Jordan Love and Packers pull a wild-card stunner, beating Cowboys
Jan 14, 2024, 8:13 PM
(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, Texas — Aaron Jones grew up idolizing Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys.
The Green Bay running back found a new, and most painful, way to torment the all-time rushing leader’s former team.
Jones ran for three touchdowns, Jordan Love threw for three more in his postseason debut, Darnell Savage returned an interception 64 yards for a score and the Packers handed the Cowboys their first home loss since the 2022 opener in a 48-32 wild-card stunner Sunday.
“This was my dad’s team,” Jones, who has 488 yards in four career games against the Cowboys, said of his late father. “You always want to be like your father, so that’s how it became my team. Dallas is a special place to me, so it’s a full-circle moment. It feels like home.”
Even against a team that had won 16 consecutive home games.
Green Bay (10-8) will visit top-seeded San Francisco in the divisional round next weekend.
Dak Prescott threw two interceptions before three mostly empty touchdown passes in another playoff flop for him and the No. 2 seed Cowboys (12-6).
The first home loss for the Cowboys since now-retired Tom Brady and Tampa Bay beat them 16 months ago was also the most points the franchise has allowed in a postseason game. The previous high was 38.
The Cowboys, who haven’t reached an NFC championship game since the most recent of their five Super Bowl titles 28 years ago, didn’t trail by more than eight points at AT&T Stadium this season before falling behind 27-0 in the first half.
The loss will raise questions about the future of Dallas coach Mike McCarthy after the Cowboys lost their playoff opener at home for the second time in three postseasons under the former Green Bay coach.
Dallas is the first team to win at least 12 games in three consecutive playoff seasons without making a conference title game.
The Cowboys surged to the NFC East title in the final two weeks and had a chance to be home at least twice this postseason. Instead, they head into a suddenly uncertain offseason.
“Just shocked, honestly,” Prescott said. “From the beginning of the game, we got beat. There’s no which way around it. There’s no way to sugar coat it. Shock.”
Romeo Doubs had a career-high 151 yards receiving a week after being hospitalized with a chest injury as the Packers rolled after finishing the regular season 6-2 to grab the NFC’s final playoff spot.
“We came in here with a mindset of we’re going to dominate,” Love said. “A lot of people were counting us out, and we didn’t care about that.”
The Packers have never lost in six trips to AT&T Stadium — including the Super Bowl over Pittsburgh during the 2010 season. They now have two playoff victories over the Cowboys after Aaron Rodgers led a 34-31 divisional win when Dallas was the NFC’s top seed in 2016, Prescott’s rookie year.
Those Packers let a 21-3 lead slip away. These Packers, with the four-time MVP’s successor, left little doubt with a 48-16 fourth-quarter lead before two late Dallas TDs.
“We knew it would take time,” Jones said. “You would hear me during the season and other players (say), we were right there, we’re right there, we’re right there. We’ve been able to get over that hump.”
Facing the NFL’s fifth-best defense, Green Bay matched its Super Bowl-winning team from 2010 for the most points in a playoff game. That was also on the road, a 48-21 victory at top-seeded Atlanta in the divisional round.
Doubs, who returned to the Green Bay sideline after his hospital trip before the end of last week’s 17-9 home victory over Chicago that secured a playoff spot, had 102 yards at halftime. It was seven more than the second-year player’s previous best.
First-half catches of 22, 26 and 39 yards helped get Love going, and the fourth-year QB finished 16 of 21 for 272 yards as the Packers scored touchdowns on six of their first seven offensive possessions in their highest-scoring game since 2014.
One of them was set up by Prescott’s first interception at the Dallas 19-yard line, from Jaire Alexander after he was questionable coming in when he sprained an ankle during the week.
A 46-yard grab by Doubs early in the second half helped finish off the Cowboys after they had scored 10 points on either side of the break. Doubs, Luke Musgrave and Dontayvion Wicks had TD catches.
Jones rushed for 118 yards, putting him over the century mark in all four career games against the Cowboys with nine touchdowns.
“That was fun,” said Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur, who took over in 2019 after McCarthy was fired during the 2018 season. “To put on a performance like that. Couldn’t be happier for them.”
The crowd under the retractable roof on a frigid day in the Dallas area had already been stone-cold silenced when Prescott tried to throw a slant to top receiver CeeDee Lamb.
Savage, who went without an interception in the regular season for the first time in his five-year career, stepped in front and run untouched for a 27-0 lead with 1:50 left before halftime.
“They were mad at me ‘cause I wasn’t celebrating afterward,” Savage said. “I was like, ‘We gotta keep playing. But it was definitely a momentum swing in the game, I think.”
Prescott finished 41 of 60 for 403 yards, with all three of his touchdowns to tight end Jake Ferguson.