Romo Giveth and Packers Taketh Away

As season-savers go, this one ranks right up there. Here was my Sunday afternoon: I watched little to none of the first half, cheering on my eldest at his basketball tournament.

While juggling scorekeeper duties and keeping an eye on the Red Zone on my Droid Maxx, I caught a play here and a play there. What I saw was disheartening. Dallas was moving the ball at will and the Packers offense couldn't muster a thing. The Cowboys' final touchdown of the first half was the last thing I saw on the Chanhassen Rec Center TV as we headed for home. 26-3. Ugh.

So I settle in for the inevitable. After giving up a Cowboys record 300 yards of offense in the first half, the Packers defense looked finished. But a funny thing happened in the second half. Dallas continued to throw the ball, despite the big lead. You gotta love the Cowboys. They ran it down the Packers' throats in the first half, yet handed off to DeMarco Murray just seven times in the second half.

Then Eddie Lacy opened the second half with a 60 yard burst and Jordy Nelson made a circus touchdown catch and the Pack had a pulse. A faint pulse, but a pulse. Matt Flynn found his rhythm and the Packers got closer and closer.

The back of our brains were reminding us that if we could get within a score we could factor in the Tony Romo effect, one that takes hold in the fourth quarters of games and increases in frequency as the calendar moves closer to the end of the year.

First we had to go through some heartbreak. It looked like the Pack was poised to take the lead trailing 29-24, when Tramon Williams appeared to pick off Romo. Replay took it away and the 'Boys converted the third down when Mike Neal was mistakenly flagged for encroachment. It triggered Romo's last scoring drive, putting them up 36-24 and it looked like it was over.

But Flynn wasn't finished. His 80 yard drive was a lot of Lacy but also some key throws, like the third down conversion to Andrew Quarless (whose emergence the last couple weeks has been huge). When he hit James Jones for the score cutting the lead to 36-31, the ball was back in Romo's court. But they couldn't resist putting the ball back in the air. Sam Shields' athletic interception put the Pack in position to take the lead and Flynn delivered again. Starting at midfield, the Flynn/Lacy combo platter moved effortlessly down the field against Dallas' putrid and exhausted defense.

Romo had one more chance, but of course he threw another pick. In a play that was called as a run, but audibled to a pass by Romo, Tramon Williams made the play of the day, the acrobatic pick that this time was not reversed. Romo and his receiver Beasley were not on the same page and Williams served up the dagger.

It goes down as the Pack's greatest comeback ever and the Cowboys' biggest collapse ever. A december clash that could have huge post-season implications for both teams. The Cowboys will still win the East if they win their last two, but they had a golden opportunity to take a one game lead, after the Vikings shocked the Eagles.

As for the Pack, they'll be cheering on the Ravens to spring the upset on Monday night. But even if the Lions win, they have to keep winning. The final weekend is looming as gigantic, since Minnesota has proved that they're not quitting. If Rodgers can come back Sunday to shake off the rust against the mediocre Steelers, the North could be decided at Soldier Field on the final day of the year.

At about 5pm on Sunday, it was beginning to look like that game might be irrelevant. But after a heroic second half by Flynn, Lacy, Shields, Williams and the rest, the Packers somehow are right back in it. With a healthy Rodgers they might actually become dangerous.

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