The aftermath of the Packers' comeback

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
7:55
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Just as there was no panic in the Green Bay Packers on Sunday when they trailed the Dallas Cowboys 26-3 at halftime, there were no wild celebrations on the way home, either.

By no means were they nonchalant about their 37-36 victory, which tied the franchise record for the largest comeback.

They were just tired.

“It was actually a pretty quiet plane,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “I think everybody was spent. Just the sideline throughout the second half, the energy, the energy in the locker room, I think a lot of guys were just gassed.”

A day later, it's worth looking back on their improbable victory from several perspectives.

The offense

Despite the first-half struggles, McCarthy and offensive coordinator Tom Clements said they never once gave thought to pulling quarterback Matt Flynn and going back to Scott Tolzien, who Flynn had replaced midway through the Nov. 24 tie against the Minnesota Vikings.

“We were focused on trying to get everyone to play better and I think it was a great credit to them that they stuck together, just went out and fought hard and kept fighting and eventually got the win,” Clements said.

[+] EnlargeFlynn
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty ImagesMatt Flynn led the Packers to a touchdown on their first five drives of the second half.
The turnaround in Flynn's play was remarkable. He led touchdown drives on the first five possessions of the second half -- all five of which were red zone scores, an area where the Packers have struggled most of the season.

McCarthy and Clements ditched the no-huddle offense that Flynn had run so well the week before in the comeback from 11 points down against the Atlanta Falcons. In the second half alone, Flynn completed 16 of 22 passes for 182 yards and four touchdown passes after going 10-of-17 for 117 yards and an interception in the first half.

“That's one of the things he said, he got locked on a receiver sometimes in the first half rather than going to the next option,” Clements said.

The contributions of running back Eddie Lacy also should not be overlooked. His 60-yard run on the first play of the second half set the tone. It was a play that McCarthy had originally scripted in his fist 10 calls of the game.

“I didn't run any trick plays or any deceptives, didn't do anything exotic, just wanted to get after them fundamentally,” McCarthy said. “And that's what we did.”

The defense

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers had been here before -- one week earlier.

But it wasn't quite this bad.

“I told you guys last week, I can remember looking at our guys in the eyes when we were down 21-10 during halftime last week and was like, ‘Hey, we have to go out and play one play at a time and work our way back into this game,'” Capers said. “I pretty much said the same thing to them this week because we were down 26-3. Things weren't looking really good at that point in time. I give them credit. Our guys, I don't think they blinked. We went out. On offense, Eddie had that nice run. I think it kind of picked the guys up and we were able to go out and make a few plays. We played our best when our best was needed.”

To make that happen, they got back on their turnover parade. A week after Mike Neal's strip-sack set up the go-ahead touchdown against the Falcons and Jarrett Bush's interception sealed the game, the Packers picked off Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo twice in the fourth quarter -- and they thought they had a third one but Tramon Williams' attempt at interception was overturned by replay.

Sam Shields' interception of Romo led to the go-ahead touchdown on Sunday, and then Williams finally got his to clinch the game after a replay overturned what was initially ruled an incomplete pass. Credit McCarthy for slowing down the Cowboys so they couldn't run another play before the replay official buzzed down to the field instructing referee Walt Coleman to take another look. When McCarthy saw the Cowboys hurrying up to the line of scrimmage, he called a timeout, which was soon after ruled unnecessary by the replay booth.

“We'll, I'm calling the timeout; I mean I'm not going to get beat by a technicality,” McCarthy said.

The aftermath

Of the Packers' three coordinators -- Clements, Capers and special teams coach Shawn Slocum -- only Clements could remember being part of a game as dramatic as that one.

“On the opposite end I do,” Clements said, recalling a game from his college playing career at Notre Dame.

In 1974, Clements and the Fighting Irish led USC 24-6 at halftime only to lose 55-24.

“Thanks for bringing it up,” Clements said.

Said Capers: “That's probably as dramatic of a turnaround [as he could recall].”

Said Slocum: “I've been through a bunch of games. That one was pretty special.”

The question now is was it just a singular moment in a season or something more monumental?

“Hopefully I'm talking about this a month from now or so,” McCarthy said. “I think these type of games and these types of experiences that we've been through the last five or six weeks are something that you can definitely benefit from as a football team.”

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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