The NFC East is terrible, but the Cowboys are alive. Andy Dalton hit Dalton Schultz with 1:37 left to give Dallas a late lead, and the Cowboys held on for the 31-28 win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys are 3-7 after the win, just behind the 3-6-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
Nobody is puffing out their chest over a 3-7 record, but the Cowboys are not far out of first place. As weird as it sounds, their Thanksgiving game against the Washington Football Team, which is also 3-7, has some playoff implications.
Cowboys answer in the fourth quarter
Heading into Sunday’s game, a Cowboys win would have created a logjam of all four NFC East teams with three wins. The Eagles had first place heading into Week 12 no matter what because they had a tie, but Dallas and everyone else were still alive and well — maybe “well” is a little optimistic — in the division race.
The Cowboys looked pretty good early on. Dalton hit Ezekiel Elliott for a short touchdown catch. CeeDee Lamb made a fantastic catch, twisting in the end zone to haul it in. The Cowboys led 16-7 at the half.
Even when the Vikings punched back, the Cowboys answered. Minnesota took a 21-16 lead and it looked like it’d pull away. But Tony Pollard scored on a long run and then Elliott and Lamb ran a tricky option play to get Lamb in the end zone for the two-point conversion. Dallas led 24-21 in the fourth quarter.
The lead didn’t last long. Justin Jefferson, who is having an incredible rookie season for the Vikings, scored on a 39-yard touchdown and Minnesota had the lead again.
The Cowboys didn’t quit. The defense got a stop and the offense led a methodical drive that included a 10-yard completion from Dalton to Amari Cooper on fourth down. Schultz came wide open on a well-designed play for the go-ahead touchdown.
Then, of all things, the defense sealed the win.
Cowboys play Washington on Thanksgiving
The defense needed to get a stop and that has happened rarely in 2020. But they got the Vikings to fourth down, and some pressure on Kirk Cousins led to a desperation heave downfield that fell incomplete.
The Cowboys are suddenly a half-game out of first place, and it’s stunning. The Cowboys are bad on defense, not good on the offensive line after several personnel losses and have gone through four quarterbacks. But their season is far from over after a dramatic win over the Vikings.
Washington and Dallas might not be pretty football on Thanksgiving, but at least it will matter.
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