GREEN BAY, Wis. — Before kickoff, Mike McCarthy celebrated his return to Lambeau Field with hugs, laughter and back-claps. The Dallas Cowboys' head coach and his former quarterback Aaron Rodgers convened at midfield, sharing another exchange just as warmups ended.
Then came more than 60 minutes of football, an overtime showdown with drama to reflect the return of once-Super Bowl-winning colleagues. At night’s end, Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers had the last laugh.
The Cowboys failed on a fourth-down attempt in overtime before Packers kicker Mason Crosby connected on a 28-yard field goal to win the game 31-28 and snap Green Bay’s five-game losing streak.
Dallas had mounted leads with periodic flashes, their defense and special teams forcing takeaways while wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and running back Tony Pollard had season-best performances.
But ultimately, two early mistakes, the return of Rodgers’ deep ball and a leaky run defense gave the Packers the winning edge.
The Cowboys struck first, with quarterback Dak Prescott finding Lamb in the left flat to cap a methodical 17-play, 83-yard touchdown drive.
CeeDee Lamb started in the backfield, ended in the end zone.
Cowboys 7, Packers 0pic.twitter.com/TdtqDiRfUs
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 13, 2022
A chance to pile on immediately followed, with Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence strip-sacking Rodgers and safety Jayron Kearse recovering to set up Dallas in the red zone. Instead, Prescott missed Lamb in the middle of the end zone and Packers safety Rudy Ford intercepted the pass and returned it 34 yards. Four plays later, Rodgers sailed a 58-yard arc into the hands of Christian Watson. The connection marked Rodgers’ longest completion of the season and Watson’s first score of his career.
Then came the second major error between Prescott and Lamb, the over-the-middle connection for which they have thoroughly lost service lately.
Again, Ford caught a target intended for Lamb — this one not even getting Lamb’s attention initially. Again, Ford returned the gift 34 yards. And running back Aaron Jones scored the go-ahead touchdown to make it 14-7, complete with a grab-your-reproductive-organ celebration.
The Cowboys hung tight, Prescott and his teammates executing their two-minute drill swiftly to tie the game before halftime and start a string of 21 unanswered points.
Dallas’ special teams forced and recovered a punt-return fumble, Pollard eluded more tacklers along a 13-yard path to the end zone, and Prescott and Lamb regained synchrony en route to a 31-yard touchdown.
But Rodgers — as Cowboys fans are so apt to him doing — found Watson twice in the fourth quarter for the rookie's second and third touchdowns on the day to tie the game.
The Cowboys failed to score in the fourth quarter or overtime as the Packers ripped off 17 unanswered points. Dallas went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 35 but the Packers' pass rush forced an incompletion. The play before, it appeared cornerback Jaire Alexander hit Lamb early on what would have been a first-down reception, but no flag was thrown.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy raises his voice when telling us OT penalties were “very, very, VERY frustrating” after he felt they’d had control. Stands by decision to go for it on fourth down in OT. pic.twitter.com/gJSwdVVKmR
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 14, 2022
Rodgers completed 14 of 20 attempts for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Jones and fellow running back A.J. Dillon combined for 203 yards and a score at opportune moments. Watson's 107 yards and three touchdowns marked the first rookie three-TD performance against the Cowboys since Randy Moss in 1998, per NFL Research.
Prescott finished 27-of-45 for 265 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, and Lamb posted a season-best 150 yards and two scores. Pollard, in a career-high 22 touches, gained 115 yards and a score.
But the Cowboys' production wasn't enough, as it often hasn't been against Rodgers.
Dallas falls to third in the NFC East, next week traveling to Minnesota to complete its NFC North slate.
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein