going the wrong way, into the waiting arms of Jared Cook.
The play was ruled complete, and Cook was confident the play would not be overturned upon review. “I knew it was good,” Cook said of the catch, per ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. “It was a perfect throw by Aaron [Rodgers].” Cook tiptoed the sideline, cradled the ball in his arms, and fell out of bounds at the 33-yard line to stop the clock with three seconds to go. Crosby calmly guided his ensuing field goal inside the left upright, giving the Packers a thrilling 34-31 win.
Emotions from those who played the biggest roles were understandably high after the game. “Unbelievable effort. I mean, what a game, what a game,” said Rodgers.
Coach Mike McCarthy echoed his quarterback’s comments.”I can’t say enough about my football team’s resiliency,” McCarthy told reporters. “Obviously a fantastic finish. The execution there, the throw by Aaron and the catch by Jared Cook and Mason Crosby being able to knock it through twice … a pretty good insight into who we are as a football team.”
The Packers would lose to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game the following week, but thanks to Crosby, Cook, and Rodgers, the rivalry between Green Bay and Dallas acquired a brand new classic to add to its collection.