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Grading the Cowboys upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings

The Cowboys get a win and we give out the grades.

Dallas Cowboys v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

[Ed. Note] We are aware of the events that happened at the Star this morning. We recognize the seriousness of the situation and want everyone to know that it is in our thoughts. It's hard to know the right thing to do at the moment, but we are going to continue posting coverage of the Cowboys while we wait for more information. Hopefully everyone understands. [End Note]


The Dallas Cowboys did something yesterday that many assumed may not happen this season, win on the road, and they did it against a Minnesota Vikings team that had been beating people with their running game. A running game is something the Cowboys have been unable to stop most of the season. Now let's see if they can string together a few more wins and make a push for the playoffs. In the meantime, let's take a look at how the positions and coaching staff did this week.

Overall: A

This was a team effort win for the Cowboys this week. From the offense making plays and scoring the most points in a game since the injury to quarterback Dak Prescott, to the defense getting pressure on Kirk Cousins, creating turnovers, and getting stops when they needed them. The coaching staff have to be happy about how this team have fought in games and their staying the course is now starting to pay off.

This could be a season-changing win for this team, time will tell on that front, but in the meantime let's enjoy this win.

Coaching: A

Many people were wondering why Mike McCarthy decided to play quarterback Andy Dalton over Garrett Gilbert who had a very nice game against the still undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. We'll now you can see why, Dalton's command in the huddle and knowledge of the playbook opened up the offense for the Cowboys. Then you have Mike Nolan's decision to keep Donovan Wilson starting opposite Xavier Woods at safety. Wilson was a man possessed on that field Sunday, making plays in both the running game forcing a fumble and in coverage breaking up passes. And lastly let’s give a round of applause to offensive line coach Joe Philbin who has been trying to piece together this offensive line all season. He may have found the right unit to start the rest of the season.

Plus, watermelons and a sledgehammer.

Quarterback: B

After suffering a concussion and then contracting COVID-19, this was a good game from Andy Dalton this week. He was hitting his receivers in stride (for the most part), avoided the little pressure that came, but most of all he managed the team and didn’t try to do anything risky. That’s what this offense needs right now, someone who can lead drives down the field and not make dumb mistakes that can lead to turnovers. An while he did have one pass intercepted, he redeemed himself with a game-winning drive to take the lead in the final minutes of the game.

If Dalton can keep this up, the offense can help give the defense more time to rest, and that will definitely help this still improving defense.

Running Backs: A

Don’t look now folks but Ezekiel Elliott had his first 100-yard rushing game this season, and even though he wasn’t able to score a rushing touchdown, he was able to catch a pass for one. Elliott looked like his old self again hitting the holes with confidence and making people miss in space. Then you had his counterpart in Tony Pollard who added 60 yards on the ground including a 42-yard touchdown run. Overall, the Cowboys running game came alive this week and a lot of that is due to the changes made upfront on the offensive line.

Let’s see if they can keep this momentum going against a tough Washington front four.

Wide Receivers: B

The Cowboys receivers, mainly Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, showed out in this game for the Cowboys. Whenever a play was needed against the weakened secondary of the Vikings they were able to deliver. This group would have gotten an “A” if it weren’t for the drops by Michael Gallup. The group still seems to have issues from week to week with dropped passes.

Tight Ends: A

We keep saying this every week and it’s worth repeating, Dalton Schultz is a problem for opposing defenses. While he didn’t blow up the stat sheet this week he did make plays when the Cowboys needed them and none was bigger than the catch for the go-ahead touchdown late in the game. He has also continued to get better as a blocker and they will need that next week. Even Blake Bell is getting involved in the passing game. He not just a blocker he can catch the ball as well. Who knew?

Offensive Line: A

Man you have to give it to this group this week, they fought hard and were able to protect their quarterback. They only gave up one sack and that was mainly on Dalton for not getting rid of the ball when he had no one open downfield. They also created the running lanes for the renewed running attack. You have to respect the talent of right guard turned right tackle Zack Martin who didn’t surrender a sack. Connor McGovern was also impressive in his second start of his career.

Defensive Line: B

This defensive line came to play this week and it showed early in the game and throughout most of the second half. They were getting in quarterback Kirk Cousins face and making him make business-decision throws. They were also playing sound football against the run, staying in their gaps and for the most part keeping Dalvin Cook contained and not giving him a chance to break off the long touchdown runs he’s been accustomed too this season. You also have to wonder where this team would be if the Cowboys decided to play Antwuan Woods and Neville Gallimore earlier in the season.

Linebackers: B

Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith continue to get better and better each week. They are stepping up and attacking the rushing lanes faster and they are doing a decent job in coverage. They still need to get better in coverage because teams are going to continue to attack them until they show they are up for the challenge of stopping them. Still, it's good to see them making progress.

Secondary: C

This group did an okay job at trying to contain two very good receivers and a two talented pass catching tight ends. Other than the long touchdown by Adam Thielen, it was a pretty good effort for them if you consider the fact that their best cover corner is out with a broken foot, and two of their starting cornerbacks recently came back from injury with one re-injuring themselves in the game. The Vikings were able to move the ball effectively through the air but it could have been worse. Props to Donovan Wilson for his efforts in tackling and blitzing. The big win was with the game on the line and knowing they were going to be attacked through the air, they were able to get the stops to seal the Cowboys victory.

Summary

Let’s just enjoy this victory because we never know when we’ll see another one.