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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We can finally put to bed one of the flimsiest pregame storylines in recent memory. People who I know in the business, some with solid credentials, honestly thought the Cowboys would lose to the Packers because they'd never won at historic Lambeau Field.
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|Cowboys receiver Miles Austin's 50-yard touchdown catch pretty much iced the game for Dallas.|
Never mind the fact that the last championship-caliber team to roll through here played the Packers in the 1967 Ice Bowl. By my count, Sunday's wind chill was approximately 91 degrees higher than that fateful December day, and only a handful of players in the Cowboys' locker room could tell you the score of that game.
On Sunday night, the Cowboys put a halt to the Aaron Rodgers coronation, and pounded the Packers, 27-16. I guess you could say that Green Bay was in the game for a half, but you never really got that sense as drive after drive ended with field goals instead of touchdowns.
As I waited in a narrow hall just outside the visiting locker room, Cowboys defenders attempted to be diplomatic about Rodgers' third start. But linebacker Kevin Burnett finally summed it up neatly."He's not going to stay back there long," Burnett said. "It's 1-2-3, first read, second, start running. We did a pretty good job on him."
Rodgers was 22 of 39 for 290 yards, but a lot of those yards came after the game was decided. Once the Packers fell behind 20-9 in the third quarter, they abandoned the run and became one-dimensional.
On this night, the Packers looked nothing like the team that played in the NFC title game. Or perhaps the Cowboys are actually this good. They can win a road game against an alleged NFC contender when their star quarterback isn't close to sharp in the first half.
You get the get the feeling the Cowboys desperately want to fast forward to December, which has also served as their football purgatory. And that's exactly what Burnett talked about after the game.
"All this is well and good, but we wish we could throw all this aside and just go to the playoffs," he said. "All of this means nothing if we don't win a Super Bowl. I think we're becoming greedy players."
You might think ending a losing streak at Lambeau and beating last year's NFC runner-up might be cause for celebration. But that wasn't case at all. Now, allow me to make several somewhat bold opinions based on Sunday's game:
1. I don't think anyone in the organization is second-guessing the pick of Felix Jones over Rashard Mendenhall in the first round. He's the first player in Cowboys history to score a touchdown in each his first three games. He's the perfect complement to the battering ram known as Marion Barber.
With the Cowboys trailing, 6-3, midway through the second quarter, Jones came in to spell Barber. He took a handoff, bounced it outside to the left and raced 60 yards for a touchdown. Tight end Jason Witten did a superb job of sealing off defensive end Cullen Jenkins on the play. Jones has already given the Cowboys something they didn't have in Julius Jones, who faded after a breakout rookie season. Barber can break a defense's will with his punishing style and then Jones brings a completely different style.
Jones and Barber combined for 218 yards rushing behind one of the most dominating offensive lines in the league. Pro Bowl right guard Leonard Davis may have said it best.
"I never pay attention to who's in there," he said. "But every time the rookie comes in, I know we're jogging way down the field to greet him."
2. The legend of Miles Austin continues to grow. On a night when Terrell Owens had two catches for 17 yards, Austin finished with two catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. He was on his way to becoming the team's third receiver before a knee injury knocked him out during the preseason. Instead of pouting, he launched himself into rehab and was able to return for Monday's win against the Eagles.
On his second huge catch of the evening, he looked more like a 10-year vet than the fourth-year player that he is. When Romo heaved a throw down the sideline, Austin said he "stacked" the defenders.
What that means is that he made sure the players were on his hip (like boxing out in basketball) and then at the last second, he exploded up the field to gain separation and catch the ball. The former Monmouth (N.J.) University player told me the last bombs he caught were against Sacred Heart and LaSalle.
When he showed up at Valley Ranch four years ago, he said he had no clue if he belonged. But in time, cornerbacks Terence Newman and Anthony Henry told him he belonged. He said the positive feedback did wonders for him, and he finally started to believe that a career in the league was a possibility.
Austin said he'd thought about dunking the ball if he ever arrived in the end zone, but he opted for "running around like a chicken with my head cut off."
3. On a night when he had to be frustrated by his lack of production, T.O. actually made two big plays. When Romo threw an ill-advised interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, it was T.O. who raced down safety Nick Collins from behind after a 61-yard return. The Packers only managed a field goal on the drive.
And on Jones' 60-yard touchdown, it was T.O. who caught and passed him before escorting him the last several yards.
4. It was interesting to watch Packers Pro Bowl receiver Donald Driver chase down Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones all the way across the field after the game to give him a hug. He whispered several words in Jones' ear and then jogged off to the Packers' locker room. Jones had another interesting night. He caused a Ryan Grant fumble early in the first quarter and then recovered it before racing 21 yards to the Green Bay 14-yard line. The play set up the Cowboys' first score.
In the third quarter, Jones gave up a 50-yard pass to Driver. The Cowboys appeared to be in zone coverage, but Jones didn't really pass Driver off to safety Ken Hamlin. He obviously has a ton of ability, but he's been beaten on deep balls in consecutive games.