A wise man once said, “A W is a W”. That has never been more true than right now. In what was, without question, the ugliest game of the year played by the boys in blue, they somehow figured out a way to escape with a win. Four fumbles, two were recovered by the Vikings, 10 penalties for 78 yards all seeming to come on big plays:
- 43 yard scamper by Ezekiel Elliott: Holding by Doug Free – Drive ended 3 plays later with Lucky Whitehead lost fumble
- Interception by Anthony Hitchens (@ MIN 39): Illegal Use of the Hands by Orlando Scandrick – Drive resulted in a Vikings punt
- 7 yard run by Ezekiel Elliott: Clipping by Gavin Escobar. Instead of 2nd & 3, its 1st & 24, drive resulted in Dallas Punt
- 11 yard reception by Jason Witten on 3rd & 8: Holding on Ezekiel Elliott, drive resulted in a Dallas punt 2 plays later.
Dallas did everything they could to lose this game. The Vikings defense played as expected and held this offense to 264 yards. Dak Prescott finished the day 12/18 for 139 and a touchdown for a rating of 108.3. I should note that over 50 of those 139 yards came on 1 play to Dez Bryant. What kept the Cowboys mistakes from dooming them was the failures by the Minnesota special teams. Punter Jeff Locke had a miserable day, averaging only 32 yards per punt and more than one of those punts shooting backwards for a big Dallas gain. Adam Thielen lost the ball on this punt return which led to a Dez Bryant touchdown on the next play.
Here's the Adam Thielen fumble that led to the #DallasCowboys go-ahead score. Cowboys challenged it and won it. #SKOL #TNF pic.twitter.com/7GGmK3ejTg
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) December 2, 2016
The offense faced its toughest test of the year against this Vikings defense. The Vikes built their secondary the way the Cowboys built their Offensive line and it showed. Dez was able to capitalize on their one mistake for a massive reception that fell short of the end zone by 1 yard, but other than that one mistake, the secondary held the Dak Prescott in check.
.@DezBryant shakes a defender out of his shoes & @dak finds him! Wow. 🙌
📱💻: https://t.co/hl1ZZudssB #TNF #DALvsMIN https://t.co/OM7r6JIPt0
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) December 2, 2016
Dak continued to play smart but was again taken by surprise when he was put under pressure and had the ball knocked out of his hand. If there is a knock on Dak, this is it. Perhaps it is due to the comfort generally afforded him by this offensive line. We all say how comfortable he looks in the pocket, but maybe it’s too comfortable. Dak has 4 times as many fumbles as interceptions. Sam Bradford happens to be the closest to this stat among active starting quarterbacks with 7 fumbles and 3 interceptions. Zeke had a steady game and should have broken the 100 yard mark but had a 43 yard run negated by a holding penalty, he finished the day with 20 carries for 86 yards and this TD.
And @EzekielElliott finishes off the drive with a short TD Run. #FEEDZEKE #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/roBo9V1VFD
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) December 2, 2016
Defensively, the Cowboys played well. They gave up a total of 87 rushing yards and 231 passing. Bradford completed 32/45 for an average of 5.5 yards per reception, which would rank him 54th among the 59 Quarterbacks who have attempted a pass this year. This was a result of the offensive Vikings offensive line which forced Bradford to catch and shoot the entire game. The Cowboys played safe, made tackles and kept the offense in front of them, which led to 3 field goals until the last two minutes of the game when Sam Bradford looked like the former 1st overall pick and led the Vikings down the field with no timeouts to find the end zone and pull within 2 with 25 seconds left. Bradford and the Vikes went for 2 but Bradford’s pass sailed out the back of the end zone. With all the mentions of bad calls or over calls, the refs flat out missed one on this play which sealed the win for the Cowboys. The Cowboys pass rush got home and slapped Bradford in the jaw just after he released the ball, this should have resulted in a penalty and retry of the 2 pt conversion, instead, the pass is incomplete and the Vikings are forced to try an onside kick. Jason Witten recovered the onside kick and Dak kneeled the ball to end the game and the Cowboys win their 11th straight game.
For all the miscues by the Cowboys that kept the Vikings in this game, they found a way to pull this one out. The better team won, but didn’t deserve it. I’m going to chalk it up to being the 3rd game in 12 days, but A W is a W.
Keys to the Game Scorecard:
- Protect the ball. 4 fumbles, lost 2. Dak continues to be taken by surprise whenever someone gets close and dropped another one, which was recovered by Zeke on a crucial 3rd and 1.
- Run the ball. 140 yrds rushing as a team. 86 by Zeke. Zeke did have a 40 yard run that was negated by a holding by Doug Free. So, 126 yrds*!
- Get pressure on Sam Bradford. Bradford was sacked twice for a loss of 15. He was able to get the ball out within 2 seconds on nearly every play. This kept the offense limited to little crossing routes.