ARLINGTON, Texas — If the Dallas Cowboys need any reminder of their magical 2016 season, there’s this: In five weeks, they have three losses. They lost just three games all of last season.
Just as he did in January, in the divisional round of the playoffs, quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore the guts out of the Cowboys — this time with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 11 seconds to play to give the Green Bay Packers a 35-31 win.
After Dak Prescott‘s 11-yard touchdown run gave the Cowboys a 31-28 lead, Rodgers played a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better,” moving Green Bay from its 25 with 1:13 remaining to the end zone by mixing in passes to Adams and Martellus Bennett, and using an 18-yard run on third-and-8 from the Dallas 30 after he escaped from Benson Mayowa and David Irving.
Instead of breaking the Cowboys’ hearts with a third-and-20 completion along the sideline, he was able to find Adams in single coverage with rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Unfortunately for Lewis, Rodgers’ pass was perfect, just over his helmet, and Adams, who was not sure he was going to play until Saturday because of a concussion, was able to get his feet in bounds.
For the second time in nine months, the Cowboys scored 31 points against the Packers and lost.
“A little bit, man,” defensive end David Irving said when if it felt like the same scenario as the playoff loss. “That pressure, how close it was, them on that finishing drive, him making that one pass to win the game again. … It felt similar. Hurts just as much.”
It ruined what could have been one of Prescott’s best moments, directing a 17-play drive that covered 79 yards and lasted 8:43. His touchdown was out of the Mississippi State playbook, a zone-read keeper with Packers linebacker Ahmad Brooks crashing hard on Ezekiel Elliott.
Prescott threw three touchdown passes on the Cowboys’ first three drives, but a fourth-quarter interception went through Terrance Williams‘ hands and into those of Damarious Randall for a 21-yard pick-six. It was Prescott’s fourth interception of the season.
Just as the Cowboys have lost as many games so far as they did all of last year, Prescott has as many interceptions as he did a year ago.
The Cowboys will have two weeks to sit on this loss and wonder which direction their season will go before playing the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 22.
With back-to-back conference losses, the Cowboys did themselves no favors when it comes to tiebreakers later in the season.
The Cowboys have lost two straight games at AT&T Stadium and find themselves thanking their lucky stars the New York Giants have yet to win a game and in third place in the NFC East, two games behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
Most importantly, they find themselves understanding just how magical things were in 2016.