Say, “Cheeeeeeeese”!

Categories: Sports

It’s 4:37 p.m. Thursday. Fans that already successfully navigated the traffic jam outside Texas Stadium have begun tailgating. Inside, Brett Favre is jogging around Texas Stadium in his shorts. Let the post-game play-by-play commence.

4:45 p.m. Just getting a feel for what the media thinks of this game. Some bozo is picking Cowboys 34, Packers 24. We’ll see.

5 p.m. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is working Texas Stadium like his own birthday party. Handshakes here, hugs there. And now he’s on the NFL Network’s set, probably explaining to viewers how two-thirds of America won’t be able to watch this game on TV.

5:15 p.m. Tony Romo just emerged from the locker room. Wearing his trademark backward cap, he chats with Troy Aikman and former assistant coach Joe Avezzano before tucking a ball under his arm and sprinting to the opposite goal line and back. Whatever works.

5:25 p.m. Now Romo’s smiling and bobbing his head. Yep, you guessed it -- Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is blaring over the stadium speakers.

5:40 p.m. Packers starting cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee) are inactive for the game. That’s two of Green Bay’s top four defenders not in uniform. This is the equivalent of Dallas playing without Anthony Henry and Greg Ellis. Huge advantage, Cowboys.

5:41 p.m. The Cowboys are wearing their throwback uniforms. Tiny advantage, Packers.

5:59 p.m. Romo and Favre are talking at the 40 -- no, make that the 41½ yard line. Cool as it would be if they were going nose-to-nose a la Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, they’re actually just politely chatting. Actually, Romo’s doing 90 percent of the talking. Wonder if he ever squeezed in a “Can I have your autograph?” We’ll never know, because former tight end Jay Novacek and his straw cowboy hat crashed the party.

6:07 p.m. On his way to the locker room, Favre hugs Jerry. Maybe I was just a naive punk, but growing up a Cowboys fan I could’ve never imagined Tex Schramm exchanging pre-game pleasantries with Bart Starr.

6:50 p.m. Everybody is jacked for this game. “I haven’t missed playing since I retired,” says former quarterback Troy Aikman. “But tonight I wish I was one of the guys getting suited up in that locker room. This is one of those games you’ll remember for a long time.”

7:10 p.m. Cowboys are 10-1 for the first time. As surprising as that is, what if I’d told you back in training camp this would be accomplished without any production from guys named Terry Glenn, Jason Ferguson, Tyson Thompson and Martin Gramatica. And, considering the woes of the Chicago Bears’ defense and the San Diego Chargers’ offense, just ponder for a moment what might have been had the Cowboys hired Ron Rivera or Norv Turner instead of Wade Phillips.

7:13 p.m. Aikman and Roger Staubach are helping toss the coin. How the hell can Dallas lose this game? Oops, Packers won the toss.

7:15 p.m. Kickoff. It’s 55 degrees, or about 70 degrees warmer than the 1967 Ice Bowl.

7:20 p.m. I said it’s 55. Why the hell are the refs wearing black sweat pants? They look like something out of James Caan’s Rollerball, circa 1975.

7:23 p.m. Offsides, DeMarcus Ware. The result? Green Bay’s opening drive stays alive, ending in rookie kicker Mason Crosby’s 47-yard field goal.

7:37 p.m. Cowboys catch a break. Don’t care what replay showed or didn’t show, Al Harris stole that ball from Terrell Owens. Dallas cashes in four plays later, and it’s 3-3.

7:45 p.m. I know he’s deteriorated into a video-game caricature blowhard, but this NFC showdown somehow doesn’t feel complete without John Madden. How’s Bryant Gumbel treating you so far? Bland? Boring? Smug? I’m betting smug. Yeah, smug.

7:50 p.m. Big cheer for a fan shown on the video screen wearing a Cowboys-blue hunk of cheese on his head.

7:51 p.m. Despite a T.O. drop of a poorly thrown third-down pass, Cowboys 6-3 after a Nick Folk 51-yard field goal.

7:55 p.m. After safety Ken Hamlin picks off Favre’s flutterball, Romo’s perfect play fake leads to a long pass to T.O., then a short TD pass to Patrick Crayton. With that toss, Romo becomes the first quarterback in Cowboys history to throw 30 TDs in a season. Shockingly, Aikman never threw more than 23. Cowboys 13, Packers 3.

8 p.m. Is it just me, or do the flowing dreads of Packers defensive backs Harris and Atari Bigby make them look like those morph-happy mean dudes in The Matrix: Revolutions?

8:02 p.m. I only counted 11 Cowboys, but they got a costly penalty for 12 men on the field. The infraction negated a dropped pass, forced a Cowboys timeout and, one play later, paved the way for a 62-yard TD run by Ryan Grant. Murmur. Cowboys, 13-10. How’s that for an entertaining first quarter?

8:06 p.m. Remember when Phillips made his team sign that laughable, Pop Warner-ish contract to commit fewer penalties? Void those deals. Green Bay’s two scoring drives were kept alive by obscene silliness: lining up offsides and having too many players on the field.

8:10 p.m. Damn, another touchdown. Yes, already. Methinks my decision to conduct sorta live, detailed blogging was a mistake. Romo 48 yards to Owens sets up Romo 26 yards to Anthony Fasano (the first of his NFL career). Without Woodson and KGB, Romo has lots of time and lots of open receivers. Cowboys, 20-10.

8:15 p.m. Knowing it's short-handed, Green Bay has tried a flea flicker and an onsides kick (each unsuccessfully). Perhaps I should amend my prediction. Cowboys 134, Packers 124?

8:20 p.m. Another interception (this one by Terence Newman) of another Favre wobbler, courtesy of a well-timed wallop by blitzing dime cornerback Nathan Jones. Favre’s on the sideline, holding his right arm in pain.

8:27 p.m. Give offensive coordinator Jason Garrett credit for exploiting the Packers’ depleted secondary. Romo just picked on backup corner Jarrett Bush, drawing an interference penalty on a deep ball to Miles Austin. After a drop by a wide-open Fasano in the end zone, Romo finds a wide-open T.O. in the end zone. Romo’s third of the game, 32nd of the season. Is that a rout I smell? Cowboys, 27-10.

8:31 p.m. In at quarterback for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers. How you like your cheese, melted or shredded?

8:51 p.m. The Cowboys are in good shape. But they had the Packers on the ropes. Leading by 17 and with the ball around midfield, Romo made two horrible overthrows of an open Jason Witten, leading to a punt. The Packers get two athletic receptions by Greg Jennings and, just like that, it’s Cowboys 27-17 at the half.

8:53 p.m. Everybody together now. Whew.

9 p.m. OK, that was pretty cool. At halftime the Cowboys saluted their Super Bowl teams of 1977 and 1992. Talk about a trip down memory lane. I covered the ’92 team for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and rooted like hell for the ’77 squad as a wide-eyed 13-year-old. It was great to see guys like Butch Johnson, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Thomas “Hollywood “Henderson from the ‘77s and Bill Bates, Leon Lett and Russell Maryland from the ‘92s. Combined weight gained by Nate Newton and Maryland: 200ish. Too Tall looks like he could still knock down a pass or two. Conspicuous in his absence: Jimmy Johnson.

9:10 p.m. Favre isn’t on the field for warm-ups. Down two defensive starters and their Hall-of-Fame quarterback, the Packers don’t stand a chance. Right?

9:13 p.m. Unless, of course, the Cowboys make hideous mental errors. Faced with 4th-and-2 from Green Bay’s 31, Phillips decides against a 48-yard field goal that would’ve provided a 13-point lead. Instead, Julius Jones -- if you’re gonna run there, it’s got to be Barber -- is stopped short and the Packers have life, if not momentum. Bad decision.

9:21 p.m. Make that three Packers’ drives kept alive by Cowboys penalties. Greg Ellis negates a sack that would’ve forced a field goal with a facemask snatch. Rodgers was a first-round draft pick in 2005. He entered the game with zero NFL touchdown passes. But he’s been perfectly Favre-like on Green Bay’s last two drives. Cowboys 27, Packers 24. Fasten your seat belts. Or is it grab your throats?

9:25 p.m. With Favre in a baseball cap and Rodgers picking apart Dallas’ pass defense, seems unlikely the 38-year-old legend will return. How weird is it to see the Packers without him? Tonight he made his 268th consecutive start, unfathomable for an NFL quarterback. He was also in There's Something About Mary, unfathomable for a guy who can’t act. Then again, Romo has repeatedly hopped on stage with Metal Skool. Call it even?

9:32 p.m. Believe it or not, the Cowboys just got a false start penalty because of crowd noise. That’s right, the yellow-clad cheeseheads are a factor. “Go Pack Go!” is echoing through the hole in Texas Stadium. Impressive. Or is it embarrassing?

9:33 p.m. In a game of big plays, we might just have seen the biggest. Facing third-and-19 from the shadow of their own end zone at the 11, Romo hits Crayton with a 35-yard strike. The Packers were on the verge of getting the ball back around midfield with momentum, but now Dallas is driving. Headed to the fourth quarter with a three-point game. It’s what we expected. Just not how we expected to get here.

9:47 p.m. Wow. As the crowd rises to cheer another wide open T.O. touchdown catch and 10 points of breathing room, Owens somehow juggles, bobbles and bats the ball straight to Harris, who makes a diving interception in the end zone and then sprints off the field as if his rumor of coverage had anything to do with the receiver’s gaffe. Um, yeah, the plays keep getting bigger. That, Green Bay, was an early Christmas gift.

10 p.m. For all the Cowboys penalties, the Pack just got called for one that more than evens things out. On what looked like nothing more than an incidental tangling of feet between cornerback Tramon Williams and Austin, officials flagged Green Bay for a 42-yard pass interference penalty that set up Dallas inside the 10. Three plays later Romo threw his fourth TD -- should’ve been his fifth, if not for T.O.’s Heimlich Maneuver -- to Crayton for a 34-24 lead with 7:51 remaining. It was the Cowboys’ first points since Favre left the game back in the second quarter.

10:04 p.m. Toldja it’d be Dallas 34, Green Bay 24. At some point, at least.

10:11 p.m. Couple of pretty decent sixth-round kickers on display. Crosby, from Georgetown, Texas, just drilled a 52-yard field goal to set up the stretch run. Dallas 34-27, 5:03 remaining.

10:14 p.m. Of the Class of ’06 Ohio State linebackers, who you think’s a more impactful player, Dallas’ Bobby Carpenter or Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk? Carpenter has one tackle this season; Hawk has eight this game. I know, sad.

10:17 p.m. In a game that’s featured more than 200 penalty yards so far, Green Bay just got hit with another killer. A 15-yard facemask on a routine Barber run moves Dallas to the Pack 26 nearing the two-minute warning. Green Bay is forced to use its timeouts. At the very least, the Cowboys are in prime position to kick a field goal to ice this baby. Oops, is typing the word “ice” at a Cowboys-Packers game bad karma?

10:22 p.m. As predicted, Marc Colombo neutralized NFL sack leader Aaron Kampman. Green Bay’s defensive motor had only three tackles, zero sacks.

10:26 p.m. Smart, effective finale by the Cowboys. In a nine-play, 56-yard drive that chewed up four minutes, Garrett gives the ball to Barber, who moves the chains and stays inbounds. Folk’s chip-shot 25-yarder seals the deal. Cowboys 37, Packers 27 with a minute left.

10:29 p.m. It wasn’t easy. Or, really, too convincing. But in a game in which Miles Austin went deep, Nate Jones applied pressure and Brett Favre threw for only 56 yards, the Cowboys move to 11-1 and all but assure themselves of home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. In all likelihood, they’ll host these same Packers in the NFC Championship Game on January 20. Favre, Woodson and KGB should be back for that rematch, and Green Bay surely gained some confidence by staying close. Really, all the Cowboys did was avoid a trip to Lambeau Field. Which, of course, is a major success.

10:30 p.m. The passing of the torch? Favre, five of 14 for 56 yards and two interceptions. Romo, 19 of 30 for 309 yards and four touchdowns, one interception; shoulda been five TDs, no picks.

10:31 p.m. Cowboys 37, Packers 27. Favre all-time in Texas Stadium: 0-9. Delicious. --Richie Whitt

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