- Tom Pennington/Getty
The Green Bay Packers are headed to the NFC Championship Game after beating the Cowboys, 34-31, on Sunday in a wild game that featured three field goals of more than 50 yards in the final two minutes.
Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby nailed the winning 51-yarder as the clock ran out. But the key play of the game might have come on the previous drive, when the Cowboys decided to spike the ball and stop the clock with 48 seconds remaining, saving some precious seconds for the Packers.
Let’s break this down:
First, Crosby hit a 56-yard field goal that gave the Packers a 31-28 lead with under two minutes left.
When the Cowboys got the ball on the ensuing drive, they marched down the field and quickly found themselves closing in on field-goal range.
With just over a minute left, Dak Prescott completed a pass to Jason Witten. The Cowboys then ran up and spiked the ball. Clock stops.
When the Cowboys stopped the clock they had a timeout and a first down – they could have instead run a play toward the sideline or used their final timeout and let the clock tick toward zero, spiking the ball only on third down before then attempting their field goal.
After the game, head coach Jason Garrett explained the decision to spike the ball, saying the Cowboys at that point were seeking a touchdown, not a field goal, and he wanted to save the team’s final timeout.
“In those situations when you make a first down, we believe you clock it there so you keep that timeout in your back pocket,” Garrett said. “In that situation, we’re trying to go down and score a touchdown, so you want to keep as much time on the clock as you can, and then, if the clock is going and you need a timeout to get yourself in field-goal range, you have that one still available to you.”
Dallas did still tie the game when Dan Bailey nailed a 52-yard attempt with 44 seconds left. The Packers got the ball with 35 seconds left, and on a wild 35-yard completion they found themselves 51 yards away from the victory.
Three seconds were left on the clock when the Packers snapped the winning field goal, with the Packers securing the win as time expired.