GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday because they could not score a touchdown to give themselves a four-point lead; the Packers won because they converted a ludicrous third down and followed up with a successful 51-yard field goal.
“Obviously, a fantastic finish,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s what these games come down to.”
Applying a Packers’ twist to the Dallas perspective breeds an appreciation for outside linebacker Nick Perry, whose broken hand is still wrapped in a club on game days. Perry, a Detroit native from King High who will be an unrestricted free agent in March, was the main reason for Dak Prescott’s incompletion on that pivotal third-and-3 with 44 seconds remaining: He jumped in the air with both arms raised and knocked the ball to the ground.
The Cowboys were left to attempt a game-tying field goal instead of scoring what might have been a game-winning touchdown.
“He really wasn’t rushing,” Prescott said. “(He) planted in to the offensive lineman and jumped up and got his hands on it. Good play by him.”
Said Perry: “I wish I had my other hand. I probably could have caught it, but it came out really fast. I just wanted to get the ball down. That was my initial thought rushing the passer on that play.
“I saw him very quickly, and I saw that he was getting ready to throw it. That’s when I immediately jumped. Just being an instinctive player out there, you’ve got to make those kinds of decisions in the blink of an eye.”
The cruciality of Perry’s deflection justifies the decision by McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers to play him even with the club. The idea that Perry will conjure two or three moments of brilliance in each game keeps him on the field.
Against the Cowboys, when Perry played 54% of snaps, he bolstered his terrific pass breakup with two of the Packers’ four hits on Prescott. One was a 5-yard sack in the fourth quarter.
Perry said there is no timetable for how long he must wear the club to protect his surgically repaired hand.
He and the medical staff discuss it on a daily and weekly basis to determine what Perry feels comfortable with and how much pain he might be enduring.
So, while his influence on games might have waned, the clubbed version of Perry will continue to play heavy reps today in the NFC title game at Atlanta.
It only takes one or two plays to change the game, and Perry could do it again today.
Matchup: Green Bay (12-6) at Atlanta (12-5).
When: 3:05 p.m. today.
Where: Georgia Dome.
TV: Fox (Channel 2 in Detroit).
Line: Falcons by 6.