An early turnover and the best offensive output since the injury to quarterback Dak Prescott powered the Dallas Cowboys to a 31-28 road win over the Minnesota Vikings moving to 3-7. In his return from injury and the COVID-19 list quarterback Andy Dalton led an offense that had its best game in weeks rolling up 376 yards.
Entering the game Dallas scored just 41 points total since the Prescott injury struggling to get anything going. Tonight a balanced attack led by 180 yards on the ground helped keep the Vikings defense on its heels. Running back Ezekiel Elliott had one of his better games of the season rushing for 103 yards on 21 carries also adding a touchdown on two catches through the air. Backup Tony Pollard ran for a touchdown along with 60 yards on five carries.
Through the air, Dalton looked like his vintage self throwing for three touchdowns rebounding from an early interception. His top target was receiver Amari Cooper who led with six catches for 81 yards including a huge 32 yarder setting up a field goal before the half. Rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb made history breaking “bullet” Bob Hayes 1965 record for most catches by a rookie as his four catches 34-yard day put him over the 46 catch mark. However, the most impressive thing about his outing was the acrobatic catch he made for a four-yard touchdown in the second quarter twisting his body and making the catch while falling to the ground. Tight end Dalton Schultz added the other touchdown catch.
Other notable offensive milestones include Elliott becoming just the fifth running back since 1970 to have 45 rushing touchdowns and 10 receiving touchdowns in the first five seasons of a career. Entering today the Cowboys managed just two touchdowns in their last 47 drives, more than doubling that tonight. Rounding it out their first-quarter touchdown was their first in the last five games. Making this more impressive is the fact that they started the seventh offensive line combination in nine games.
Defensively while the unit allowed 430 yards, 314 from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins they also forced two fumbles both forced by safety Donovan Wilson. Wilson forced an early fumble on a strip-sack in the first quarter setting up Dallas’s first score. He finished tied second for tackles with Jaylon Smith at nine. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led with 12. Smith led with one sack while Wilson and end Demarcus Lawrence were credited with half a sack each on the strip-sack.
Elliott found the end zone first on a 6-yard touchdown pass giving Dallas a 6-0 lead after a blocked extra point. The Vikings responded before the end of the quarter as running back Dalvin Cook punched it in from a yard out giving Minnesota a 7-6 lead. The second quarter was all Dallas as Lamb’s score and a 19-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal gave them a 16-7 half time lead.
Minnesota came out strong scoring the only touchdown of the quarter a two-yard Adam Thielen catch trailing 16-14 entering the fourth. He opened up the third with another touchdown giving the Vikings a 20-16 lead. Dallas quickly responded with a 42-yard Tony Pollard touchdown and a two-point conversion gave them the lead back with 12:02 left. Roughly three minutes later Cousins found receiver Justin Jefferson for a 39-yard touchdown giving the Vikings a 28-24 lead. After several stops by both teams, Dalton found Schultz for a two-yard touchdown with 1:37 left and the defense forced a turnover on downs to end the game.
Dallas has a short week taking on the Washington Football Team Thursday.