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NFL playoffs bracket 2017: Aaron Rodgers’ wizardry helps Packers oust top-seeded Cowboys

What. A. Game.

Aaron Rodgers threw his first interception since November on Sunday. That’s about the only bad thing you can say about Green Bay’s MVP candidate.

Rodgers led his Packers to an upset win over the Dallas Cowboys when Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal squeezed through the uprights as time expired. The venerable quarterback had 356 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns in Green Bay’s eighth straight victory.

The Cowboys struck first with a 50-yard Dan Bailey field goal, but Rodgers responded by making the Dallas defense look stupid on multiple counts. He induced a 12-men on the field flag to gift his offense a first down before using the free play associated with defensive offsides to drill Richard Rodgers with a 34-yard touchdown pass minutes later.

A bizarre unsportsmanlike conduct penalty related to the Cowboys’ huddle derailed a promising Dallas drive and gave Green Bay the latitude it needed to take a 14-3 lead. Rodgers led the Packers 87 yards before Ty Montgomery plunged into the end zone from the Dallas 3-yard line.

One Cowboy three-and-out later, Green Bay struck again. Rodgers passed for 59 yards of an 80-yard drive before Montgomery hit paydirt again, diving through his offensive line to silence a stunned AT&T Stadium crowd and push the visiting team’s lead to 21-3.

Dallas didn’t crumble in the face of adversity. A 40-yard touchdown strike from Dak Prescott to Dez Bryant took advantage of a hobbled Packer secondary and kicked off a 10-0 run to end the half. Green Bay wouldn’t get any Hail Mary heroics this Sunday, instead punting the ball away to take a 21-13 lead to the locker room.

Instead, they saved their momentum for the second half, where Rodgers only needed six plays to push the Packer lead back to 15 points. From there, the two teams traded unlikely interceptions before Prescott used a wily play-fake of his own to make it 28-20 at the dawn of the fourth quarter.

One Packer punt later, Prescott looked like a veteran in leading his team back into a tie ballgame. He threw for 101 yards over two clutch drives before spinning into the end zone on a two-point conversion to knot this game at 28-all with four minutes to play.

Green Bay struck back, barrelling into field goal range with help from a controversial pass interference penalty, but a suddenly conservative play-calling approach left Mason Crosby with a 56-yard field goal attempt to re-take the lead. His line-drive kick knuckled a bit in the stale air of Jerry Jones’ architectural prize, but drifted between the uprights to give the visitors a 31-28 lead with 1:33 to play.

That set the stage for another solid Prescott performance. He led his team 42 yards in just 58 seconds to set up Dan Bailey for a 52-yard field goal that promised to send this game to overtime.

But Rodgers had no intention of staying in Dallas any longer than he had to. His scramble-and-strike to Jared Cook gained 36 yards on third-and-20, setting up Crosby for a 51-yard field goal attempt with just three seconds left on the clock. His strike snuck inside the left upright to push the Packers through the Divisional Round with an upset win — and set up an NFC Championship matchup with the Falcons.

Wild Card Round

Saturday, Jan. 7

GAME 1: Houston Texans 27, Oakland Raiders 14

GAME 2: Seattle Seahawks 26, Detroit Lions 6

Sunday, Jan. 8

GAME 3: Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Miami Dolphins 12

GAME 4: Green Bay Packers 38, New York Giants 13

Divisional Round

Saturday, Jan. 14

GAME 5: Atlanta Falcons 36, Seattle Seahawks 20

GAME 6: New England Patriots 34, Houston Texans 16

Sunday, Jan. 15

GAME 7: Green Bay Packers 34, Dallas Cowboys 31

GAME 8: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Championship Round

Sunday, Jan. 22

NFC Championship: Atlanta Falcons vs. Packers, 3:05 p.m., FOX

AFC Championship: Patriots vs. Chiefs/Steelers, 6:40 p.m., CBS

Super Bowl LI

Sunday, Feb. 5

AFC champion vs. NFC champion, 6:30 p.m., FOX


Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are running the table