The Dallas Cowboys’ 24-6 win over the Detroit Lions was not just a win in a non-divisional matchup with a struggling team. It marked the much anticipated return of Dak Prescott from his thumb injury. It was a successful outing for the starting quarterback, but it was not easy at all. There were a couple of controversial calls that went Dallas’ way, and the Detroit defense was much tougher than anticipated.
The heroics of the game came from Dan Quinn’s defense, which would take the ball away from the Lions five times. The star of the day may well have been rookie Sam Williams, who had two sacks, including the game-sealing one where he just reached out and took the ball out of Jared Goff’s hands with less than three minutes left. It set Dallas up on the Lions 24-yard line. Tony Pollard, the best Cowboys rusher on the day, would get them close with a 25-yard run after a tackle for loss. Then Peyton Hendershot would get his first NFL touchdown as the Cowboys built an 18-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game. A Micah Parsons sack-fumble would be the final meaningful play of the game and the Cowboys would just kneel it out.
It was obvious from the start that the return of Prescott from his injury was big. Like most teams, the Cowboys usually defer when they win the coin toss, but for this game, they elected to get the ball first to put the ball in his hands.
It may not have been the best decision, as the Cowboys would go three and out. Prescott just missed on what would have been a big gainer to Noah Brown, and then was sacked on third down. After the defense stopped the Lions, it was another three and out as Ezekiel Elliott came up short on a third and one, which had been an automatic conversion for him so far this season.
Detroit got things going on their next possession. However, they clearly missed running back D’Andre Smith on the drive, and they would also lose receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to a concussion on this drive. They got as far as the Dallas 21, but were forced to settle for a field goal thanks to solid pass breakup by Trevon Diggs.
Dallas would finally start moving the sticks after that. Tony Pollard and Elliott combined to get a first down, then Dalton Schultz would get another. Schultz would come up limping and then returned, but was clearly favoring that leg. The drive would get all the way to the three, but Pollard would get stuffed on third and two. It looked like Mike McCarthy would go for it, but they called a time out and changed their minds. Brett Maher would knock the chip shot through to tie the game early in the second quarter.
Penalties would start to be an issue again for the Cowboys as Micah Parsons was called for a roughing the passer on the next series. But the drive was mainly ended by a holding call on Detroit. They would take the lead on a 52-yard field goal, however.
While Cooper Rush was filling in for Prescott, he got away with more than one throw that should have been picked off. The same thing was true for QB1 in his return to action. In general, things were not very crisp.
The two teams would exchange punts. One defensive highlight was a Donovan Wilson sack of Jared Goff to help get the ball back. Micah Parsons also had a nice reaction on a screen pass to set up fourth down and a Detroit punt.
After a nice little 14-yard punt return from KaVontae Turpin, the offense would drive to the 20. But Noah Brown would get flipped up in the air on a reception near the five and the ball would come out to be recovered by the Lions, killing another scoring threat by Dallas. That left them trailing 6-3 at halftime as Detroit just ran out the clock after the late turnover. One statistical anomaly was that both teams had 52 yards rushing in the half. As for Prescott, he completed nine of fourteen throw for 104 yards, but as mentioned he flirted with interceptions at times. The Cowboys also had four penalties for 35 yards, which was not a good sign.
The Lions got the ball after halftime, but their possession was quickly ended on a controversial play. Trevon Diggs was credited with an interception where he clearly had the better read on the ball than the receiver, but replay certainly made it look like he did not control the ball before he hit the ground. In any case, it stood. The Cowboys moved quickly down the field, with the highlight Pollard’s 28-yard run to the Lions’ 16. Aided by a defensive pass interference drawn by Schultz in the end zone, they would punch it in with Elliott from the one to take a 10-6 lead.
A Sam Williams sack helped force a punt. That almost became a huge play as KaVontae Turpin would have the longest punt return so far in the 2022 season for the entire league, going 52 yards to the Detroit 41. The offense was not able to capitalize, however, and had to punt it back after another sack of Prescott.
Despite two holding penalties, the Lions were able to drive the ball down the field, including a conversion on third and 14. They also got their running game going, then got down to the one-yard line with a screen play that almost got in. Replay showed that it was not in, but the spot was not at all favorable. Dan Campbell did not challenge it, and that turned into a disaster for his team as the ball was knocked out on the next play and was recovered by Anthony Barr at the one.
The Cowboys quickly got out from so deep in their own territory with a pass to Pollard that got them to the 20. But once again, the Detroit defense would come up with a stop on third and one, forcing another punt.
But after getting out to midfield, the Detroit drive was cut short by a Jourdan Lewis interception, one that was also close, but looked much more clear on replay than Diggs’. Lewis was unfortunately hurt on the play.
With the ball on their own 46, the Cowboys had a chance to open up some breathing room. They got some help on third and four from a defensive holding call. Prescott would get a free play as the Lions mistimed their pass rush, and he found Lamb at the 26. But the flag would go against them on the next play. Prescott overcame the first and 20 with a pair of passes to Brown to get Dallas inside the red zone. They would cap things with another Elliott touchdown plunge from the one yard line, and put them up by two scores while also using up over five minutes on the clock, leaving the Lions with only 2:46 to try and mount a comeback.