Dallas 30, Green Bay 16
When: 4:25 PM ET, Sunday, October 16, 2016
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Dallas Cowboys' record-setting rookies ran roughshod over the Green Bay Packers in a key NFC showdown on Sunday.
With Dak Prescott breaking Tom Brady's NFL record for most consecutive passes to start a career without an interception and Ezekiel Elliott becoming the first rookie running back in NFL history with four consecutive games of 130-plus rushing yards, the Cowboys crushed the Packers 30-16 in an early-season showdown between NFC contenders at Lambeau Field.
Prescott was 18-of-27 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns, and Elliott gouged the NFL's top-ranked run defense for 157 yards. Prescott threw an interception to end his career-starting streak at 176 attempts -- 14 better than Tom Brady accomplished over the 2000 and 2001 seasons. But he threw three touchdown passes and made one key play after another to help Dallas (5-1) end a five-game losing streak against the Packers.
"We kept fighting, kept battling," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "They guys were physical. The guys up front, the guys on the edge, certainly (Elliott) was physical. I thought that was the difference in the game offensively. And then defensively, we just did a great job of taking the ball away at critical moments, making critical stops and really hanging in there against a big-time quarterback and a really, really good football team."
Meanwhile, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers struggled yet again. While he completed 31 of 42 for 294 yards and one touchdown, he threw one interception and had a costly fumble. He has six turnovers in five games.
"Coach (Rod) Marinelli's defense has often been a bend-but-don't-break defense and make you go the length of the field, with their feeling they can get you to turn it over," Rodgers said of Dallas' defensive coordinator. "That today played out like they wanted it to. We dinked and dunked them a couple times and got some good yardage and they made us turn it over, taking points off the board."
The Packers (3-2) lost the turnover battle 4-1.
"I look at the fundamentals throughout the game -- No. 1 taking care of the football," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "The giveaways, giving it away four times and being in the negative category over the season, that doesn't lead to successful football. That's not to the standard that we believe, and that's not what we emphasize each and every day."
The game turned in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the first half. Green Bay pushed the ball to the Cowboys' 38 but Rodgers threw incomplete to Jordy Nelson on third-and-5 and safety Byron Jones deflected a deep pass to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-5.
The Packers' defense held, and rookie Trevor Davis returned the punt 25 yards to set up the offense just shy of midfield. Green Bay couldn't do a thing with the field position, though, with a first-down drop, a 0-yard completion and a third-down incompletion.
Jacob Schum's punt stuck Dallas at its 3-yard line with 1:39 left in the half. Armed with three timeouts, the Packers had a chance at great field position with a defensive stand. Instead, after two runs by Elliott gained 9 yards, receiver Lucky Whitehead gained 26 on an end-around.
Prescott then decked the Packers with two big plays. First, receiver Terrance Williams beat cornerback LaDarius Gunter with a double-move gain of 42. On the next play, Prescott threw a strike to receiver Brice Butler for a 20-yard touchdown. In a matter of just 34 seconds, the Cowboys had driven 97 yards to take a 17-6 halftime lead.
"That was big for us at the end of the half," Prescott said, "knowing that they got the ball to start the second half, to take some momentum back."
On Green Bay's opening drive of the second half, Rodgers threw an interception to safety Barry Church. Dallas turned that into a field goal for a 20-6 edge.
The Packers mounted one of their best drives of the game late in the third quarter, with three completions to receiver/running back Ty Montgomery setting up a first-and-goal at the 1. However, Rodgers was stripped by defensive end David Irving, who also recovered the fumble.
Prescott was intercepted by safety Morgan Burnett at Dallas' 14-yard line but the Packers couldn't take full advantage. Rodgers threw too high to a wide-open Randall Cobb in the end zone and Irving batted down the third-down pass as Green Bay settled for Mason Crosby's 34-yard field goal to cut the margin to 20-9.
Prescott struck again on the ensuing drive. On third-and-1, Dallas receiver Lucky Whitehead lined up as a wing, ran past Gunter and gained 35. Moments later, Beasley lost Gunter for a 4-yard touchdown that extended the Cowboys' lead to 27-9.
The Packers pulled within 27-16 on Rodgers' touchdown pass to Cobb but, needing a stop on third-and-5, Prescott beat a six-man blitz with a first-down completion to tight end Jason Witten and Dallas added a field goal to go ahead by 14 points.
Dallas entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack and Green Bay its top-ranked rushing defense. The Cowboys won: They rushed for 188 yards. The Packers had allowed 171 yards in the first four games total.
The Cowboys got off to a tremendous start. They took the opening drive 75 yards for a touchdown, keeping the Packers' defense off-balance throughout. Prescott hit receiver Cole Beasley for the 1-yard score.
Green Bay answered with a field goal before an exchange of turnovers. First, Church forced a fumble on a catch by Nelson. With Dallas in scoring position, Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers sacked and stripped Prescott, with inside linebacker Joe Thomas recovering.
Green Bay turned that into another field goal, cutting the margin to 7-6 early in the second quarter.
Beasley was the key player on Dallas' next scoring drive. First, he beat defensive back Micah Hyde for a gain of 15 on third-and-8 and then drew a pass-interference call for another third-down conversion before a field goal made it 10-6.
NOTES: With his eighth pass of the game, Dallas QB Dak Prescott broke Tom Brady's streak for most consecutive passes without an interception to start a career. Brady held the record with 162 passes. ... The Packers had two of their top cornerbacks inactive (Sam Shields, concussion; Quinten Rollins, groin), and their third, Damarious Randall, exited with an injured groin. Rollins already has been ruled out for Thursday's game against Chicago. ... Dallas lost its top cornerback, Morris Claiborne, to a concussion in the second quarter when he collided with linebacker Sean Lee and Packers WR Davante Adams was being examined for a concussion after being hit by Cowboys LB Sean Lee in the third quarter. ... Dallas S Barry Church forced a turnover with a hit on WR Jordy Nelson in the first quarter and intercepted Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter. Rodgers entered the game with nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions in five career starts vs. Dallas. RB Ezekiel Elliott has 703 rushing yards, the second most by a rookie in a player's first six games since at least 1933. ... Dallas hasn't allowed 20 points in four consecutive games.
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Green Bay will play their next game at home against Chicago. The Packers have a W/L % of .333 after a win and 1.000 after a loss.
Dallas will play their next game at home against Philadelphia. The Cowboys have a W/L % of 1.000 after a win and .500 after a loss.