All hands were on deck Sunday at AT&T Stadium for what Dallas Cowboys fans thought was going to be the start of a deep playoff run. What went down, though, was one of the most heartbreaking ends to a season in team history.
Yes, even more heartbreaking than the #DezCaughtIt game to end the 2014 season, which Twitter proves has never really left Cowboys' fans collective consciousness.
In a cruel twist of fate, the end of the 2016 season came down to another last-minute reception, this time upheld by the officials for Packers tight end Jared Cook, which brought the Packers within range for a game-winning field goal with mere seconds left to play.
But we're skipping ahead. Cowboys fans came into Sunday's game with such resolute confidence. Dallas came into the playoffs as the NFC's No. 1 seed, were favored by as many as 5.5 points going into the divisional round game against Aaron Rodgers & Co., and commanded a strong following for its #FinishThisFight social media campaign. Even the Arlington Fire Department was throwing up Dez Bryant's famous "X" in the AT&T Stadium parking lot.
Bringing the confidence of Week 6's 30-16 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field, Cowboy fans were ready to dance a jig into the NFC Championship Game.
The A-Team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were on the call on TV, so that was nice. We'll give credit for this gem where it is due, to Twitter artist @PissedCoughlin, even though the user below did not.
But the quick-strike Packers offense flipped the script on the Cowboys' ball-control game plan early on, as Green Bay built a 14-3 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
Later in the second, the Packers were doing whatever they wanted on offense, and the Cowboys were shooting themselves in the, um, foot with penalties. It was 21-3 at this point.
But then, what ho! The Cowboys showed signs of life before halftime, scoring 10 straight points in the second quarter's final six minutes to go into halftime down just 21-13. Even with a language barrier, you can see the comeback motif Isabella here was shooting for.
The Cowboys were down, but not out.
Being down throughout the first half, Dallas wasn't able to lean as much as it would have wanted on vaunted rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. But a downright dirty spin move from Zeke was part of the drive that brought the Cowboys to within 28-20 early in the fourth.
Zeke making Clay look foolish on that spin move, botjh looks pic.twitter.com/V9ZUUvOWzK— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 16, 2017
All of a sudden, the Cowboys were all like:
And the Packers were all like:
But Dallas was down by eight, late in the fourth, until Dak Prescott's second touchdown pass to Dez Bryant and a 2-point conversion to tie the game, 28-28 (graphic obviously ripped from the folks at the DMN):
Were the Cowboys really going to find a way to turn this game all the way around?
After the Packers went back up 31-28, the Cowboys' magazine found an opportune moment to remind fans whose pullout poster was available in the most recent issue, and who also might tie the game and potentially send it to overtime:
The game had all the trappings of a classic comeback tale, including two sightings from a thoroughly unsung hero, safety Jeff Heath:
And we'll just throw this one in for a few laughs, before things get really, really sad for fans in silver and blue:
Because after Dan Bailey tied the game, 31-31, with a 52-yard field goal with 35 seconds left, Packers tight end Jared Cook did his best Michael Jackson impression to set up the game-winning kick:
And Zeke Elliott was left to console Cowboys' wide receiver Cole Beasley in the aftermath:
Ezekiel Elliott spotted consoling Cole Beasley postgame pic.twitter.com/td6Dep5sbo— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) January 16, 2017
Insult, meet injury. Final: Packers 34, Cowboys 31.
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Rodgers took the kids to school.. pic.twitter.com/gq7OFoTZgA— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) January 16, 2017
Instant reactions in DFW included: