ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Rodgers has experience with what Dak Prescott is going through in his second year as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
It was last year, in fact, for Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers — before they beat the Cowboys on the road in a divisional playoff on their playmaking quarterback’s improbable completion that set up the winning field goal.
Green Bay rebounded from a 4-6 start to reach the NFC championship game, losing to Atlanta. This year, Prescott and the Cowboys (2-2) are just a loss shy of their total from the remarkable debuts of the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and league rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott.
To avoid matching the three losses from last year just five games into 2017, the Cowboys will have to beat Rodgers and the Packers (3-1) on Sunday on the same field where Rodgers’ long completion to Jared Cook on third-and-20 set up Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal as time expired in Green Bay’s 34-31 win in January.
“That’s kind of the key for us is to stay focused on our job and not kind of ride the roller coaster of emotions when things are going great or when things are struggling a little bit,” Rodgers said. “Just trusting the process and that’s what we did last year at 4-6, just knowing we had the guys, we just needed to execute a little better.”
Rodgers had his 16th game with at least four touchdowns and no interceptions since 2008 in a 35-14 win over Chicago in Week 4.
Prescott had three TD passes in a 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but the focus was on three straight punts to start the second half, followed by his third interception of the season after he threw four as a rookie. Plus, the Cowboys couldn’t hold an 11-point lead in a game they were expected to win.
“We are not taking y’all’s input or fans input into perspective, what they are seeing we are not doing,” Prescott said. “We know what we are doing when we are doing it the right way to click. So we know how to get back to that. We are going to do it.”
Things to consider in the sixth meeting over five seasons for these frequent playoff opponents, including a pair in the postseason won by the Packers:
THE HAUNTING: Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant pursued Rodgers as he rolled toward the sideline on the decisive throw to Cook, unable to get to the scrambling quarterback because of offensive lineman Lane Taylor on a play Durant said “should never happen.”
“I didn’t even watch the tape afterward,” Durant said. “I was at an event or something with some people and they’re running the game back on NFL Network. I’m like, ‘Man, c’mon.’ Guess you’ve got to just learn from it.”
TOGETHER AGAIN?: The Packers could be closer to getting their starting offensive line back on the field at the same time. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) have each missed time to injuries, leaving Green Bay having to rely on a patchwork front in the win over Chicago. They played well, but the Packers are at their best with Bakhtiari and Bulaga.
SPEAKING OF PATCHWORK: The Cowboys have had a shuffle of defensive players, most recently with All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) missing the LA game. Lee is likely to be a game-time decision, but LB Anthony Hitchens should make his season debut after a preseason knee injury. His return could mean a rotation with Jaylon Smith, who played more than expected the first four games of his career because of the Hitchens injury.
IN THIS CORNER: Green Bay cornerback Kevin King appears to have secured a starting job five games into his rookie season. At 6-foot-3, King has the size the Packers want for press coverage against receivers such as Dez Bryant. Veteran Davon House could also be nearing a return after missing time with a quad injury. How coach Mike McCarthy uses Damarious Randall bears watching after he was benched in the second half against the Bears over an “internal matter.”
SO THAT EXPLAINS IT: The Packers are 3-0 at the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys: two wins over Dallas and the 31-25 victory over Pittsburgh in the 2011 Super Bowl. The first thing that comes to mind for coach Mike McCarthy is the locker rooms.
“They’re big,” he said. “It’s the biggest head coaching locker room I’ve ever seen in my life. Everybody here could fit in there. So you have things like that.”