BACK ON TRACK: 5 observations from the Cowboys’ blowout win over Minnesota

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/AP/Shutterstock (13631738bw) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) breaks a tackle by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) during the first half of an NFL football game, in Minneapolis Cowboys Vikings Football, Minneapolis, United States – 20 Nov 2022

BACK ON TRACK: 5 observations from the Cowboys’ blowout win over Minnesota

Quarterback Dak Prescott was nearly flawless on Sunday afternoon, as the Cowboys (7-3) went into Minneapolis and throttled the Vikings (8-2) in a 40-3 win.

Big day for Dak

Dak Prescott was hot from the first snap to the last, as the Cowboys’ quarterback had his way with the Vikings’ defense. Prescott completed 22 of his 25 throws for 276 yards and two touchdowns, as the offense had its second-best scoring day of the season.

Prescott got off to a hot start, completing 15 of his 17 throws in the first half, including a 30-yard touchdown on a swing pass to Tony Pollard. He finished the first half with 141 yards passing while completing balls to seven different receivers in the opening 30 minutes.

Add that to his second half, where he completed another seven of eight passes, and Prescott finished the game with a QB rating of 139.3, his best of the season.

In the final 30 minutes, Prescott hit running back Tony Pollard in stride for a 68-yard touchdown. Pollard became the first running back in Cowboys history to catch two touchdown passes of 30 yards or more in the same game.

Elliott, Pollard balance run game

The Cowboys got a workmanlike afternoon from the run game, which is exactly what they needed.

With Ezekiel Elliott back after missing two weeks with a hyperextended knee, and Tony Pollard leading the charge, the Cowboys amassed 458 yards as a team. Elliott finished with 42 tough yards on 15 carries, while Pollard had 80 yards on 15 carries. Pollard added another 109 yards in the passing game on two catches that both went for touchdowns.

Malik Davis spelled Elliott and Pollard in the fourth quarter and carried the ball seven times for 13 yards to put the game away.

The Cowboys were balanced in the run early in the game. Elliott had four carries, including a big first-down run and the Cowboys opening touchdown, while Pollard had five carries for 43 yards in the first quarter.

In a true one-two punch, the Cowboys, who finished the first half with 24 runs for 108 yards and the one score, were led by Elliott’s 11 carries and Pollard’s 57 yards.

Plenty of Parsons

Cowboys all-everything linebacker Micah Parsons was not happy with his, or the team’s, performance last week against Green Bay. He showed up ready to go from the first series of the game.

Parsons, who finished with four solo tackles and multiple quarterback pressures in the game, had two of those tackles on the first series, including a sack and forced a fumble that Dorance Armstrong recovered in Vikings territory. That forced fumble turned into the first three points of the game for the Cowboys.

Parsons picked up his second sack of the game in the final minute of the first half to help halt a late Minnesota drive.

Cowboys run defense

Down 30-3 before touching the football in the second half, the Vikings all but abandoned the run game.

The Cowboys held the explosive Dalvin Cook to just 72 yards on 11 carries in the game, but 45 of those yards came in the first half.

In that opening half, the Cowboys kept the Vikings’ run game in check. Cook did average 5.62 yards a carry but had just eight totes. Alexander Mattison added three yards on one carry. But down more than two scores late in the first half, Minnesota abandoned the run in search of points. Cook’s last run of the first half came on the opening play of the second quarter. The Vikings’ only run after that was the three-yard gain by Mattison with over five minutes to play in the first half.

Trench domination

The Cowboys came into Sunday’s game leading the NFL in sacks with 35 this season. They added another seven to that as they harassed Kirk Cousins and Nick Mullens from the opening series.

Cousins, who threw for just 105 yards in three and a half quarters, was sacked seven times, the most of his career.

It is the 11th straight game the Cowboys have recorded at least two sacks.

Parsons, who finished with a pair of sacks, got the day going with his ninth sack of the season on the Vikings’ third play from scrimmage.

After a Dorance Armstrong sack that halted a Minnesota drive early in the second quarter, Parsons finished off the half with his second of the game.

DeMarcus Lawrence slung Cousins to the ground on the Vikings’ first play of the second half before Dante Fowler added his first of the game on third down of the same drive.

Jayron Kearse and Armstrong picked up sacks over the final 25 minutes of action.

Four sacks came on third downs, including both of Armstrong’s.

Conversely, the Cowboys’ offensive line did not allow a sack to the Vikings in 30 pass plays.

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