DALLAS - Keep away.
It's a game many of us played as kids, running around the yard with friends doing everything we could to prevent someone from getting a toy or ball. As the second half unfolded Sunday, Jason Garrett knew the Cowboys would have to play keep away from Aaron Rodgers.
The game started with a little over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Dallas finally found its running game with Ezekiel Elliott, and marched the ball all the way down to the Green Bay 11-yard line with 1:18 remaining. Dallas needed to play keep away until the clock hit 0:00.
They got it to 1:13.
That's just too much time for a future Hall of Famer and current most talented player in football.
Rodgers easily led the Packers down the field for the game-winning touchdown, again breaking the hearts of Cowboys fans everywhere with an 11-yard fade to Davante Adams to win the game 35-31. While the defense couldn't stop Rodgers on the final drive – or at all in the second half –they aren't the only ones to blame for Dallas' loss.
Let's talk about that fade to the endzone on 2nd and 1.
With under 1:30 remaining and the Cowboys in the redzone, Garrett, Scott Linehan or Dak Prescott opted for a throw to Dez Bryant rather than a run on 2nd and 1 from the 11-yard line. Prescott's pass fell incomplete, stopping the clock and preserving the Packers' final timeout. On the next play, Prescott scored on a read option.
There's no way to know for sure if that play was called in or if Dak audibled to it at the line, but in either regard, it was the wrong call that undoubtedly factored into the outcome. Had Dallas run on 2nd down and not thrown, Green Bay likely would have burned its final timeout, and had either no time left or significantly less time remaining to go down and score.
The call especially doesn't make sense when you consider the Cowboys were clearly trying to play keep away from Rodgers on their final drive. Dallas ate up over 8:30 of clock time before taking the lead, and were seemingly doing anything possible to not give the ball back to No. 12.
It's a mystifying decision that will surely haunt Dallas going into the bye week at 2-3 instead of 3-2.
But the pass call on 2nd down isn't the only thing the Cowboys should be concerned about after this loss.
Dallas was again out-played in the second half, getting outscored 23-10 in the final two quarters. Now five games into the season, the Cowboys have been outscored 76-47 in the second half, and have been unable to finish games on offense and defense.
Last week it was the offense, and this week it was the defense. Garrett clearly had no faith in Rod Marinelli's unit to stop Rodgers, and for good reason. Aside from two early sacks, Dallas was unable to apply pressure on Rodgers, and when they did, he would slide up in the pocket or break contain and slither away.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay's rookie running back from UTEP, torched the Cowboys on the ground, finishing with 125 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. When the Packers get their ground game going, Rodgers is impossible to stop. Dallas can surely attest to that.
The Cowboys played a valiant game of keep away – it just didn't last long enough.
What should the Cowboys have done differently in those final 90 seconds? Share your thoughts with Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.
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