Good things happen for the Dallas Cowboys when Cooper Rush plays in Minnesota. Last year it was a full four-quarter effort to beat the Vikings in primetime, and a Sunday a much more modest closing series to put the finishing touches on the biggest road win in franchise history for the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were able to take their starters out with a short game week ahead, dominating the Vikings from start to finish 40-3 to reach 7-3 on the season.
By scoring on their first seven possessions, the Cowboys completely took the Vikings out of their running game and went to work rushing Kirk Cousins. Five different defenders recorded a sack in a statement game for Dan Quinn, who faced the heat of blowing a fourth quarter lead at the Packers last week. The Cowboys defense, of course, had the added benefit of playing with a huge lead, with Kellen Moore having both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard at his disposal for the first time since week seven - another decisive win, 24-6, for Dallas over Detroit.
Here are a few notes on the Cowboys third win of the season against the NFC North, completing a tough midseason stretch in the schedule before returning to divisional play against the Giants on Thanksgiving.
- Team leader Micah Parsons took responsibility for the Cowboys defensive struggles in Green Bay, and set the tone on the opening drive by forcing a turnover. His strip sack on Cousins only led to a Cowboys field goal, but with the Cowboys coming into this game with a career 8-2 recording against Cousins dating back to his Washington days, it was an early message they were set to bounce back off a loss.
The Vikings still tried to keep Dalvin Cook involved, but his 11 carries tied for the fourth lowest in his career. As for the Cowboys actually defending the run and not relying on the offense piling on points, Dante Fowler and Leighton Vander Esch stepped up here as the Cowboys played without Anthony Barr again.
- With so much debate about who should “start” in the backfield for the Cowboys, this was a landmark game for the team proving they can use both Elliott and Tony Pollard. The Cowboys game plan made whoever started at RB irrelevant, with Pollard and Elliott both being used to their strengths. The Cowboys first touchdown came on a one-yard Elliott plunge, with Pollard adding a 20-yard run on the drive and Michael Gallup pulling in passes of eight and 14 yards.
Elliott’s power run gave the Cowboys a 10-0 lead, but Pollard’s 30- and 68-yard touchdowns put it out of reach as the team still looks to build a passing game around CeeDee Lamb. With Lamb emerging as the clutch alpha receiver they need, Gallup and Pollard have given defenses all they can handle with Prescott having ample time to throw from the pocket.
- If there is an area of long-term concern still on the Cowboys defense, other than linebacker where they are banged up, it remains the secondary around Trevon Diggs. Still, Diggs hasn’t gotten full credit for taking the next step as a lockdown cornerback. His interception numbers are down simply because teams are trying to throw away from him in man coverage, and even without traveling with Justin Jefferson at all times, the Cowboys held Jefferson to three catches for 33 yards. With the Cowboys pass rush being so dominant, making a pocket passer like Cousins look away from Jefferson for just a second can be all the time it takes for Parsons or Dorance Armstrong to get home.
Marking this game as one the Cowboys could use to get back to their winning ways in all three phases, they did that in a big way to upend the now 8-2 Vikings and stay within reach of the Eagles in the NFC East.