After spending all week getting increasingly more worried that Dak Prescott might not play in Minnesota against the Vikings, it ended up not mattering at all. Well, sort of. The Cowboys probably would have won by multiple scores Sunday night had Prescott suited up, but the end result was still the same.
Making his first career start, Cooper Rush threw for 325 yards and hit Amari Cooper for a beautiful touchdown in the back of the endzone to give the Cowboys a 20-16 victory. In a week when the undefeated Cardinals lost on Thursday night and the Buccaneers (who obviously hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys) dropped their second game of the year on Sunday, this win was a huge boost to the Cowboys’ chances at securing a first-round bye in the playoffs some day soon. These five plays were major turning points in the game.
Bradlee Anae’s offsides penalty leads to Vikings points
It was a bit of a mixed bag at the beginning for Rush, but he began to settle into a groove early in the second quarter when he led a drive that ended with a field goal to cut Minnesota’s lead to 7-3.
On the ensuing Vikings possession, the Dallas defense forced a three and out, but on fourth-and-five, Bradlee Anae jumped offsides right before the punt. Since that penalty is a five-yard penalty, it gave the Vikings a first down. Eight plays later, they kicked a field goal to go up 10-3.
Simply put, Anae’s penalty was inexcusable. It took the ball out of the Cowboys’ hands, which is especially harmful in a game where every possession was going to count twice as much, but it also allowed Minnesota to build on their lead.
Micah Parsons drops C.J. Ham for a four-yard loss to set up third and long
Micah Parsons was vocal about how he felt he didn’t play well enough against the Patriots. It was encouraging, then, to see the rookie come out Sunday night and put up arguably his best game as a professional so far. He finished the game with four tackles for loss, and one of them was extremely pivotal.
With the Vikings holding onto a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter, Dalvin Cook gashed the defense for an eight-yard pickup on first down. On second-and-short, Kirk Cousins checked down to fullback C.J. Ham. Suddenly, Parsons flew out of seemingly nowhere and rocked the fullback for a loss of four yards.
That led to an incomplete pass on third-and-six and a punt, which translated to a Cowboys field goal to tie the game. Minnesota had set itself up for an easy first-down conversion and potentially more after Cook’s big run, but Parsons’ tackle for loss shifted things completely. The game-tying field goal may not have happened otherwise.
Cedrick Wilson’s dime to CeeDee Lamb flips the field
About that drive that tied the game, it came by way of some Kellen Moore creativity. Rush played a really good game overall, but it was clear that Dallas would need a few tricks to really move the ball down the field.
Late in the third quarter, after a pass interference penalty gave the Cowboys a first down near midfield, Moore decided to pull out one of his tricks in an attempt to flip the field. It worked extremely well:
Cedrick Wilson, who’s no stranger to throwing passes for the Cowboys, evaded pressure and threw a dime on the move to CeeDee Lamb for a 35-yard gain. It took the Cowboys from their own 42-yard line to the Vikings’ 23-yard line and, even though the drive fizzled out, it set the team up to tie the game.
Goal line stand from defense gives Cooper Rush an opportunity to become a legend
The Vikings got the ball back with just over eight minutes left in the game and engineered a slow, methodical drive that moved them into the red zone, albeit with the help of several unnecessary roughness penalties against the Cowboys.
The third of those penalties resulted in a first-and-goal from the Dallas four-yard line. But Cook was dropped for a loss on first down by Justin Hamilton. A second down pass to backup running back Alexander Mattison was stopped for another loss by Jayron Kearse. And then Adam Thielen hauled in a pass for just six yards on third and long.
That led to a go-ahead field goal but took away what had once seemed like a surefire touchdown for Minnesota. And instead of needing a touchdown to tie the game, Cooper Rush was given an opportunity to score a touchdown to win the game. Which he did, just as all of us knew he would.
Ezekiel Elliott breaks several tackles to convert third and long
All jokes aside, Rush played perhaps his best ball of the night on the final drive of the game. Even then, he needed help. After a bizarre defensive delay of game penalty that realistically was only called because the officials erred in granting the Vikings a timeout they weren’t entitled to, the Cowboys were facing a slightly-more-manageable third and 11 from Minnesota’s 20-yard line.
Rush checked down to Ezekiel Elliott, who caught the ball just two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, before proceeding to break three tackles and drag a fourth tackler roughly six more yards to pick up the first down.
If not for Zeke making this play and doing whatever it took to move the chains, Mike McCarthy would have been forced to kick the field goal and try to win in overtime. Instead, Dallas gained a first down, and Rush dropped a dime to the other Cooper for a touchdown. As great as that throw and catch was, this catch and run from Elliott was better and more crucial to securing the gutsy win.
As we do every week we put together highlights from the latest Dallas Cowboys win over on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos!