Packers back in Big D for NFC Showdown

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Their rivalry dates back to 1960, a decade in which Vince Lombardi’s powerhouse Packers dominated the upstart Dallas Cowboys.

Green Bay won the first game 41-7 at City Stadium, and the ensuing five through 1968, including the legendary Ice Bowl at Lambeau Field, when Bart Starr’s dramatic sneak with 13 seconds was the difference in a 21-17 victory that earned the NFL’s smallest-market city an unprecedented third straight league championship.

“Three straight still stands as the record 50 years later,” said Dave Robinson, Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker.  “That tells you something.”

On Sunday afternoon the Packers and Cowboys renew their series, which Green Bay leads 14-13 in the regular season, with the rivals knotted 4-4 in postseason play.

Their last meeting was a 34-31 thriller in the NFC Divisional Playoff with the Packers winning it on Mason Crosby’s dramatic 51-yard field goal as time expired, culminating one of the greatest postseason victories in franchise history.

In week 5 of the 2016 season, unknowns Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott dominated in a 30-16 victory in Green Bay.

“That playoff game was a great win for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers was magnificent, but it’s in the past,” said Mike Ditka, former Chicago Bears and Dallas tight end.  “The teams are different now, but they have more film on each other to study.  I expect another high-scoring, close game.  Both defenses will have their hands full.”

The Cowboys’ defense was gashed at times last week in a disappointing 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at home last Sunday, when Todd Gurley lit them up for 215 total yards and two touchdowns.  Dallas is 2-2 on the season and in second place in the NFC East behind 3-1 Philadelphia, while the 3-1 Packers come off a convincing win over archrival Chicago and are tied with Detroit atop the NFC North standings.

With the first quarter of the season in the books, Green Bay used its mini-bye week to get healthy with a critical two-week road trip to Dallas and division rival Minnesota kicking off the second quarter of the 2017 schedule.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing is beating the Cowboys,” McCarthy said Thursday.  “We’re going to stress our team a little more than we probably have the first couple weeks because of our injuries.  We’re going to go down and we’re going to have a hell of a practice today. . .  so we need to improve and that puts us in position to win the game Sunday.”

Green Bay hopes to have several key starters back who have practiced this week, including tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, defensive leader Mike Daniels, and cornerback Davon House.

Running back Ty Montgomery (broken ribs) and linebacker Ahmad Brooks (back) were limited participants and linebacker Joe Thomas missed the all-important Thursday practice, according to Friday afternoon’s injury report filed by the team.  The Packers do not practice on Friday.  Dallas listed 11 players on its injury report, including Elliott (chest).

Green Bay faced its oldest rival last Thursday, and now heads to Dallas to face another.

“There’s a lot of history between the Packers and the Cowboys, a dominant team in the ‘90s,” Ditka said.  “Both are marquee NFL franchises and they both have great quarterbacks with Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott and feature a lot of offensive weapons.  Green Bay has battled through injuries and I can’t put my finger on Dallas.  One day their defense is pretty good, the next game not.  Same with their offense.  This is an important game in the NFC and it should be a good one.”

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Cowboys 30, Packers 27
It took a career day from Todd Gurley for the surprising Rams to overtake Dallas in the second half Sunday.  Even if Bakhtiari, Bulaga, and Daniels return to the line-up, Green Bay will need a near-perfect team performance and must win the turnover battle to take this key NFC road game.   Rodgers pulled it out in the NFC divisional playoff in January, but Packers fall short this time.

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