The city of Dallas is a bit of an enigma for the Green Bay Packers.
On one hand, the Packers haven't beaten the Cowboys in Dallas in over 25 years. Green Bay's current road losing streak to the Cowboys spans nine games—including three postseason defeats—and encompasses everyone from Mike Holmgren to Mike McCarthy and Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers.
Yet, despite all the failures, the city of Dallas has also played host to two of Green Bay's most important moments: Rodgers' formal introduction in 2007 and the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title three long years later.
Green Bay takes on the Cowboys in Dallas Sunday, in what figures to be an elimination game for the 6-6-1 Packers. Rodgers, who fractured his collarbone and hasn't played since Nov. 4, was ruled out by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy Friday.
For most of the players and staff, the only memories of playing in Dallas will be good ones.
“I think everybody will feel it when you pull into the tunnel,” McCarthy said Thursday. “That’s something you don’t ever forget and will never go away."
Green Bay won Super Bowl XLV in North Texas back in February of 2011.
"Dallas, AT&T Stadium, will always have a special place for the Green Bay Packers," McCarthy said.
Texas Stadium, home of the Cowboys before owner Jerry Jones built his new football spaceship, was certainly not a special place for the Packers. Green Bay only won twice in the building, with the last coming in December of 1989, when the Packers beat the one-win Cowboys by a 20-10 final on Christmas Eve. It remains the team's last win over the Cowboys in Texas.
From that point on, Dallas became the bully and Green Bay assumed the role of the kid losing his lunch money. The Packers were stuffed in plenty of lockers by the big, bad Cowboys.
The thrashings began in 1993, while the Packers were still in the infant stages of a new era under Holmgren, the coach, and Favre, the quarterback. Led by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, the Cowboys were right in the prime of their early-1990s dynasty.
|Dallas Dominance: Packers in Dallas, 1993-2007|
|*7-0 from 1993-1996|
From 1993 to '96, Dallas beat the Packers seven straight times at Texas Stadium. The wins came by an average of 14.7 points, and three times the Cowboys knocked the upstart Packers out of the NFC playoffs.
What could have been one of the conference's elite rivalries quickly became a one-sided comedy tour.
In '93, the Cowboys—pegged as an 11-point favorite—routed the Packers by 22. Just three months later, Dallas served up a second helping of humble pie, as the 10-win Packers fell behind by 21 points and eventually lost, 27-17, in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.
Nearly the same script played out in each of the next two seasons.
In November of '94, the Packers jumped out to a 23-14 lead before letting the Cowboys score 29 of the game's final 36 points and win by 11. The next January, Dallas beat Green Bay by a 35-9 final in the NFC Divisional Round. The Cowboys led 21-3 in the second quarter and never looked back.
The next season, Dallas won by 10 in October before scoring 14 straight points in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game to once again sweep the Packers. The 38-27 defeat in the conference title game was arguably Green Bay's best chance at beating their bullies during the losing streak. The Packers held three different leads but were overmatched during the final 15 minutes.
Even during a season in which the Packers would go on to win their first Super Bowl in 29 years, the Cowboys beat up on Green Bay in Dallas.
In November of '96, the Cowboys kicked seven field goals and limited Favre's explosive offense to just 254 yards during a 21-6 win on Monday Night Football. It marked Green Bay's third and final loss of the season. The Packers would avoid the Cowboys in the playoffs and then win Super Bowl XXXI over the New England Patriots.
Green Bay's 1999 loss in Dallas would be its last until 2007, when one of the more anticipated games of that season took place at Texas Stadium.
The Thursday night contest matched Favre's 10-1 Packers against Tony Romo's 10-1 Cowboys. The game marked just the second time since the 1970 merger that two 10-1 teams faced off during the regular season.
Favre threw two early picks, and the Cowboys would hold on for a 37-27 win that essentially locked up home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. But there was a ripple effect created on that November day in 2007 that is still being felt today.
Down 17 in the first half, and with his elbow hurting, Favre was pulled by McCarthy in favor of Rodgers, a former first-round pick. While bordering on a bust through his first three seasons, Rodgers made the kind of splash against Dallas that eventually led to the Packers moving forward with No. 12 instead of the waffling No. 4 the next summer.
Rodgers threw one touchdown and eventually got Green Bay within a field goal. The Packers still lost by 10, but Rodgers' performance—18-of-26 for 201 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, plus 30 yards rushing—was franchise-changing. Convinced that Rodgers could be his starter, McCarthy stood his ground against Favre during a volatile summer in 2008.
Three years later, Rodgers and McCarthy were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Dallas after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. It was the most fitting of settings.
Maybe the Packers are finally ready to turn the page on their road misfortune against the Cowboys. Now would certainly be a good time to get the monkey off their back.
Green Bay sits a half-game back of both the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears in the up-and-down NFC North. The Packers could mathematically go 2-1 over the final three games and still win the division, but the team's most likely path to the playoffs includes an unbeaten stretch to end the season.
It will have to accomplish the first step without Rodgers, whose only memories of Dallas have been life-altering. He won't get a chance to add to that legacy Sunday.
The Packers, however, can start a new chapter of this one-sided road series by beating the Cowboys in Dallas for the first time since 1989. Doing so Sunday would keep Green Bay's playoff chances alive.