GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – First it was Brett Favre’s Vikings, then the jabbering Jets and the drama from Dallas.
The Green Bay Packers?
They’ve quietly dispatched those hyped preseason contenders over three straight weeks to save their season.
So what if their best effort so far, a 45-7 rout of the Cowboys on Sunday night, will be overshadowed by Dallas owner Jerry Jones, who rambled all about the problems his team has with just a passing mention of the Packers.
“We were outplayed in every way that you could be,” Jones said. “Certainly made the kind of mistakes alone that can beat you. I thought that Green Bay played well. I thought their quarterback played well. I didn’t think that we played well in any phase.”
The Cowboys owner says he’ll address his team on Monday. But even if he fires coach Wade Phillips, just a week after saying a midseason firing was unlikely, it won’t salvage this season.
Jones will watch the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in February the way most everyone else will — as a fan.
“I know firsthand what it is to have high expectations,” Jones said. “I think questionably, our expectations are thinking we were something that we’re not.”
The NFC North-leading Packers (6-3) have weathered some of that pressure, and have looked increasingly better heading into their bye week after stumbling last month with consecutive overtime losses.
“There was definitely some doubts creeping in,” said Aaron Rodgers. “(We) realized we needed to make a push here these next three games and we did. A big win against Minnesota, went to New York, beat a very good football team, and came home and beat a wounded animal in Dallas the way we feel like we were capable of playing.”
Rodgers threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, Brandon Jackson scored twice, Clay Matthews returned an interception for a touchdown and Green Bay scored on special teams by ripping a fumble away from kick returner Bryan McCann and taking it the other way.
“You saw special teams creating turnovers and making big plays. Offense was scoring at will. And, defense was creating turnovers and having their way,” said Matthews, who also had a sack to increase his NFL-leading total to 10 1/2 this season. “I think it was close to a perfect game. That’s what we’ve been striving for this year — all three aspects of our game coming together. That’s what happens when it does.”
It was a low point for the Cowboys (1-7) as they continue their worst season since going 1-15 in 1989. This year is much worse, because Dallas is hosting the Super Bowl in its swanky stadium and believed it could be the first team to play at home for a title.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do, I’ve got a lot of decisions to make and it’s not just one, two, three or four,” Jones said. “I think everybody in this country would agree, there’s a lot wrong with this team that I’ve got to address and certainly I’m the one to address it.”
A national TV audience certainly saw Dallas’ flaws.
The Cowboys failed to run the ball. They failed to stop the Packers’ passing game. They couldn’t get in the right position on defense, couldn’t field punts, couldn’t use their timeouts correctly.
It was a Texas-sized disaster.
“I thought we played poorly. I thought we played poorly as a team. We looked like a bad football team, and I think that’s the way we played,” Phillips said.
Dallas trailed 28-0 late in the second quarter, giving up three long touchdown drives and another score when McCann fumbled away a kickoff that was returned for a TD by Nick Collins. McCann appeared to be down before he gave the ball away — but the Cowboys didn’t have any timeouts left and weren’t able to challenge the call.
“I know he was down. I know that,” Collins said. “I got a gift, an early Christmas present.”
Dallas had called its final timeout 38 seconds earlier.
“That ended up hurting us,” Phillips said.
The Packers have been ailing all season, but keep winning despite a seemingly endless supply of quality replacements. Green Bay has lost 10 players to season-ending injuries, including five starters, but seem to keep improving.
“I’m very impressed with the character, the work ethic of this group,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Just the fact that every Monday you have a medical report that’s two pages long and get different guys stepping up each week.
“We’re getting better. That’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to play your best football in November, December.“
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