With 35 seconds left Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath pushed Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr just enough to force a fumble over the pylon out of the end zone for a touchback securing a 20-17 win and keeping playoff hopes alive.
The Raiders could have easily found themselves on the other side as a 100-yard kick return by wide receiver Cordell Paterson was called back due to holding was one of 11 penalties called against the Raiders along with a missed field goal before the half was too much to overcome.
Quarterback Dak Prescott had 212 of the teams 330 yards but also had two interceptions. He did, however, make two big plays converting a crucial fourth and one late in the fourth quarter and finding wide receiver Dez Bryant for a huge 40-yard pass to put the Cowboys in position to take the lead. He added 32 yards and one touchdown on the ground giving him six on the season. Running back Alfred Morris led in rushing with 61 yards on 16 carries. Bryant led in receiving with two catches for 59 yards. Tight end Jason Witten added four catches for 47 yards. The Cowboys will have the services of running back Ezikel Elliot next week as tonight was the last game of his six-game suspension. While he will return they might be without All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith as he left with a right hamstring injury and did not return.
Defensively the Cowboys got off to a strong start not surrendering a first down until the second quarter and shutting Oakland out in the first-half, the fourth time this season for the Raiders tied with the Miami Dolphins for the most in the league. They held the Raiders to 293 yards of offense, limited running back Marshawn Lynch to 76 yards on 16 carries and limited Carr to 171 yards on 21-of-38 passing. Heath and linebacker Sean Lee led in tackles with six.
The Cowboys opening drive stalled as Prescott was intercepted by cornerback Sean Smith at the OAK 35-yard line for the Raiders third interception of the season. Following a stop, the Cowboys second drive ended in a 45-yard Dan Bailey field goal to take a 3-0 lead middle first quarter.
The Cowboys opened the second quarter with a 1-yard Rod Smith touchdown run to cap of an 8-play, 65-yard drive to make it 10-0. Raider kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 39-yard field goal to keep it 10-0 at the half.
The Raiders started the second-half strong taking the opening drive 90-yards finished off by a 2-yard touchdown pass from Carr to wide receiver Michael Crabtree to make it 10-7 middle third quarter. Three plays later Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin hit Prescott as he threw causing the pass to float into the hands of Smith for his second interception of the game giving the Raiders the ball at the DAL 22-yard line. Four plays later Tavecchio hit a 39-yard field goal to tie it at 10-10.
Facing a fourth and 11 on their own 24-yard line, punter Chris Jones took the snap and burst up the right side of the field for a 24-yard gain to keep alive a drive that ended with a 5-yard Prescott touchdown run to take a 17-10 lead late third quarter. On the next drive, Carr connected with Crabtree again for a 2-yard touchdown pass and catch to tie it 17-17 early fourth quarter.
With 3:09 left in the game Prescott found Bryant for a 40 yard gain, his second catch over 20 yards on the season, down to the OAK 5-yard line. After three straight runs, the Cowboys had to settle for a 19-yard Bailey field goal to take a 20-17 with 1:44 left in the game. On fourth and 10 with 51 seconds left, Carr evaded pressure, rolled to his right and launched a deep pass to Crabtree who drew a pass interference call from rookie safety Jourdan Lewis at the DAL 27-yard line.
On third and three Carr evaded pressure rolled to his right and took off getting past the first down marker and from the three-yard line tried to dive into the end zone but was pushed by Heath and fumbled out of the end zone allowing the Cowboys to take a knee and leave with the win.
The Cowboys return home Sunday to face the Seattle Seahawks who are coming off a 42-7 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:25 CT on FOX.