Upon Further Review: Packers Week 15

ARLINGTON, Texas – A review of four hot issues from the Green Bay Packers37-36 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium:

Sticking with the run: While the Cowboys were busy abandoning their running game in the second half, the Packers stuck with theirs. That couldn’t have been easy for coach Mike McCarthy to do facing a 23-point halftime deficit. Of course, it’s easier when your running back breaks the first play of the third quarter for a 60-yard gain. On the way to becoming the Packers’ first rookie running back to rush for 1,000 yards since 1971 (John Brockington), Eddie Lacy gained 110 of his 141 yards in the second half. “The kid’s a helluva player,” Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith said. “Week in, week out the guy just goes out there and runs hard. He doesn’t back down from nobody, just goes out there and punishes defenses. When we’re getting clean blocking for him, you see what the kid can do.” The Cowboys, despite averaging 8.5 yards per carry in the first half, ran only seven times in the second half. The Packers ran on 46 percent of their second-half plays.

Quarless’ contribution: This is not a misprint, and you are not seeing double: Tight end Andrew Quarless had six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. That was his exact same line a week earlier against the Atlanta Falcons, and his late-season contributions have been much needed. Going into the Falcons game, Quarless had only 17 catches for 130 yards and no touchdowns in the first 12 games. He has become a security blanket for backup quarterback Matt Flynn and has finally given the Packers some production from the tight end spot after they lost Jermichael Finley to a neck injury on Oct. 20. “He knows that he’s had some opportunities early in the year that he didn’t take full advantage of,” McCarthy said. “He’s been big the last two weeks, and we need him.”

Flynn was fine, but ...: Credit Flynn for his remarkable poise in leading the Packers back in the second half for the second straight week. He was unflappable and deserves as much credit as anyone else for this improbable victory. But with the Packers still in the playoff race with two games remaining, an argument could be made that it’s more imperative now than ever before that Aaron Rodgers returns this week from his broken collarbone. “We’re doing ourselves justice by winning these past two games,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We need a little help moving forward. Hopefully Baltimore helps us out [by beating the Lions on Monday night]. Otherwise we’ve just got to keep this moving. Hopefully, we get Aaron back and keep moving forward.”

Defensive issues linger: The 23-point comeback should not put the issues that continued to plague the defense on the back burner. The Cowboys dominated Dom Capers’ defense in the first half, amassing 332 yards, 17 first downs and 26 points. The Cowboys’ first-half drives ended like this: field goal, field goal, touchdown, punt, field goal, field goal, touchdown. “We couldn’t stop them on defense,” defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. “They did it pretty much running it, throwing it. They had over 300 yards at halftime.”