Blythe Hastings ’23
A week after the Cowboys experienced utter embarrassment at the hands of the Broncos, that same Dallas team thundered back to throttle the Falcons 43-3. The performance marked the Cowboys’ first 40-point victory in 21 years, and more importantly, restored a degree of order for a team destined as a potential Super Bowl contender. The Falcons, at 4-5, certainly don’t rank among the NFL’s most formidable teams. But if the Cowboys are to achieve the goals they have set for themselves, and if they are indeed as good as many around the league believe they could be, they needed this type of response to the Denver loss.
Sunday’s meeting with the Falcons could have either served as a get-right game or one of those outings where the problems from the week before continued and took Dallas further off course. The Cowboys experienced the former after correcting weaknesses that had plagued them on a variety of fronts. As they did, they turned in not only their most well-rounded performance of the season, but one of their most authoritative victories in recent years. A week after a rusty performance as he came back from a one-game injury absence, Prescott completed 24 of 31 passes for 296 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.
The offense dominated time of possession with a balanced outing that produced 22 first downs. The unit got off to a strong start, scoring on four of its first five possessions. The defense, despite missing several key contributors, recorded three takeaways, denied Atlanta on 10 of 11 third downs and held their opponents without a touchdown. Dallas even scored on special teams following a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown. The Cowboys delivered the rebound necessary for continuing their quest for contention.
In other news, Lambeau Field turned into a winter snow globe, the Green Bay Packers won an old-school slugfest against the Seattle Seahawks, 17-0. The offense struggled upon Aaron Rodgers’ return from COVID-19, though it was able to manufacture enough plays with the quarterback to outduel a Seahawks offense that returned Russell Wilson from a three-game absence because of a finger injury. For the Packers who are 8-2, it was their eighth straight win with Rodgers at quarterback. They lost last week with Jordan Love 13-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs. The win placed the Packers as one of four two-loss teams in the NFC, joining Arizona, Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams.
It’s hard to watch what the Packers have done the past three weeks against Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and now Russell Wilson and think they have anything other than a top-10 defense. It was Wilson’s return from a three-game absence because of a finger injury that initially was forecast to cost him at least six, and the Seahawks quarterback has a bleak history of playing NFL games in the state where he finished his college career. Still, the Packers forced six punts, and the Seahawks’ one trip into the red zone ended with a Kevin King interception. It was a big stop for a Packers red-zone defense that entered ranking 31st in NFL, allowing touchdowns on 76 percent of its opponents’ visits.
The Packers have now allowed 21 points to a Arizona Cardinals offense that ranks fourth in the NFL with 30.8 points per game, 13 points against a Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs offense averaging 24.6 per game, and shut out Wilson’s Seahawks. Considering they might still get Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith back this season, this might become the best Packers defense in a long time.