Sunday afternoon's game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys drew an audience of 48.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched divisional-round playoff game in NFL history.
The Cowboys earned the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record during the regular season, and are led by two dynamic rookies that have taken the league by storm. Cowboys fourth-round quarterback Dak Prescott quickly became known as the biggest draft steal of the 2016 class with his play on the field this season.
Down by three points with 1:07 to play and one timeout left in Sunday's divisional-round game, Dak Prescott completed an 11-yard pass to Jason Witten for a first down on the Green Bay Packers' 40.
The Cowboys hustled to the line and spiked the ball, stopping the clock with 48 seconds left, saving their final timeout. Spiking the ball in that situation is not the usual tactic, and was very likely a mistake, but it only seems so costly because of the events that followed in the Packers' 34-31 win that probably pissed off 20 million fans.
After the Cowboys advanced the ball only 7 yards and kicked a 52-yard field goal to tie it, the Packers marched down the field on their ensuing possession, setting up Mason Crosby's 51-yard game-winning kick.
Spiking the ball exchanges one down for about 10 or 15 additional seconds on the game clock. So you obviously see why people got really mad for. It was an uncalled for tactic in this situation because the Cowboys still had a timeout and were not yet in field goal range. Spiking the ball is also typically done when teams need to use their fourth down to try to convert, which still allows them three plays to try to pick up 10 yards rather than just two.
Because of the game situation, down by three with time ticking, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett needed his fourth down to attempt a field goal to tie, which left his offense with only two chances to convert. The 40 is only desperation field goal range, and so Dallas needed all three downs to try to get closer.
David Irving thought he just fell on the final defensive snap but after Irving looked at the pictures, he said it looked like he was being held while pursuing Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw the pass that sent up the Packers' game-winning field goal.
Irving didn't blame the no-call for the team's exit in the NFC divisional round.
"It doesn't matter, though," Irving said at his locker on Monday afternoon. "We could've done plenty of things to prevent that situation so it doesn't matter."
The starting defensive end said the 36-yard pass from Rodgers to Jared Cook felt like it took half a minute. But in reality, the play that sent up Mason Crosby's game-winning field goal on the game's final play only took nine seconds off the clock.
But that play summed up how things went for the Cowboys' starting defensive line all afternoon. Dallas' starting defensive linemen combined for one quarterback hurry and no sacks. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins had one of the team's five quarterback hurries, while all three sacks came from a linebacker or a defensive back.
On that last play, like most of the game, a lack of pressure allowed Rodgers to scramble and spot an open receiver with three seconds left in the game.
"We didn't get enough," Irving said. "We didn't do anything the whole game."
Yup. Sounds about right.