GREEN BAY, Wis. — There is no question the Dallas Cowboys are led by their offense, but their defense has shown a bite that few saw in them when the season started.
In Sunday’s 30-16 win — Dallas’ fifth straight — the Cowboys so frustrated Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ offense that the Lambeau Field faithful took to booing the quarterback in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys threatened to keep the Packers out of the end zone altogether, which would have been the first time since the 2007 season opener when Brett Favre was the quarterback and Rodgers was a backup and Green Bay didn’t score an offensive touchdown at home. But the Cowboys relented with 6:53 to play.
The Cowboys intercepted Rodgers once (by Barry Church in the third quarter), forced him to fumble once inside the Dallas 5 in the third quarter (by David Irving) and kept him off balance for most of the day even if they only sacked him once.
It is easy to figure out why the Cowboys are successful offensively even without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. They have the best offensive line in football. They have Ezekiel Elliott. They have Dak Prescott.
On defense, they don’t have those big names or talent. Only linebacker Sean Lee has been to a Pro Bowl. The Cowboys played the second half without their best cornerback so far this season, Morris Claiborne, because of a concussion. Their best cornerback entering the season, Orlando Scandrick, has not played in a month.
Oh, the offense still did its share.
Elliott shredded what was the NFL’s best run defense entering the game, finishing with a career-high 157 yards on 28 carries. It is the fourth straight game in which Elliott has rushed for more than 130 yards, an NFL record for a rookie.
Prescott set an NFL record, too. He went 177 passes without an interception, breaking Tom Brady‘s record to start a career. More importantly, he threw two touchdown passes to Cole Beasley and one to Brice Butler.
The Butler touchdown capped an improbable drive that saw the Cowboys start at their 3 with one minute left in the first half and no timeouts. Looking to just kill the clock, Lucky Whitehead converted a third-and-1 from the Dallas 12 with a 26-yard run on a jet sweep. That was followed by a 42-yard completion to Terrance Williams.
On the next play, Butler tapped his toes inside the end zone for a 17-6 lead.
It turns out that’s all the Cowboys needed.
Who would have ever thought that?