The Cowboys' decision to spike the ball with 48 seconds left against the Packers came back to haunt them

The Green Bay Packers are headed to the NFC Championship Game after beating the Cowboys on Sunday in a wild game that featured three 50-plus-yard field goals in the final two minutes of the game. 

Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby nailed a 51-yarder as the clock ran out to secure the win. But the key play of the game came on the previous drive, when the Cowboys unwisely decided to spike the ball and stop the clock with 48 seconds remaining. By stopping the clock, it saved some precious seconds for the Packers in the waning seconds of the game.

Let’s break this down: 

First, Crosby hit a 56-yard field goal to give the Packers a 31-28 lead with under two minutes left.

When the Cowboys got the ball on the ensuing drive, they marched down the field and quickly found themselves closing in in field goal range.

With just over a minute left, Dak Prescott completed a pass to Jason Witten. The Cowboys then ran up and spiked the ball. Clock stops. 

There was no need for the Cowboys to stop the clock when they did. They had a timeout and a first down — they could have run a play toward the sideline, or used their final timeout and let the clock tick toward zero. They should have spiked the ball on a third down, just before kicking their field goal. 

Dallas did still tie the game when Dan Bailey nailed a 52-yard attempt with 44 seconds left. The Packers got the ball with 35 seconds left, and on a wild 35-yard completion found themselves 51 yards away from the victory.

There were three seconds left on the clock when the Packers snapped the game-winning field goal.  If the Cowboys had better managed the clock, the game would likely have gone to overtime instead. 

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