Green Bay Packers strike late to get past the Cowboys

Pittsburgh Steelers held off Kansas City Chiefs to reach AFC championship game

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of the Green Bay Packers tackles Terrance Williams of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of the Green Bay Packers tackles Terrance Williams of the Dallas Cowboys in the second half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

 

Green Bay Packers 34 Dallas Cowboys 31

Aaron Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a huge Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs on Sunday.

The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook — confirmed on review — wasn’t nearly as debatable as Dez Bryant’s famous catch that wasn’t in the Cowboys’ divisional round loss to Green Bay two years ago. Cook kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds.

And it came after the Cowboys tied the game twice in the final five minutes behind rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their playoff debut.

It was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:38 — two from Crosby and one from Dallas’ Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called timeout before the first attempt.

Rodgers, who sparked last week’s wildcard win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before half-time, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan next Sunday. It will be his third NFC title game — all on the road.

Green Bay’s win was the first by a road team after 12 straight home victories in the playoffs dating to last season.

“Unbelievable effort. I mean, what a game, what a game,” said Rodgers, who threw for 356 yards with two touchdowns. “We’re going to celebrate this and move on to Atlanta. We’re just going to enjoy this right now.”

The Cowboys almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the playoffs after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. The first was Dallas in 1972, when Captain Comeback, Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys for a 30-28 win over San Francisco. Instead, Dallas ended up with their fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game.

Prescott got the Dallas rally going with a 40-yard touchdown toss in the first half to Bryant, the first playoff TD for the star receiver. Then he set the stage for the first tying score on a six-yarder to Jason Witten, also the first postseason touchdown for the 14th-year tight end.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 Kansas City Chiefs 16

The Steelers needed to hold off a last-ditch threat by the Chiefs before advancing to face New England next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots won at Pittsburgh 27-16, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured and didn’t play.

Spencer Ware’s one-yard touchdown run took Kansas City within 18-16. The Chiefs at first converted the 2-pointer to tie it, but tackle Eric Fisher — the first overall selection in the 2013 draft — was penalized for holding. The next try failed.

With 2:43 remaining, Justin Gilbert misplayed the kick return and was tackled at the Pittsburgh five. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for seven yards on third down and Pittsburgh then ran out the clock, securing a ninth straight victory for the Steelers. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994, losing five in a row.

The scoring started furiously in the opening minutes, then the game became a kicking exhibition by Boswell, who also had six field goals in the regular season against Cincinnati. And Bell put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes and then exploding through them. He added a team-record 170 yards rushing to the 167 he had in a win over Miami last week.

The Steelers became first team to win a playoff game without a touchdown since eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC divisional round at Baltimore.

Using a no-huddle attack almost to perfection early on, the Steelers drove deep into Kansas City territory. But they bogged down inside the five and Boswell made a 22-yard field goal. The Chiefs were just as efficient on a six-play march capped by receiver Albert Wilson lining up in the backfield, then slipping uncovered into the end zone for a five-yard score.

Pittsburgh’s answer came on a 52-yard heave to All-Pro Brown, who somehow was covered by linebacker Justin Houston. That led to Boswell’s second field goal, a 38-yarder. He added a 36-yarder to cap a 14-play drive on which Pittsburgh again barely huddled.

A clean game up until then turned to turnovers, on successive series. Bud Dupree pounded Alex Smith, whose pass shot high into the air and was caught by linebacker Ryan Shazier. The Steelers got to the Kansas City five, where Frank Zombo leaped to deflect Roethlisberger’s throw, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry — burned for 26 yards on the previously play — picked it off in the end zone.

Boswell’s fourth field goal, from 45 yards, made it 12-7 at the half. His 43-yarder, setting the franchise record for a postseason game and tying the league mark of five, came on Pittsburgh’s first series of the second half. A 43-yarder midway in the fourth quarter gave Boswell the NFL record.

Kansas City’s Cairo Santos got in on the kicking act with a 48-yarder to make it 15-10. At that point, 10 seconds from the end of the third quarter, the Chiefs were outgained 333 yards to 150.

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