Nothing is sweeter than defeating the Dallas Cowboys, especially for all the painful playoff exits they made the Green Bay Packers endure in 1994, 1995 and 1996. In week nine of the 2010 season, the 5-3 Packers welcomed a hobbling 1-6 Cowboys team into Lambeau Field on a beautiful 43-degree Sunday night in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dallas head coach Wade Phillips was on the hot seat, even after three consecutive winning seasons and had to rely on backup Jon Kitna to quarterback his team with starter Tony Romo out for the season with a broken clavicle. On the other sideline, head coach Mike McCarthy’s team had a team looking to go on a streak after winning their previous two in a row after suffering back to back sudden death overtime defeats.
With all of America watching on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and 70,913 in attendance, the Packers looked to win their second in a row in the historic series after their 17-7 victory at Lambeau Field in 2009. The Packers defense came up charged up immediately. Cowboys running back Marion Barber was stuffed for no gain on third and one by a run blitz by cornerback Charles Woodson on the opening possession and coach Phillips was forced to call upon punter Mat McBriar to boot it away to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. Rodgers got right to work leading the Packers on a methodical drive from their own 18-yard line to the Dallas 24-yard line. On the 12th play of the series, on third down and three, Rodgers was sacked for a nine-yard loss on a cornerback blitz by Orland Scandrick, and McCarthy was forced to call on kicker Mason Crosby to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Crosby’s field goal attempt from the right hash mark was blocked by defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and the Cowboys retook possession.
Following the blocked kick, Kitna looked like he was gaining some rhythm, completing four straight passes before being intercepted by rookie cornerback Sam Shields on a deep pass intended for the Cowboys go-to receiver Miles Austin. It was the first interception in the career of Shields and set the Packers up with the ball at their own 37-yard line. On third down this time, Rodgers was able to escape the Cowboys pass rush and use hit feet to scamper 27 yards before stepping out of bounds at the Dallas 17-yard line and flashing his patented “championship belt” sign. Three plays and one quarter change later the Packers were in the end zone for the games first score due in thanks to a Rodgers middle screen pass to running back Brandon Jackson who took the ball nine yards to give Green Bay a 7-0 lead. The Cowboys offense was unable to get going and an eight-yard sack on second down by linebacker Clay Matthews didn’t help their matters as the Packers’ defense forced another three and out series. McBriar’s punt resulted in a touchback and Rodgers led the offense back onto the field looking to hang more points on the scoreboard. On second and eight from the Packers’ 45-yard line Rodgers connected with receiver James Jones for a 22-yard gain and then was able to draw a 31-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Terrance Newman on a pass intended for Jones to give Green Bay the ball on the Dallas’ two-yard line. On the next play following the penalty, Jackson ran the ball into the end zone off the right side of the offensive line to give Green Bay a 14-0 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff return the Cowboys got a boost as their return man Bryan McCann was able to bring the ball out to the Dallas’ 39-yard line. Kitna and the Cowboys offense remained stagnant and on third and one Barber was tackled for a three-yard loss by Matthews forcing another punt. The Packers’ would receive a break on the punt as returner Tramon Williams muffed the football, but the football went out of bounds and stayed as Green Bay’s possession. The Packers’ proceeding drive saw them march from their own seven-yard line and down the field 93-yards highlighted by a 17-yard run by fullback John Kuhn and a 33-yard reception by receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings would cap the drive with an eight-yard touchdown reception on a laser like throw by Rodgers, and after the Crosby extra point the Packers were sailing to a 21-0 lead. On the following kickoff, McCann promptly fumbled on a tackle caused by Packers’ special team ace Jarrett Bush, the ball was recovered by Nick Collins who returned it the other way for another Packers’ touchdown and the floodgates officially opened as the Packers found themselves up 28-0. The next kickoff for Crosby sailed out of bounds, giving Dallas the ball at their 40-yard line and a glimmer of hope. On third and six, Kitna hit rookie receiver Dez Bryant for a 13-yard gain and a first down and followed it up with a 41-yard connection to Bryant to bring the ball to the Green Bay two-yard line as the first half clock ticked away. With no timeouts, Kitna threw two straight incomplete passes before finding Bryant, who made an acrobatic catch for a Cowboys’ touchdown before heading into halftime with the Packers’ leading 28-7.
The start of the second half did not go the way the Cowboys anticipated as their opening kickoff to Packers’ return man Shields was returned 49 yards giving the Packers excellent starting field position. However, the Cowboys defense stood strong and forced a three and out. The Cowboys’ offensive position was the same old story of the night, another three and out, as Woodson sacked Kitna on third down to force the punt. With the ball back in the hands of Rodgers he wasted no time looking to add a punctuation to the game and provide an early “dagger”. Rodgers drove the Packers offense 63 yards in eight plays, going 5/7 on the drive and capping it off with a ten-yard touchdown pass to Jones, giving the Packers a comfortable 35-7 lead with a little over 23 minutes remaining.
With Dallas starting at their own 35 to open their second possession of the half, Kitna was drilled by Collins on an incomplete pass and was flagged for unnecessary roughness to give Dallas the ball on the Green Bay side of the field for only the second time in the game. Their time there would be short lived as linebacker Desmond Bishop dropped Kitna for a nine-yard sack two plays later and the Cowboys would again be forced to punt the ball back over. With the ball back in the Packers’ possession they relied on short passes and the run game to not only finish off the third quarter but to also put more points on the board. Rodgers went 5/8 for 46 yards on the drive and Jackson and Kuhn combined to rush eight times for 34 yards to set up a 26-yard field goal by Crosby which split the uprights making it 38-7.
The Packers’ defense was ready for one final blow. On the Cowboys proceeding possession, running back Felix Jones made a few nice runs and tight end Jason Witten hauled in a 30-yard reception to bring the ball down to the Green Bay 30-yard line. On first and ten, Kitna dropped back and while being blitzed off the right side by linebacker AJ Hawk and Woodson, tried to fire a ball to Austin, but Hawk and Woodson were both able to jump and bat the ball down into the waiting arms of Matthews who promptly took the ball 62 yards for a touchdown and the final score of the night. With the Packers up 45-7, McCarthy opened his bench and Matt Flynn finished out the game leading the offense and the second unit on defense kept the Cowboys starting unit off the scoreboard. The 45-7 Packers’ victory was the most lopsided victory by either team surpassing their first matchup ever back in 1960 which ended in a 41-7 Packers victory.
Rodgers finished the game going 27/34 for 289 yards and three touchdowns and with receiver Donald Driver sitting out, Jones stood up with eight receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown while his counterpart Jennings had seven grabs for 80 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay outgained Dallas 210 yards (415-205) while also possessing the ball for nearly 16 more minutes. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones fired Phillips as head coach after the game and promoted offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to head coach after the game. Garrett helped rally the Cowboys to a 5-3 record the remained of the season to finish 6-10. McCarthy and Rodgers would finish the regular season 10-6, grabbing the final wild card position. Then the magic carpet ride in the playoffs led to the Dallas Cowboys home field, AT&T Stadium, for Super Bowl 45 where the Packers would capture their 13th World Championship with a 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.