GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)Aaron Rodgers finally might have found a new big-play target.
And the Green Bay Packers still have a chance to rescue a season that seemed headed toward oblivion.
Rodgers threw three touchdown passes to rookie Christian Watson and led a 55-yard drive in overtime to set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning 28-yard field goal, and the Packers stopped a five-game skid with a 31-28 win over former coach Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
”We’ve seen what we can be, and we’ve seen it was only us getting in our own way,” said Watson, a second-round pick from North Dakota State. ”All we had to do was believe.”
Green Bay (4-6) appeared well on its way to losing six straight games in the same season for the first time since 1988, trailing 28-14 in the fourth quarter before Rodgers led two long drives that ended with scoring passes to Watson.
Watson entered Sunday with 10 catches for 88 yards in an injury-riddled rookie season. He caught four passes for 107 yards against Dallas, including touchdowns of 58, 39 and 7 yards.
He became the first Packers rookie since Keith Woodside in 1988 to have multiple touchdown catches in a game. The TD catches were the first of his career, although he reached the end zone on a 15-yard rush against New England on Oct. 2.
Rodgers bounced back after throwing three interceptions to match a career high in a 15-9 loss at Detroit last week.
”Last week was definitely a low, rock-bottom-ish for sure,” said Rodgers, who went 14 of 20 for 224 yards. ”Not in a depressive, isolationism way, but more disappointment. And I felt like that was the bottom and it was only up from there. I think a lot of the battles that we face are between I and I, between the person that can go out there and dominate and knows that they can and the little voice in your head that tries to knock you out of that confident perch around you.”
McCarthy coached the Packers to their most recent Super Bowl title after the 2010 season and posted a 125-77-2 record with Green Bay before getting fired in 2018. This was his first game against the Packers since he took over as Dallas’ coach in 2020.
”I’m very frustrated with the end of the game, obviously,” McCarthy said. ”I think just the biggest thing for us is we need to just go out here and just learn from these games. I love these kind of games. That’s what I told these (guys), `You need these tight games to get to where you want to go.”’
Rodgers was McCarthy’s quarterback for most of his time with the Packers. Their relationship grew strained in McCarthy’s later seasons, but they exchanged compliments over the last week and shared hugs before and after Sunday’s game.
Rodgers said they also had an extended conversation earlier in the day.
”That was really, really meaningful I think for both of us,” Rodgers said.
The Cowboys (6-3) blew a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history. They entered Sunday with a 195-0 record in such games, including playoffs.
McCarthy chose to go for it on fourth-and-3 from Green Bay’s 35 on the opening possession of overtime instead of trying a long field goal. Dak Prescott was pressured by Jarran Reed and threw a desperation pass to Tony Pollard that fell incomplete.
”I’m fine with the decision,” McCarthy said. ”Obviously, I know we didn’t convert. Fourth-and-3, we just didn’t convert.”
The Packers had third-and-1 from their own 44 on the ensuing drive when Rodgers threw across the middle to Allen Lazard, who caught the ball just beyond midfield and raced to the 20 for a 36-yard gain. The Packers then set things up for Crosby’s game-winning kick.
Green Bay’s Aaron Jones rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb finished with 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Pollard ran for 115 yards and a score. Prescott went 27 of 46 for 265 yards, three TDs and two interceptions, both by Rudy Ford.
Watson’s 58-yard touchdown in the second quarter was the Packers’ longest completion of the season. He celebrated by doing a back flip in the end zone.
He delivered a couple of even bigger plays in the fourth quarter. Rodgers found Watson for a 39-yard score on fourth-and-7 with 13:23 left. They connected again on a game-tying 7-yard TD with 2:29 remaining.
Green Bay got the ball back at its own 33 with 1:38 left but gained only 9 yards on two carries by Jones and an incompletion before punting, a series that had Rodgers angry about the play-calling.
”I felt like I threw the ball just about exactly where I wanted it to tonight,” Rodgers said. ”I wanted to go have a chance to win the game.”
Rodgers and the Packers were feeling a lot better by the time the game ended.
Cowboys CB Anthony Brown left with a concussion in the second quarter.
The Cowboys were missing running back Ezekiel Elliott (knee). … Green Bay’s defense was missing outside linebacker Rashan Gary (knee), linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (knee) and cornerback Eric Stokes (ankle/knee). The Packers placed Gary and Stokes on injured reserve after both players were hurt at Detroit.
Cowboys: At Minnesota on Sunday.
Packers: Host Tennessee on Thursday night.
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