Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
3 seconds on the clock and everyone around me was yelling “miss it!” like that was somehow going to travel through the TV and into Mason Crosby’s ears. Nothing mattered at that moment. As a Packer fan I was confident he would make it. He did, barely. There was a collective hush that came over the 20 plus Cowboys fans surrounding me and at that moment. I felt all their hearts break collectively. On the other hand, I was yelling in sheer joy. “Go Pack Go!” But everything that led to that moment is the real story here. Me, my wife, and my 49ers fan brother in law were the only fans in attendance wearing green at a BBQ of about 25 people. My Cowboys family runs deep. There was so much to love about that great game and that great atmosphere.
We have all watched games together before and the Packers-Cowboys matchups are almost always viewed on my brother’s back deck while enjoying beer and delicious BBQ. Today’s menu, grilled hot wings; and as a special treat I brought a dozen bratwurst to lend a bit of Wisconsin tailgate flavor. This was the first time I had tried to make them right. I took the time to boil them in a mixture of German lager, butter and onions before finishing them off on the grill. Let me tell you, that made all the difference. Topped with German mustard and sauerkraut; absolutely delicious! My other favorite food at the party: my cousin’s amazing buffalo chicken dip. Now that menu is some serious football fare!
Of course I showed up sporting my Aaron Rodgers jersey and Packers cap, a green man in a sea of royal blue. The trash talking commenced immediately and ceased only when the final score was posted. Everything people say about Cowboys fans is true. They are absolutely certain that because they bear the nickname “America’s Team” that they should and will dominate. I love how great the Packers are playing during this streak but I can’t get that over confident. Even when the score was 28-13 I kept telling them that I wasn’t going to say it’s a certain victory. You can’t sleep on these Cowboys. Boy was I right! I give kudos to the Cowboys for showing exactly why they were the #1 seed. There is a reason they had run over so many teams this year by dominating time of possession. After that large deficit they just methodically climbed back into the game and took it down to the wire.
At 28-28 I moved to the back so I could collect myself and take a deep breath. I was starting to sweat. Then came 31-28, OK, but not great. 31-31, damn it; can the Packers do it in 35 seconds? Of course, Aaron Rodgers still had two timeouts. I’m telling you; I could have heard a pin drop. By this time there had been enough beer consumed that emotions were going to run high the closer it got to the end of the game. That catch by Jared Cook just shocked the crowd. Only Rodgers could do that to opposing fans. Of course Garrett was going to ice the kicker. And then, victory!
It’s not often the NFL produces games with such drama. Ever since The Ice Bowl, any Cowboys-Packers game is going feel that much more important. This one had all the makings of something special. The Cowboys have been dominant all year, even running roughshod earlier in the season at Lambeau Field over the same team they now faced. There were memories of a divisional round game two years ago in which a controversial call could have changed the outcome. The Cowboys rookies looked to be the future now and this was their real coming out party. The Packers have emerged from their mid-season slumber to become the hottest team in the playoffs. All of that combined to make a game for the ages. This one will be talked about until the teams line up against each other next season. I, for one, can’t wait for that because it will probably mean another BBQ with my Cowboys family. I look forward to watching the NFC Championship game next week but there’s no way it can be as great as it was last night.