ARLINGTON, Texas - On Sept. 29, the morning after the Green Bay Packers bludgeoned the Chicago Bears, wide receiver Davante Adams awoke in a hospital. He had absorbed a hit so vicious that he was strapped to a backboard and stretchered off the field. It took no experts to diagnose the concussion.
Nine days later, Adams launched a football into the stands at AT&T Stadium after catching the winning touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers with 11 seconds remaining. It was nothing short of miraculous, and the Packers escaped with a thrilling 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys had nosed in front late in the fourth quarter on a march befitting of their home state. It covered 79 yards in 17 plays and chewed up nearly nine minutes of the fourth quarter, with tailback Ezekiel Elliott churning away as the Packers' defense softened. He jumped over the line of scrimmage and extended his right arm to convert a key fourth down that kept the drive alive, and quarterback Dak Prescott finished it off with an 11-yard scramble of his own.
SILVERSTEIN: Offense runs smoothly on winning TD drive
DOUGHERTY: Rodgers, Packers setting early-season tone
BOX SCORE: Packers 35, Cowboys 31
INSIDER: Thumbs up to Rodgers, down to pass D
But that left Rodgers 73 seconds and a chance to win. He guided the Packers down the field in chunks, as if the Cowboys weren’t even on the field. He completed the comeback with the 12-yard touchdown to Adams for an improbable victory.
Here are five takeaways from the Packers' victory:
Rookie revelation: It’s been a long time since the Packers had a true running back that posed a legitimate threat from the backfield, not since Eddie Lacy was playing at a reasonable weight. But with Ty Montgomery sidelined by broken ribs and rookie Jamaal Williams ineffective through the first month of the season, coach Mike McCarthy turned to another rookie, fifth-round pick Aaron Jones, for a massive spark. Jones showed burst, vision, elusiveness and toughness while ripping off yards in chunks. He gashed the Cowboys for 125 yards on 19 carries and added another rushing touchdown, his second of the season. Jones gave the Packers something to think about when Montgomery returns.
Bouncing back: A week defined by awkward conversations about cornerback Damarious Randall, who was benched and banished from the sideline against the Bears, gave way to an act of redemption in the second half. Randall was the beneficiary of a brutal drop by wide receiver Terrance Williams, who saw a catchable ball ricochet off his hands on a short pass from Prescott. The ball bounced right to Randall, who scampered into the end zone for a 21-yard return that gave the Packers the lead, 28-24, with 9:56 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback carousel: The return of veteran Davon House (quadriceps), who was inserted into the starting lineup, was offset by the loss of rookie Kevin King early in the first half. King suffered a concussion and did not return, which forced defensive coordinator Dom Capers to rely on Randall, Quinten Rollins and Josh Hawkins at various times throughout the game. Randall was beaten by wide receiver Dez Bryant for a touchdown reception in the second quarter. Rollins was beaten by slot man Cole Beasley for another touchdown in the same quarter. Eventually, Capers mixed and matched his defensive backs with various combinations that did little to slow down Prescott, who finished 25 of 36 for 251 yards and three TD passes plus a rushing touchdown.
MONDAY CHAT: Ryan Wood at 1 p.m.
NAGLER: Post-game chat video
GAME BLOG: Tom Silverstein's live coverage
Line ‘em up: For the fifth time in as many games the Packers were without at least one starting tackle on the offensive line. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) returned to the field after dropping out against the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago, but left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) was inactive once again after a brief workout before the game. It meant that left guard Lane Taylor kicked out to left tackle for the second time in as many weeks, and Justin McCray entered the lineup at left guard. Like every week, it was a mixed bag for the makeshift bunch up front. The run game was terrific, but Rodgers was sacked four times and had to run for his life on several occasions. He took six quarterback hits in total.
Not so easy: It may have seemed like a minor problem when the Packers placed long snapper Brett Goode on injured reserve in late September; long snappers are hardly the most integral players on any 53-man roster. But Goode’s specialties were accuracy and consistency, the two most important traits at the position, and when the Packers replaced him with Taybor Pepper, they were saying goodbye to reliability and re-introducing a player they cut in May. After a respectable debut against the Bears, things unraveled quickly in Dallas. Kicker Mason Crosby missed a pair of extra points in the first half, and at least one of them was the result of a poor snap by Pepper. It will be interesting to see if he’s on the roster next Sunday.