4:25 PM ET, December 15, 2013
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
The Green Bay Packers won't have the injured Aaron Rodgers for a sixth straight game. Playing a backup quarterback may prove not to be a detriment against the Dallas Cowboys' league-worst defense, though.
These teams are in the hunt for division titles, and the Cowboys could be hard-pressed to stop Matt Flynn on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
The Packers ruled Rodgers out Friday. Coach Mike McCarthy said after practice that the decision was made in the best interest of the franchise quarterback. McCarthy said Rodgers had a good week of preparation but did very little in practice Friday.
"Hey, it's not the easiest thing to sit there and tell your franchise quarterback he can't play in the game when he wants to play in the game," McCarthy said. "This is clearly a decision that's made in the best interest of Aaron Rodgers."
He added that Rodgers was "very disappointed" in the decision.
In his place, Flynn will make his third straight start. He went 24 of 32 for 258 yards with one touchdown and an interception in a 22-21 victory over Atlanta last week.
Green Bay (6-6-1) is one-half game behind NFC North co-leaders Detroit and Chicago as it returns to Arlington for the first time since Rodgers became MVP of Super Bowl XLV there in a 31-25 victory over Pittsburgh in 2011.
While the Packers do not control their destiny to win the division, the Cowboys do in the East. Dallas (7-6), which trails first-place Philadelphia by one game and hosts the Eagles in Week 17, will own the tiebreaker if it wins its last three games.
Dallas (7-6), however, probably doesn't have reason to be confident this week even with Rodgers sidelined. The Cowboys were shredded by another backup in Monday's 45-28 road loss to the Bears, as Josh McCown threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Chicago racked up 490 yards of offense.
The defeat marked the second time in a row Dallas has turned in an embarrassing performance in prime time after Drew Brees threw for 392 yards and four scores in a 49-17 win for New Orleans on Nov. 10. The Cowboys have allowed a league-worst 441.9 yards per game.
"Basically, we will have to make some adjustments in what we are doing defensively," owner Jerry Jones said Monday. "What that usually means is taking more risks on defense. But if you're going to have the kind of match like we had tonight or certainly in New Orleans, you have to take some risks. We have to double up and I'm sure that will be part of the plan on defense; more risks."
Flynn helped Green Bay end an 0-4-1 slide Sunday, and he's not taking anything for granted this week, noting that the Cowboys have forced 25 turnovers to tie for the fifth-highest total in the NFL.
"We've got to do our job and go out there and execute," Flynn said. "We think they're a talented defense. We know what we've got to do, we've got to try to work out any of the mistakes we're making and play a really clean game, especially there."
The Cowboys didn't force any turnovers Monday and allowed the Bears to score on their first eight possessions.
Chicago converted eight of 11 first downs, and Dallas is allowing opponents to convert 42.9 percent of the time in those situations, fifth-worst in the league.
"It isn't like they went right down the field, right down the field," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "Now they did but we had some third downs, we've gotta win some third downs."
The Cowboys are tied for fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL with 27. Star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, who has missed three games with a thigh injury, has a career-low six.
Dallas also won't have linebacker Sean Lee, who's been ruled out because of a neck injury.The team's second-leading tackler was injured against the Bears.
The woeful defense has put more pressure on Tony Romo, who fell to 11-16 in December on Monday. He threw for a season-low 104 yards but had three touchdown passes with no interceptions for an offense that was only on the field for 23:16 because of the problems on the other side of the ball.
"It feels like you've got to win out is what it feels like," said Romo, 2-1 in his career as a starter against Green Bay. "It's felt like that for a few weeks."
Although the Packers are familiar with this venue, Sunday marks the first time they will face the Cowboys in it. Dallas captured the last nine meetings at Texas Stadium, including three in the postseason.
The teams' previous three matchups were in Green Bay, with the Packers winning the last two. These clubs haven't matched up in three seasons.
More from ESPN.com
New Cowboy Gregory gets star tattoo on arm
Dallas Cowboys rookie Randy Gregory got a star tattoo on his forearm to show his allegiance to the team that drafted him last week.
Charges against Cowboys LB McClain dismissed
Alabama prosecutors are dismissing charges against NFL linebacker Rolando McClain stemming from his arrest in a park in his hometown in 2013.
Recent Blog Posts
Green Bay Packers
- Draft has no impact on Packers' odds, ranking
- Packers' 2015 draft class: Video highlights, grades, best picks
- NFL Nation TV delves into 'Thumbs Down' NFL draft grades
|Avg Points Allowed||25.9||27.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||GB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||GB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Green Bay leads 4-2|
|Nov 7, 2010||GB 45, DAL 7|
|Nov 15, 2009||GB 17, DAL 7|
|Sep 21, 2008||GB 16, DAL 27|
|Nov 29, 2007||GB 27, @DAL 37|
|Oct 24, 2004||GB 41, DAL 20|
Tony Romo has now thrown the most 4th-quarter interceptions this season when the score is within five points. Romo joined Geno Smith (did it in Week 2 vs NE) as the only quarterbacks to throw multiple 4th-quarter interceptions in the same game when the score is within five points this season.[+]
This is the first time in franchise history the Cowboys have lost a game in which they led by 20 or more points at the half. Entering Sunday, they had been 42-0.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys chose to pass the ball on 2nd down in the final three minutes against the Packers Sunday. Entering Week 15... Since 2001, teams have rushed the ball 94.7 percent of the time (3,061 rushes on 3,234 snaps) on 1st or 2nd down when leading by 1 to 7 points in the final three minutes of the 4th quarter.
- Unlike the Cowboys, the Packers didn't give up on the run in the second half, and in fact, increased their rush percentage. Lacy gained 110 yards in the second half alone, averaging 8.5 yards per rush (3.9 in the first half).[+]
Rush Percentage Sunday
Tony Romo's interception with 1:24 left in the 4th quarter dropped the Cowboys win probability by 51.1 percentage points, the 2nd-most costly 4th-quarter interception in his career in terms of decrease in win probability. His interception earlier in the quarter dropped the Cowboys win probability by 17.5 percentage points (from 88.6 percent to 71.1 percent). Tony Romo has thrown 7 career 4th-quarter interceptions that have dropped the Cowboys win probability by at least 20 percentage points (The Cowboys have lost all 7 games). Only Matt Schaub has thrown more costly interceptions (8) since the start of 2006.[+]
Tony Romo Career 4th-Quarter Interceptions
Matt Flynn went 12-of-17 against four or fewer pass rushers in the second half Sunday after going 8-of-14 in the first half. The Cowboys didn't sack or put Flynn under duress once in the second half when using such pass rushes. - The Packers went 6-of-7 on third down in the second half Sunday, with the only "failed" conversion being Matt Flynn's final kneel down to end the game. The Packers went 1-of-6 on third down in the first half, with the only conversion being a screen pass on the final play of the half.[+]
Matt Flynn Facing 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers Sunday
The Cowboys' defense contributed -22.8 expected points to the team's net scoring margin in the 2nd half against the Packers. That is the worst defensive EPA by any team in the 2nd half of a game this season. The Packers scored a touchdown on each of their 2nd-half drives, excluding their final drive, which was 3 kneel downs. The Packers got first downs on 47 percent of their 2nd-half plays and converted 6-of-7 third downs during that span.[+]
Cowboys Defense vs Packers
Tony Romo's interception with 1:24 left in the 4th quarter dropped the Cowboys' win probability by 51.1 percentage points, the 2nd-most costly 4th-quarter interception in his career in terms of win probability (the most costly was Darrelle Revis' interception of Romo in 2011; see chart below). His interception earlier in the quarter dropped the Cowboys' win probability by 17.5 percentage points (from 88.6% to 71.1%).[+]
Tony Romo Career 4th-Quarter Interceptions
The Cowboys entered the second half with a 26-3 lead and DeMarco Murray averaging 8.5 yards per rush (11 rushes, 93 yards). Despite the big lead and success on the ground, the Cowboys ran by design on 7-of-30 second half plays (23%). - The league average play call when leading this season is 53% pass, 47% rush. The Cowboys entered Sunday with the second-lowest rush percentage when ahead (37%). - Entering Week 15, teams have rushed the ball 94.7 percent of the time (3,061 rushes on 3,234 snaps) on 1st or 2nd down when leading by 1 to 7 points in the final three minutes of the 4th quarter since 2001. - Murray had all 7 of the Cowboys' rushes in the second half. Eddie Lacy had 13 second-half rushes. - The Cowboys averaged just as many yards on rushes as dropbacks in the first half Sunday. In the second half, the Cowboys averaged 1.9 yards more on rushes.[+]
Cowboys Play Calling Sunday
Tony Romo was 4-of-4 for 89 yards and a TD on passes traveling 15+ yards downfield in the first quarter against the Packers.
ESPN Stats & Information