Packers humiliate hapless Cowboys
Every time it seemed as though the Dallas Cowboys hit their low point, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers knocked them down another notch.
Rodgers threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, Brandon Jackson scored twice and Green Bay routed the free-falling Cowboys 45-7 on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
It was a new nadir in a lost season for the Cowboys (1-7), who came into 2010 with Super Bowl aspirations. And it's sure to kick off a new round of speculation about the future of coach Wade Phillips, despite recent statements from team owner Jerry Jones that a midseason firing was unlikely.
"We have so many things that we need to correct and address that this game so vividly exposed," Jones said. "I've got a lot of work to do. I've got a lot of decisions to make."
But he declined to pinpoint when a coaching decision could be expected.
"I think everybody in this country would agree that there's something wrong with this team, and I've got to address it," Jones said.
James Jones caught eight passes for 123 yards and a touchdown for the Packers (6-3), who have won three straight.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he expected his team to play well — but even he was surprised at the lopsided result.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I expected the score to be what it was," McCarthy said.
Green Bay's Clay Matthews added a final dose of embarrassment in the fourth quarter, picking off a pass from Jon Kitna and running it back 62 yards for a touchdown.
"I got lucky out there," Matthews said in a television interview. "It wasn't the prettiest interception — or Lambeau leap. Got to work on my skills."
Dallas fell behind 28-0 late in the second quarter, giving up three long touchdown drives before fumbling away a kickoff that was returned for a TD by Nick Collins.
Return man Bryan McCann appeared to be down before he gave the ball away — but the Cowboys didn't have any timeouts left, so they weren't able to challenge the call.
It was just another misstep in a colossal downward spiral for the Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the Packers continued to show how a team with Super Bowl expectations is supposed to handle a disappointing start to the season.
It was an impressive performance by Rodgers, who hadn't been playing up to his own high standards earlier this year.
"I haven't played this kind of game, really, this season yet, playing the way that I feel like I'm capable of playing," Rodgers said. "It was nice to play better."
Green Bay has won three in a row after opening 3-3, including an emotional Sunday night home win over Brett Favre and the Vikings followed by a 9-0 road shutout of the New York Jets last week. Beating the talented but troubled Cowboys gives the Packers another boost of momentum heading into their bye week.
About the only serious mistake for the Packers was a personal foul penalty on Collins, flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cowboys receiver Roy Williams in the third quarter. Collins could be in line for additional punishment as the NFL cracks down on illegal hits this season.
Longtime Packers receiver Donald Driver sat out with a quadriceps injury, but Jones and Greg Jennings were able to pick up the slack in the passing game. Jennings had seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Green Bay's defence contained Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna, who again was filling in for an injured Tony Romo and threw for 183 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Packers rookie cornerback Sam Shields made an acrobatic, one-handed interception of a deep pass by Kitna to set up Rodgers' 9-yard screen pass to Jackson for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
A sack by Matthews helped force a punt on the Cowboys' next possession. After a 12-yard scramble, Rodgers heaved a 22-yard completion to Jones as cornerback Mike Jenkins slipped and fell to the turf. Rodgers went right back to Jones on the next play, this time finding him for 31 yards over Terence Newman to set up first-and-goal at the two. Jackson plowed in for his second touchdown of the night.
Matthews made another big play on the Cowboys' next possession, stuffing Marion Barber on third-and-1 to force another Dallas punt. Rodgers led another long drive, ending with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jennings.
Then things really got ugly.
Jarrett Bush stripped the ball from McCann on the ensuing kickoff and Collins returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. Replays showed McCann appeared to be down before the ball came out — but the Cowboys didn't have any timeouts left to challenge.
A two-yard touchdown pass from Kitna to Dez Bryant just before halftime was about the only sign of life for the Cowboys, cutting the lead to 28-7. But Rodgers threw his third touchdown pass in the third quarter, a 10-yard strike to Jones that put the Packers up 35-7.