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Week 14 Game Recap: Dallas Cowboys 7, Green Bay Packers 28


What you need to know

Dallas Cowboys

While the Cowboys defense can keep Dallas in games for a quarter or two, the offensive limitations shined through against this week against Green Bay. Matt Cassel’s lackluster arm strength to push the ball downfield and Dez Bryant logging an inordinate number of drops marred their chances. The offensive line excelled in run blocking, paving well-defined lanes for Darren McFadden and Robert Turbin to run for more than 160 yards combined on 16 carries. Touchdown opportunities were once again at a premium, limiting the fantasy appeal of all skill position players in the closing weeks.

Green Bay Packers

All the talk of a James Starks/Eddie Lacy split is a bit off base. Not only are the carries fully in Lacy’s favor (24 carries for Lacy to 11 for Starks) but the overall snaps are as well (49 snaps for Lacy compared to 32 for Starks). The team is likely to keep Starks involved, but this is Lacy’s job and he will get the nod for hard yards and big moments, not Starks. Barring another curfew violation or an injury, we expect Lacy to keep producing yards as the primary back. With Mike McCarthy calling the plays again, there is not only more running, but the passing is more effective which will make Lacy’s carries more effective.

Dallas Cowboys

QB Matt Cassel, 52 offensive snaps, Pass: 13 - 29 - 114 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 6 - 0
Cassel struggled through another limiting performance, now with a single passing touchdown over his last four games. The Packers pushed the pocket on Cassel’s dropbacks, making Cassel look for short-range targets more than even his typical healthy rate. Cassel missed opportunities on his own with an early end zone overthrow of Jason Witten and missing an open Terrance Williams downfield, but Dez Bryant did not help Cassel much either. Bryant dropped four passes, including a tipped slant route into the air (ultimately intercepted) at the goal line. While Cassel has struggled, Dez Bryant’s lackluster play in recent weeks has limited Cassel’s effectiveness as well. Finishing the season with New York (Jets), Buffalo, and Washington on the schedule offer little optimism based on the matchups for a significant rebound.

RB Darren McFadden, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 111 - 0 (2 targets)
McFadden saw his lowest volume of touches since taking over the starting role against Green Bay. Dallas struggled to string together long drives and most of his production came from two well-blocked perimeter runs of 46 and 50 yards respectively. McFadden’s burst and open field speed are his best attributes, both contributing to his best runs of the game. On his best opportunity to score, a goal line carry, he was stuffed by the Green Bay interior. Robert Turbin flashed in relief, including back-to-back red zone touches (and a touchdown), a notable change from recent weeks where McFadden saw a dominant share of the work. Touchdowns have been the most significant limitation for McFadden, now with three scores on 224 touches this season, including one over the last seven games. The Jets are a stingy matchup next week.

RB Robert Turbin, 10 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 51 - 1
Turbin had his best game as a Cowboy against Green Bay. The Dallas offensive line, while they struggled in pass protection, performed well opening running lanes. Turbin saw more playing time as the game progressed and the scoreboard deficit expanded. Turbin’s best sequence of touches came on back-to-back carries in the third quarter. After finding a defined cutback lane for 20 yards, Turbin capped off the drive with Dallas’ lone touchdown of the game. Later in the quarter Turbin showed strong cutting ability on another carry. The Dallas offense is limited as a whole, but Turbin has performed well enough to stay on the radar as the clear primary backup to Darren McFadden in the closing weeks of the season.

WR Terrance Williams, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 38 - 0 (5 targets)
Williams was invisible for the first half against Green Bay, finally hauling in a short reception late in the second quarter. Williams’ lone big play opportunity came where he had separation on a deep play-action target. Matt Cassel overthrew Williams on the play. Williams logged an out route reception in clear garbage time late in the game. Williams has a single touchdown since the opening month of the season, spanning 26 receptions.

WR Dez Bryant, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (6 targets)
The lost 2015 season for Dez Bryant continued against Green Bay. For the fourth straight game, Bryant caught less than half his targets, this time contributing four drops along the way. A high, but catchable goal line pass clanged off Bryant’s hands, turning into an interception. Bryant later dropped a back shoulder target and an easy comeback route. The closest play came on a ball skills display for Bryant down the seam. Through blanket coverage, Bryant corralled the ball for a potential huge gain. However, an official review overturned the completion as he bobbled the ball heading to the ground. He did draw a defensive holding penalty on an early-game slant route beyond the box score. With Matt Cassel premium opportunities are few and far between, but Bryant hindered his own performance with critical drops this week.

TE Jason Witten, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 40 - 0 (9 targets)
Witten was the lackluster leading receiver for Dallas with a mere 40 yards against Green Bay. His two highlight plays came on a red zone catch, where he was tackled at the one-yard-line, and a third down hitch route, continuing Dallas’ drive. While the volume has been steady this season (at least six targets in 10-of-13 games), the end zone continues to elude the accomplished tight end. Witten has not hit pay dirt since Week 1, spanning 57 receptions. This season is shaping up like a poor man’s version of Witten high-volume, low-touchdown and yards-per-catch campaign in 2009 and 2012. The Jets in Week 15 have been a stingy tight end matchup all season with Rob Gronkowski the lone high-level performance against them.


Green Bay Packers

QB Aaron Rodgers, 85 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 35 - 218 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 27 - 0
With head coach Mike McCarthy reluctantly taking over play calling duties again, both Aaron Rodgers and the whole Packers offense looked much closer to what we have come to expect. The short, quick slants were back (although not as frequently as we used to see them), along with some very creative screen passes that have been added in to get the receivers the ball in space and with some blockers in front of them. While the offense looked better and more in sync than it has, Rodgers still seems a little off. He doesn’t look like he is fully stepping into his passes and it has made for some shaky accuracy and slow passes. He has a strong arm and can overcome the occasional sloppy mechanic but it feels like we are seeing this a lot. Rodgers looked OK more often than not though, including on both touchdown passes. The first was on a 13-yard swing pass to James Starks. It was either a great play-call or a nice adjustment at the line by Rodgers, and he got the ball out before the Cowboys could correct and account for Starks coming out of the backfield. On a 3-yard pass to Richard Rodgers in the second quarter, A. Rodgers did a nice job of rolling out and hitting the wide open tight end. While it was a positive play, this pass also was a good example of what happens when Rodgers doesn’t set his feet as the pass was low and behind R. Rodgers, who had to slide and dig the ball off the ground. At the end of the day, the Packers look much better when McCarthy is calling plays, and that includes their quarterback who looked more comfortable than he had in some time.

RB Eddie Lacy, 49 offensive snaps, Rush: 24 - 124 - 1, Rec: 1 - 24 - 0 (1 targets)
Lacy was demoted for violating curfew last week and he said that allowed him to focus again (Per the Green Bay Press-Gazette). He came out on fire against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday, running as hard as we have seen him any time this season and abusing the Cowboy defenders all day. Lacy bowled his way for a short touchdown to put the finishing touches on the team’s 28-7 win. While he definitely gave way to James Starks on occasion, Lacy was clearly the better back and the one Mike McCarthy relied on throughout the game and in the fourth quarter with a one touchdown lead, it was Lacy the team leaned on. Aside from his touchdown, Lacy showed good speed and sharp awareness as he cutback and outside on an 11-yard run and another 15-yard run off the same left tackle where he slipped around a defender and quickly got upfield for the first down. Now that he has focus, the Packers need him to stay that way to help them secure the division title and they will go to him early and often.

RB James Starks, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 71 - 1, Rec: 4 - 32 - 1 (4 targets)
Both running backs had a huge day, with Starks averaging 6.5 yards per carry on his way to 100 all-purpose yards. Starks had a fantastic run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, which put the Packers up by two touchdowns. On the play, Starks ran to the right of the center and then picked his way through a pair of blockers battling with defenders. Then he accelerated past two more Cowboys and outran the defense to the end zone. He also scored on a swing pass from the Cowboys 10-yard line. It seemed as if the Packers rotated Starks in regularly to give Lacy a breather but also help wear down the Dallas defense. We may see about the same amount of Starks going forward, but his production could be hit and miss as he likely won’t get many more carries.

RB John Kuhn, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (2 targets)
Kuhn was on the field for 44 snaps (or 51 percent of the offensive snaps), primarily as a blocker. He had one very nice catch where he bowled over a defender for more yards and a short carry, but he is not a weapon the team looks at often.

WR Randall Cobb, 83 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 9 - 0, Rec: 8 - 81 - 0 (12 targets)
Cobb is still a bit inconsistent, and had a big drop in the fourth quarter, but had one of his best games against the Dallas Cowboys. It was finally a game where the offense seemed more comfortable and utilized a lot more short routes and quick passes than it had. That allowed Cobb to get the ball in his hands early and make plays, such as on his 11-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. In the play, Cobb lined up wide and ran a short bubble screen. Aaron Rodgers saw it and fired off a pass which Cobb caught behind the line of scrimmage. Once he secured the ball, Cobb moved upfield, split two defenders and got the first down before getting tackled.

WR James Jones, 82 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 49 - 0 (7 targets)
Jones was targeted frequently this week, though he didn’t have tremendous success. Jones doesn’t have the speed or quickness to lose defenders trailing him, so Aaron Rodgers needs a pretty clear path to get him the ball. After a hot start, Jones has continued to stay cool with occasional moments where he can make a big play, but his limitations have really come to the fore the last month or so. His biggest issue is how he handles contact early in his route or at the line. Jones doesn’t seem interested in running through contact, and is too quick to give up when a defender gets his hands on the receiver.

WR Davante Adams, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (3 targets)
Adams was unimpressive again during the second half of Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, and the result seemed to be a benching as he was mostly absent from the field of play in the second half. The worst part of his day was an offensive pass interference call in the first half and was probably the final straw for head coach Mike McCarthy. Ty Montgomery is set to return soon, so this could be the end of Adams season.

WR Jared Abbrederis, 14 offensive snaps (1 targets)
After Davante Adams was benched, Abbrederis entered the game but only saw one target, as he had no better luck than Adams in getting out from under the Cowboys’ coverage. He seems to be just a placeholder until Ty Montgomery comes back.

TE Justin Perillo, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)
Perillo saw just one target, near the end of the first half and spent most of his 13 snaps blocking.

TE Richard Rodgers, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 3 - 1 (2 targets)
After a tremendous Week 13, Richard Rodgers’ production came back down to earth with a crash. He caught just one pass on two targets, though that one pass was at least a touchdown. On the play, out of a tight formation on the 3-yard line, Rodgers ran a short up and out into the end zone and with Dallas playing hard against the run, nobody picked him up. The throw was a little behind him, but Rodgers hauled it in.