Packers Complete the Process of Earning Trip to NFC Title Game

It was a strange, frustrating day from the start. The zebras were calling it close; the Pack was committing dumb penalties and Aaron Rodgers was moving around like he was 41, not 31. But he looked like a different player in the second half, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb made one big play after another, and then the Dez play happened.

I think we can all agree that the correct call was made. What we can debate is whether the rule is stupid and should be revisited. I went back and looked at the play this most resembled: the Calvin Johnson non-catch in the season opener in 2011. That one looks more egregious--but ultimately the same thing happened, the receiver lost control of the ball before finishing the play--or completing the process of the catch. I think the rule should be changed. Calvin's play looks like a catch and Dez's play looked like a catch.

When Mike McCarthy threw the challenge flag, I screamed at the TV screen. 'You'll be out of timeouts,' I yelled. Another example of McCarthy reaching for the flag when he should have kept it in his pocket. Whether it was desperation or whether someone on the sidelines or in the booth saw the move ball enough to warrant a second look, it was a great decision and the game turned on that call.

But back to the rest of the game. As gimpy, cautious and flat out injured Rodgers looked in the first half, he looked like a different guy in the second half. He slid around the pocket a bit, had more zip on the ball and looked much more confident in that calf. He finished with a 125.4 passer rating, after completing 75% of his passes in the second half. With the Cowboys rolling coverage to Jordy Nelson, he turned to rookie Davante Adams, whose career day was much needed. And then he turned to Randall Cobb who's tiptoe 31 yard catch near the end of the half set up the field goal that closed the gap to four at halftime.

Both Adams and Cobb went over 100 yards and Lacy did too--the first time in Packer playoff history that three players accomplished that feat. Lacy averaged over five yards per carry, despite missing some time with an asthma attack early.

The defense was led by Julius Peppers, who forced two fumbles (the one by Murray saved a potential TD run--there was nothing but green grass ahead of him) and had a sack, one of four on Tony Romo. The back to back sacks at the end of the third quarter ended a drive quickly and put the ball back in Rodgers' hands, and he took the team down for the go ahead score, punctuated by a ridiculous scoring toss to Richard Rodgers.

There were some uncharacteristic penalties, some missed tackles and some things that need to be cleaned up if they're going to earn a trip to Phoenix in a few weeks. Most importantly, the Packers will need a Rodgers who resembles the second half Rodgers if they're to have a chance against the Seahawks. But we'll enjoy this one for a couple of days.

The Pack is back in the NFC title game for the first time in four years and it feels awfully good. We'll find out soon enough if they are up to their next challenge.

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