GREEN BAY, Wis. — Hobbled but happy, Aaron Rodgers might have felt a bit lucky, too.
No matter: The All-Pro quarterback and his Green Bay Packers are one step away from the Super Bowl.
More stationary than usual because of a left calf injury, Rodgers rallied the Packers from an 8-point deficit with two second-half touchdown passes to beat Dallas 26-21 Sunday.
The Packers (13-4), helped immensely by a video reversal with 4:06 remaining, went undefeated at Lambeau Field this season. They head to Seattle next weekend for the NFC title game. The Seahawks (13-4) beat Green Bay 36-16 in the season opener.
“I think I got 120 minutes left in me,” Rodgers said.
Green Bay might not have had any time left in its season if not for referee Gene Steratore’s decision. Dez Bryant’s leaping, bobbling 31-yard catch at the Packers’ 1 on a 4th-and-2 play was challenged by Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. Instead of 1st-and-goal for Dallas (13-5), the ball went over to the Packers.
“Some people think throwing the red flag is fun,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It was such an impactful play, you had to challenge. It was a confident challenge. And a hopeful one, too.”
One packed with controversy, as well.
“Look, I’ll tell you this, I’ve never seen that a day in my life,” Bryant said. “I want to know why it wasn’t a catch.”
Because Bryant didn’t maintain control all the way to the ground, as the rule states. Replays showed Bryant bobbling the ball as he rolled into the end zone, with part of it touching the field.
“By rule he must hold onto it throughout entire process of contacting the ground,” tweeted Dean Blandino, the league’s director of officiating. “He didn’t, so it is incomplete.”
Green Bay closed out the game before a Lambeau-record crowd of 79,704 on Randall Cobb’s diving 12-yard reception of a deflected pass on 3rd-and-11. That gave Cobb eight catches for 116 yards and set off a raucous celebration at the iconic venue.
The Cowboys’ first postseason trip to Green Bay since the 1967 Ice Bowl for the NFL championship resulted in their first road defeat of the season after eight victories. Dallas got 123 yards rushing from league leader DeMarco Murray and a courageous effort from Tony Romo, who hurt his left leg in the third quarter.
That meant there were two hobbling quarterbacks. All-Pro Rodgers, bothered by a left calf he injured in Game 15, lost much of his trademark elusiveness as the game wore on.
Regardless, he was on-target for a short pass to Davante Adams that turned into the 41-yard score to make it 21-20. Then he sharply guided the Packers 80 yards to the winning points, a 13-yard bullet to backup tight end Richard Rodgers, from Cal, in the back of the end zone.
Rodgers finished 24-for-35 for 316 yards and extended his record string without a home interception to 442 attempts. He has 39 TD passes in that span.