With nothing on the line except their pride and desire to keep the pedal to the metal as they prepare for the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys had their highest-scoring game of the season, beating a desperate Lions team 42-21, for their 13th win of the year. If the rest of the NFL wasn’t wary of the Cowboys before the game, this game showed the Cowboys could also compete in and win a shootout.
Dak Prescott came out hot, leading Dallas on two touchdown drives to open the game. But Detroit answered, and after forcing a Dallas punt, took a 21-14 lead. But Dallas drove for a tying touchdown just before the half, then took over the game with three consecutive touchdown drives in the second half.
Overall, Dak was 15 of 20 for 212 yards, three touchdown passes, and no interceptions, for a quarterback rating of 148.3. He also ran four times for 35 yards, and took some hits in the process. It ties him with Ben Roethlisberger for most wins in NFL history by a rookie quarterback, with one game to go.
Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott had a great first half, with 74 yards on only eight carries, including a 55-yard touchdown on a burst through the line where his speed allowed him to beat the Lions’ safety to the pylon. He also scored on a one-yard TD run in the third quarter that he took outside after the middle was collapsed by Detroit, giving him 16 on the season to extend his Cowboys’ rookie record. In the second half, outside of the touchdown, he had only three carries for five yards, and was rested to give Darren McFadden some work.
Eric Dickerson can now rest easy, as his rookie rushing record is likely safe with 178 yards and one meaningless game to go, but with 1,631 yards rushing, Zeke is now in third place, ahead of Alfred Morris and behind only George Rogers and Dickerson.
The Cowboys again committed more penalties than they should have, with eight for 47 yards, especially the pre-snap penalties at home, but tonight they overcame those penalties with some big plays.
- Dak threw a 21-yard TD to Brice Butler on third and 14 for Dallas’s first TD.
- On the next Dallas TD drive, Dak ran for 12 yards on first and 15, and Zeke took it to the house 55 yards on the next play.
- Dak threw a 25-yard TD pass to Dez Bryant on 3rd and seven at the end of the first half.
On Dallas’s three second-half touchdown drives of 38, 95, and 63 yards, they never faced third down. Dallas gained 375 yards, with 23 first downs, and was four for eight on third down. They had 10 plays of 14 or more yards, four of which went for touchdowns.
Hard to believe this much scoring occurred without any defensive or special teams touchdowns, Dak completing only 15 passes, and Zeke rushing only 12 times. (For contrast, Eli Manning threw 63 passes on Saturday and the Giants rushed 25 times for 114 yards, and still only scored 19 points.)
Dez Bryant was the leading receiver with four catches on five targets for 70 yards, and two touchdowns. He also passed Cole Bealey for most yards receiving on the year with 796. Dez also threw his first pass in the NFL, a ten-yard touchdown to Jason Witten. Unbelievably, Dak Prescott had a higher passer rating - 148.3 - than Dez - 147.9.
Terrance Williams had a strong night, with four catches on four targets for 61 yards. Cole Beasley had four catches on five targets for 25 yards. Jason Witten caught two balls on four targets for 33 yards and a touchdown (from Dez). Brice Butler made a nice 21-yard touchdown catch down the seam. Zeke caught one ball for 12 yards.
Ezekiel Elliott was a threat in the first half, with 8 carries for 72 yards, his lone 12-yard catch, and a touchdown. With the lead, the Cowboys gave him only four carries for eight yards in the second half, though he did run for a one-yard TD to give the Cowboys the lead for good. Here’s his 55-yarder.
Dak’s stats from his first fifteen weeks.
(Note: The key stats here are Adjusted Net Yards per attempt, which demonstrates how well a QB gets the ball down the field and into the end zone. Completion percentage tends to show accuracy. Attempts shows the run/pass balance, with fewer attempts for QBs often the goal. Turnovers, or the lack of them, are also critical.)
Dak’s overall stats were his best of the season, with a quarterback rating of 148.3, an ANY/A at a ridiculous 12.42 yards per attempt, and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball with authority four times for 35 yards, and is the second leading rusher on the team, with 56 runs for 273 yards and six touchdowns. He was sacked once for 11 yards.
Dak won the passer rating differential 148.3 to 63.7, which is a key variable in who wins football games. That is an absurd number, especially against a highly-touted veteran in Matthew Stafford who came into the game 10th in the NFL.
How did Zeke do? He was great while he was in there, breaking off his second-longest carry of the season, and scoring a touchdown in the first half. Despite being rested for most of the second half, Zeke added a touchdown in his four carries for eight yards.
- Rushing: 12 carries, 80 yards, 6.7 YPC, 2 TD, long 55 yards.
- Receiving: 1 reception, 1 targets, 12 yards, 0 TD.
What do his totals look like after fifteen games?
Zeke is now at 1,631 yards rushing after fifteen games. He is now third all-time for rookie rushers, behind George Rogers at 1,674 and Eric Dickerson at 1,808.
The offense was dominant for much of the evening, with an absurd six touchdown drives in the first eight times they had the football (not including the one-snap drive before halftime). The offense was efficient and powerful with 7.2 yards per play. Dak Prescott continued to find his men and was willing to throw the ball down the field to score points. When they are determined to attack and not play carefully, they are too much to handle for most defenses. I think the Cowboys offense has officially shaken its early-month slump.
My grades this week?
- Dak A+. My son asked me last week why I didn’t give Dak an A+, wondering what he could have done better. Well, this week is perhaps the best answer, as Dak just lit it up through the air and on the ground.
- Zeke A. Can’t really fault Zeke for being rested in the second half. He scored two touchdowns overall, including the 55-yard run to burn a Detroit blitz. Like Dak, a very efficient night.
What did you think of their performances?