Packers rally to beat Cowboys, advance to NFC title game
An officiating call that went Green Bay's way also helped in a 26-21 win Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys.
Rodgers went 9 of 9 in the fourth quarter, including and a laser-like 13-yard touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers for the go-ahead score with 9:10 left of the fourth quarter. The final period also featured the officials overturning what was initially a brilliant catch by Dallas' Dez Bryant.
Bryant jumped high for the 31-yard grab to the Packers 1 over cornerback Sam Shields, who had solid coverage on fourth-and-2 with 4:42 left in the game. But the play was ruled incomplete on replay review after Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the call.
The NFL rule states the receiver must maintain control all the way to the ground. Replays showed Bryant bobbled the ball as he rolled into the end zone, with part of it touching the field.
''Some people think throwing the red flag is fun,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ''It was such an impactful play, you had to challenge. It was a confident challenge. And a hopeful one, too.''
Hours after the game, Bryant tweeted: ''as I went to the ground I rolled over and I tipped the ball to gain better control. We lost and I accept it but please change that rule.''
The Cowboys were stunned. After going 8-0 away from home in the regular season, Dallas' road winning streak came to a stunning end.
''This is really, seriously one of the more disappointing times I've had on a personal basis,'' owner Jerry Jones said.
All wasn't lost after the overturned call. The Cowboys could have seized another chance with the ball if their defense had stopped the Packers on two third-down plays with less than 3 minutes left.
The Packers (13-4) converted both times and the Cowboys (13-5) started their offseason.
While almost every Cowboys fan will remember this game for the reversed call, coach Jason Garrett said the loss didn't come down to officiating.
''We had 60 minutes,'' Garrett said. ''That play was big in the game, but there were plenty of other plays in the ballgame an unfortunately we didn't do things necessary to win the ballgame in the end.''
Five takeaways from the Packers' first win in the playoffs when trailing at the half since a come-from-victory against San Francisco in 2002:
CALF WATCH: Rodgers finished 24 of 35 for 316 yards and three scores. But he said he realized that his mobility might be more limited than he expected after throwing a 4-yard score to Andrew Quarless in the first quarter.
Rodgers seemed be a bit more mobile as the game wore on. McCarthy said Rodgers got into a rhythm late.
Rodgers said he felt better moving to his left out of the pocket. He suspected that he might be limited again this week at practice for the Seattle game.
But there was no chance that he wasn't playing.
''I think I got 120 minutes left in me,'' Rodgers said.
REMATCH: Seattle (13-4) beat Green Bay in the season opener, 36-16. The Seahawks have seemingly improved on defense since then, while the Packers are better on offense.
But a slowed-down Rodgers will face a toughest test trying to evade Seattle defenders.
''Going up to Seattle, they've got some guys that can get after the passer. We know it's going to be a challenge,'' guard T.J. Lang said. ''We know everything starts with us up front as far as the run game and taking care of Aaron.''
WHAT A RUSH: Running back Eddie Lacy provided the offensive balance that the Packers desperately needed with Rodgers limited. He ran for 101 yards on 19 carries, including 45 on the Packers' opening drive that ended with Quarless' touchdown catch.
Lacy has now run for at least 97 yards in six of his last seven games, just the kind of production the Packers need going into Seattle.
ROMO'S NIGHT: Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was an efficient 15 of 19 for 191 yards and two touchdowns in his return to his home state. Romo grew up in Burlington in southeastern Wisconsin.
But his last pass attempt to Bryant didn't go Dallas' way.
''The calls, they don't go your way sometimes,'' Romo said. ''It's disappointing whenever it does not go the way that you want. We had a chance to win.''
CATCHING KARMA: The Detroit Lions also chimed in on Bryant's overturned catch. Detroit's star receiver, Calvin Johnson, had a similar reception reversed in 2010, and they also were stung last week in the wild-card round against the Cowboys when the officials picked up a flag that would have given them a critical fourth-quarter first down.
The Lions tweeted: ''Sorry (at)dallascowboys. We know the feeling,'' with a link to the Megatron play and the hashtag ''CompletingTheProcess.''
The NFL has used the Johnson play in explaining the rule to coaches and players.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.