Overlooked in the Packers’ dramatic comeback win over the Cowboys on Sunday is just how crazy an ending the Cowboys nearly pulled off on the game’s final play.
With the ball on their own 25-yard line and five seconds left in the game, the Cowboys tried what teams always try in that situation: A desperate, Stanford band-style, multiple-lateral play. What was crazy about this particular play was how close it came to working — thanks in part to multiple players on the Packers seeming to think the game had ended while the play was still going on.
The play started with Dak Prescott passing to Brice Butler for 10 yards. Butler lateraled to Ezekiel Elliott, who made a nice move and picked up 20 yards before lateraling to Prescott, who lateraled back to Butler, who lateraled back to Prescott, who lateraled to Jason Witten.
At that point Witten threw a lateral that hit the ground, and several players just quit on the play. It’s unclear what they were thinking — perhaps they thought Witten had thrown the ball forward, which would have ended the play, although replays clearly show it was a backward pass — but they just stopped. Packers linebacker Nick Perry picked up the ball and just stood there, and several other players were just standing around watching him.
Cowboys center Travis Frederick alertly knocked the ball out of Perry’s hands and began running with it, but when he tried to lateral the ball hit the ground and the Packers recovered, finally ending the game.
It easily could have gone differently, however. Prescott was trailing Frederick, and if Frederick had realized it and pitched the ball to Prescott, it’s entirely possible that Prescott would have been able to score himself or find someone else to lateral to. The Cowboys could have won, and if they had it could have been the craziest ending in NFL history.
Perry would have been the scapegoat for a Packers loss, because he had the ball and just had to kneel down to win the game, and instead he just stood there. But he was far from the only Packer who didn’t understand what was going on. Even Packers head coach Mike McCarthy appeared to step on the field before the play was over. FOX announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman also didn’t seem to fully grasp how close they were to calling the most insane final play ever.
As it stands, the play will be largely forgotten, and when people speak of Sunday’s Packers-Cowboys game they’ll remember it ending with Aaron Rodgers saving the day. It nearly ended a whole lot differently.