GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Aaron Rodgers may have finally found a new big-play target.
And the Green Bay Packers still have a chance to salvage a season that seemed doomed to oblivion.
Rodgers threw three touchdown passes to rookie Christian Watson and led a 55-yard drive in overtime to build Mason Crosby’s game-winning 28-yard field goal, and the Packers halted a five-game slip with a 31-28 win over former coach Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
“We saw what we could do and we saw that we were only getting in our own way,” said Watson, a second-round pick from North Dakota State. “We just had to believe.”
Green Bay (4-6) looked on course to lose six straight games in the same season for the first time since 1988, trailing 28-14 in the fourth quarter before Rodgers led two long drives that came with passes against Watson ended.
Watson went into an injury-plagued rookie season on Sunday with 10 catches for 88 yards. He caught four passes for 107 yards against Dallas, including touchdowns of 58, 39, and 7 yards.
He was the first Packers rookie since Keith Woodside in 1988 to have multiple touchdown catches in a game. The TD catches were the first of his career, though he reached the end zone on October 2 on a 15-yard rush against New England.
Rodgers rebounded after throwing three interceptions to set a career high in a 15-9 loss in Detroit last week.
“Last week was definitely a low point, for sure,” said Rodgers, who went 14-of-20 for 224 yards. “Not in a depressed, isolationist way, but more of a disappointment. And I felt like that was the bottom and only the top from there. I think a lot of the battles we face are between me and me, between the person who can go out there and dominate and know they can, and the little voice in your head trying to get you out of it confident position around you.”
McCarthy coached the Packers to their last Super Bowl title after the 2010 season, and had a 125-77-2 record with Green Bay before being fired in 2018. This was his first game against the Packers since becoming Dallas’ coach in 2020.
“I’m obviously very frustrated with the way the game ended,” McCarthy said. “I think the most important thing for us is that we just have to go out here and just learn from these games. I love games like this. That’s what I said to these[guys]: ‘You need these tight games to get where you want to go.’”
Rodgers was McCarthy’s quarterback with the Packers most of the time. Their relationship became strained in McCarthy’s later seasons, but they exchanged compliments and hugged before and after Sunday’s game for the past week.
Rodgers said they also had a lengthy conversation earlier in the day.
“That was really, really meaningful, I think, for both of us,” Rodgers said.
The Cowboys (6-3) went into the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history 14 points ahead. They came out with a 195-0 record in such games, including playoffs, on Sunday.
McCarthy chose to go for fourth and third of Green Bay’s 35 on the opening overtime possession rather than attempting a long field goal. Pressured by Jarran Reed, Dak Prescott threw a desperation pass to Tony Pollard that failed to complete.
“I agree with the decision,” McCarthy said. “Obviously I know we haven’t converted. Fourth and third, we just didn’t convert.”
The Packers had the third and 1 of their own 44 on the ensuing drive when Rodgers threw over center to Allen Lazard, who caught the ball just past midfield and raced to the 20 for a 36-yard gain. The Packers then set things up for Crosby’s game-winning kick.
Green Bay’s Aaron Jones rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb finished with 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Pollard rushed for 115 yards and a score. Prescott went 27 of 46 for 265 yards, three TDs and two interceptions, both by Rudy Ford.
Watson’s 58-yard touchdown the second quarter was the longest finish of the Packers season. He celebrated with a backflip in the end zone.
Green Bay got the ball back on their own 33 with 1:38 left but gained just 9 yards on two carries from Jones and an incomplete before the poke, a streak that infuriated Rodgers about the play-calling.
“I felt like I threw the ball exactly where I wanted it tonight,” Rodgers said. “I wanted a chance to win the game.”
Rodgers and the Packers felt a lot better by the end of the game.
Cowboys CB Anthony Brown left the team in the second quarter with a concussion.
The Cowboys were missing running back Ezekiel Elliott (knee). … Green Bay’s defense was missing outside linebacker Rashan Gary (knee), linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (knee) and cornerback Eric Stokes (ankle/knee). The Packers placed Gary and Stokes on injured reserve after both players were injured in Detroit.
Cowboys: On Sunday in Minnesota.
Packers: host Tennessee on Thursday night.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP–NFL