Don’t call it a comeback! A week after the Cowboys suffered a crushing overtime loss to the Packers, in which they blew a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, Dallas got up early on the Vikings and refused to let up. It was exactly what this team needed to move on from last week.
So what goes into a whoopin’ like this? The game was pretty much over by halftime, but these five plays were a big part of making that happen.
Micah Parsons strip sacks Kirk Cousins on the opening drive
The Packers effectively neutralized Micah Parsons and the Cowboys’ entire pass rush with their run-heavy attack last week, but the Vikings were unable to recreate the game plan. They ran the ball on their first two plays of the game, but it brought up an early third down with three to go.
Rather than continuing to run the ball, the Vikings decided to air it out. That’s when Parsons did his thing.
Dorance Armstrong recovered the ball and set the offense up with great field position, needing just 27 yards to score a touchdown. Of course, Dallas ended up settling for a field goal, but Parsons’ strip sack was an early tone setter for this defense.
Donovan Wilson blankets T.J. Hockenson to prevent TD
After the Cowboys went up 3-0 early, the Vikings had an opportunity to respond. This time, they got back to the kind of things that have helped them jump out to such a hot start this season, and before too long they were in the red zone.
After Jayron Kearse kept T.J. Hockenson from scoring a touchdown on second and two from six yards out, Kirk Cousins went back to Hockenson again. This time, Donovan Wilson drew the matchup. He managed to get outside leverage on the tight end, which disrupted the timing of the throw and resulted in an incomplete pass.
That play from Wilson forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal of their own, though the tie game didn’t last long. However, if Wilson didn’t make the play and Hockenson scored a touchdown to give the Vikings the lead, it could have changed the entire game.
Dak Prescott miraculously avoids sack, gains one yard instead
After scoring a touchdown to go up 10-3, the Cowboys defense got the ball back again thanks to a third-down sack from Armstrong. This was the Cowboys’ first chance to expand the lead to multiple scores early on, but it nearly ended in disaster.
Running play-action on the first play of the drive, Prescott stayed in the pocket looking for someone to open up. When it didn’t happen, he decided to roll out of the pocket. Problem is that Za’Darius Smith had already beaten Tyler Smith, and Prescott turned right into the edge rusher.
Through what can only be described as dumb luck, Prescott bounced off Smith and rolled out to his left, eventually tucking and running for a gain of just one yard. If it weren’t for Prescott’s escape act, the Cowboys would’ve been looking at second and long inside their own five-yard line, which likely would’ve doomed the entire drive. But Prescott survived, and the offense marched down the field to eventually kick a field goal and go up by 10.
CeeDee Lamb’s toe drag swag sets Cowboys up for field goal
Mike McCarthy has often stressed the importance of the double-double score on both ends of the halftime break, and the Cowboys had a chance to do so when they got the ball with 31 seconds left in the second quarter.
Three quick plays got the Cowboys to their own 31-yard line, but with 13 seconds left on the clock they needed a big play. Prescott rolled out to his right and, just before reaching the sideline, he fired a dart to CeeDee Lamb, who proceeded to make a crazy catch.
That netted Dallas 27 yards and put the Cowboys right on the cusp of Brett Maher’s field goal range at 60 yards out. So Maher went out and drilled the field goal, then the officials decided to review Lamb’s catch even after letting Dallas run another play, and affirmed what we all already knew. Then Maher drilled the same field goal again, because ball doesn’t lie, and the Cowboys extended their lead even further right before halftime. But Lamb’s insane catch made it all possible.
Dak hits Tony Pollard for monster touchdown on third and long
Even with the Cowboys taking a 20-point lead into the halftime break, they knew they couldn’t be satisfied. Just a week ago they squandered a 14 point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Dallas knew they needed to bury the Vikings to atone for last week.
Getting the ball to stat the third quarter, things didn’t start out so well. They quickly drew a third and 14 and were in danger of going three-and-out, a rough precedent to set. As Prescott made audibles and line protections, the play clock ticked down to one. That’s when he snapped the ball and did this:
It’s a little strange to think of a play being so impactful when already holding a three-score lead, but this was exactly what the Cowboys needed. Facing a third and long, a failure to convert would’ve opened the door for the Vikings. Instead, Prescott and Pollard hammered the final nail into the coffin.