They would not. From the time they stepped off their buses at the stadium, this was as humbling a Sunday as many Cowboys had ever experienced. The 45 points were the most Dallas had given up since a 50-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in 1985, and the 28-point margin of defeat was its widest since a 38-6 loss to the Detroit Lions in the 1991 playoffs. "Last time I took a beating like this?" said wideout Michael Irvin. "It was from my father."
Considering that the Minnesota Vikings and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers both lost, the day couldn't have gone much better for Green Bay. The three teams had begun Sunday tied for the NFC Central lead, and with Green Bay playing its next two games at Minnesota and Tampa Bay, the Packers couldn't have picked a better time to get on a roll. This is the day they showed an offense that can be as multidimensional as any the NFL has seen in recent years.
Favre, a two-time MVP, is on pace to throw an NFL-high 36 touchdown passes. Levens is on track for a 1,500-yard season. After the game, as he thumbed through the statistics package, Levens tried to get a handle on his afternoon's work, which included one rushing touchdown and one scoring reception. He shook his head when someone mentioned that neither Jim Taylor nor Paul Hornung had ever had a day like this. Taylor's team rushing record, 186 yards, had stood since 1961. "I mean, who'd have ever thought this?" Levens said. "Not me. Never. I'm living a dream."
In the fall of 1990 Levens was playing hurt and was well down the depth chart at Notre Dame, behind players such as Jerome Bettis, Ricky Watters, Reggie Brooks and Rodney Culver. "I had to get out," Levens says. "I loved Atlanta and thought I'd want to live there after college. So I transferred to Georgia Tech. I figured I'd have some fun and play football, but concentrate on school and get my degree, then get a job in the business world." After Levens ran for 823 yards in his senior year, however, the Packers took a fifth-round flier on the 6'1", 230-pound bruiser who also had some moves. He was a bit player until the playoffs last season, when in three games he rushed 39 times for 195 yards and caught a team-high 10 passes. In July he won the starting job by default when Edgar Bennett went down in the exhibition opener with an injury to his left Achilles tendon. Now averaging 4.8 yards, Levens is running like a franchise back. Not bad for the guy draft guru Mel Kiper called the most overrated player in the 1994 draft.
The signature play against Dallas came early in Levens's 91-yard fourth quarter. Green Bay led 24-17 and had a third-and-four at its 45. Favre came to the line, looked left, cupped his hands and screamed. He looked right and did the same. Audible? The Cowboys, thinking Favre had called a running play in the huddle, dropped into coverage mode. This was a sweet moment for Favre, who doesn't get nearly enough credit for his skill at calling a game. Afterward he was as proud of this play as any of his four touchdown throws. "Dummy audible," he said. "We made 'em think we were changing to a pass. We froze 'em." Tackle Earl Dotson walled off two strongside rushers, and Levens streaked around right end for 13 yards. Five plays later Favre threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman, and the rout was on.
On Green Bay's next series Levens played sport-utility vehicle. By this time he was telling Favre in the huddle, "Feed me." On a second-and-11 from the Green Bay 46, Levens ran behind rookie left tackle Ross Verba and burst into the secondary, carrying two linebackers with him. The defenders fell off about 20 yards downfield, and he was finally dragged down after a 30-yard gain. Levens ran for 15 yards on the next snap, and four plays later he got the record on a five-yard touchdown run that made the score 38-17. "That's no monkey we got off our back," Levens said of beating Dallas. "That's a gorilla, an elephant and every other large zoo animal you can think of."
"Quite a day at the office," Favre said with a sigh. "How about us running on third-and-five, third-and-six? Incredible." Incredible, too, was hardly anyone's noticing Favre's four touchdown passes and how precisely each was thrown: a seven-yard toss on a half rollout to Levens, a four-yard bullet to tight end Mark Chmura, a two-yard rainbow to Chmura and an off-balance cross-body lob to Freeman.
Yet the hero on this day was Levens, and as the Packers ran at will against the Cowboys' defense in the fourth quarter, the crowd chanted, "Dor-SEE! Dor-SEE! Dor-SEE!" When all was said and done, the Packers had run 53% of the time, just the way Holmgren mapped things out. It was a strange day indeed. And a scary message for the rest of the NFL.