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Five non-scoring plays that shaped the Cowboys game against the Vikings

A game that can only be described as frustrating for the Cowboys and the fanbase.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This game was the epitome of the 2019 Dallas Cowboys. Once again, the Cowboys got off to a slow start and got gashed by the opposing team’s running game before flashing all the talent that had them so highly-rated heading into the year, but in the end the team just fell short. There were a lot of heavily impactful plays, but here’s five that really made the difference.

Settling for a field goal backfires as Brett Maher misses again

For a moment, it seemed like the Cowboys were overcoming their penchant for slow starts. The offense looked efficient and was executing their plays well, especially Dak Prescott. They moved into Vikings territory less than two minutes into the game, but the drive fizzled out due to a well-timed blitz by the defense.

Facing fourth and six at the Vikings 39-yard line, the Cowboys opted to kick the field goal. As you might expect, Maher missed as he shanked it to the left. Once again, this team came out flat, with their inability to finish off drives early rearing its ugly head. They also gave the Vikings great field position.

Blake Jarwin comes up big for a third-down conversion

Having scored a touchdown on their previous drive, the Cowboys got the ball back down one touchdown and were intent on tying the game. But facing a third and three at midfield, the Cowboys were in danger of another drive fizzling out.

Taking the shotgun snap and scrambling left to avoid pressure, Prescott fired the ball to a wide open Jarwin on the sideline in a similar play to the tight end’s touchdown last week. Jarwin made the grab and turned on the jets for a 26-yard pickup that not only moved the chains but gave Dallas the momentum needed to score three plays later and tie the game.

Alexander Mattison’s touchdown-that-wasn’t sets Minnesota up for a real score

Down by one point halfway through the third quarter, the Vikings had the ball and were starting to impose their will on the Cowboys’ run defense. Having run five consecutive run plays for 39 yards, the Vikings had the ball on second down with seven yards to go on the Dallas 17-yard line.

Alexander Mattison got the ball for the Vikings’ sixth straight running play and he sliced through the defense, barreling his way to the goal line. Initially ruled a touchdown, it was overturned as Mattison went down a couple inches before the endzone. Nevertheless, it was the capper for a demoralizing drive that absolutely exposed the defense. A briefly heroic stand after the touchdown was reversed did nothing, as the Vikings still scored a touchdown to complete their thorough dissection of the Dallas D.

Two straight runs up the middle for a net loss of yards kills the potential game-winning drive

I’m cheating a bit here and lumping two plays together, but it’s to make a point. There are plenty of well-documented arguments out there as to why it’s rarely a good idea to run the ball on first down, but even without taking that into account the way that the Vikings had shut down the running game all night makes these two calls utterly absurd.

Starting at their own six-yard line, Dak hit on six of seven passes for 79 yards to get the ball to the Minnesota 11 with just about a minute and a half. Then, Dallas decided to take the ball out his hands on two consecutive plays. First, they ran the ball up the middle and got stuffed for no gain. Then, on third and two, they ran it again and got blown up for a loss of yards. This forced them into a do-or-die fourth and five, which, of course, did not work out.

Tavon Austin’s mind-numbing fair catch call

Even after the failed fourth-down play, not all hope was lost. For only the second time all game, Dallas forced a three and out and the Vikings punted the ball back to Tavon Austin, who had all kinds of room to run.

When Austin called for the fair catch, color commentator Cris Collinsworth speculated that the Cowboys coaches told him to do so in order to give Dak and the offense as much time as possible for a Hail Mary, but given how much room he had, this is infuriating. It even looks as though Austin had room on the left side to rip off a huge chunk of yards, if not make a house call for the win. Instead, the scared coaching tactics put the offense behind the eight ball and the Cowboys lost.