Without pressure, Cowboys had no answers for Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There was no doubt Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hurt. The limp gave it away.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive line could see something was wrong with Rodgers' left calf. Their eyes were on him the entire game. They could see him -- even feel him, on occasion -- but they could not get to him. Not enough, with just the one sack.

As sore as Rodgers’ left calf might have been, his right arm was perfectly healthy.

Rodgers' right arm was the difference -- that and possibly an overturned catch by Dez Bryant -- in the Green Bay Packers' 26-21 victory in Sunday’s divisional round of the playoffs at Lambeau Field.

"You could tell [he was hurt], but I mean, he's a smart quarterback," Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "It doesn't take much movement. All it takes is a sidestep or two to get open. ... That's why I was telling you his legs ain't gonna matter with a guy that has an arm like that."

Rodgers completed 24 of 35 passes for 316 yards and threw three touchdown passes. He now has 41 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his past 17 games at Lambeau Field.

He was so good, the Cowboys' secondary could not tell he was hurt. Their eyes were on the receivers and tight ends. They couldn't see him limp or favor his left leg. They just saw Rodgers' passes come in tight and pinpointed to his receivers.

"He's still throwing it pretty hard and quick," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "He was getting the ball out quickly, and he was making his reads. Really can't tell. I didn't believe it, anyway."

Rodgers' receivers helped him with yards after the catch, as on Davante Adams' 46-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but it was his laser-like throwing that left the Cowboys' secondary a tick too late.

Take the game-winning touchdown to tight end Richard Rodgers with 9:10 to play in the fourth quarter. With too much time to throw, Aaron Rodgers slid to his right away from the Cowboys' line and zipped a 13-yard strike between safety J.J. Wilcox and cornerback Sterling Moore for the score.

There might be another quarterback willing to make a throw such as that, but there might not be another who could complete it.

"If I didn't have the pick, I thought I'd at least bat it down," Wilcox said. "But he shot it in there."

To help Rodgers' calf, the Packers kept him in the pistol or shotgun formation for every snap but the three victory formation kneel-downs. Four times Rodgers broke from the pocket, and he completed three passes with two touchdowns. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was just his third game in the past three seasons with multiple touchdowns out of the pocket.

When the Packers decided to be one-dimensional in the second half and forget the running game, they made it difficult on the Cowboys' pass rush by going to empty formations. The Cowboys couldn't bring extra pass-rushers.

In the first half, the Cowboys blitzed five times, and Rodgers completed just two passes. In the second half, the Cowboys pressured him just twice on 20 dropbacks.

"We had a variety of pressures throughout the ballgame and different kinds of pressures -- zone pressure, man pressures, extra rushers -- and we also just let our down rushers try to get there," coach Jason Garrett said. "At different times, we were around him, but he did a good job moving and at least getting rid of the football. Somehow, some way you have to affect the other team's quarterback. He's an awfully good football player."

The Cowboys' biggest issue Sunday was the biggest issue they had entering the season: pass rush. Unable to send a fifth rusher with the Packers emptying the backfield, Rodgers was able to pick apart the Cowboys. Against a four-man rush, Rodgers completed 14 of 18 passes with two touchdowns in the second half.

"You got to get Aaron Rodgers down," Mincey said. "You got to intimidate him, put him out. We had hits on him and stuff like that, but we didn't have enough."

Not even close to enough.