ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys were on the right end of this back-and-forth affair that saw its share of ups and downs and lead changes.
But like all games, there were a handful of plays that could go unnoticed, yet changed the outcome of the game. Let's take a closer look at five that affected this one.
Frazier prevents good field position – While the AT&T Stadium crowd was still buzzing following Ezekiel Elliott's touchdown and Red-Kettle leap, the Cowboys were backed up 15 yards after the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. But Dan Bailey's kickoff reached the 10, and Josh Huff, who does have a kick return for a touchdown this year with the Eagles, was blasted by rookie safety Kavon Frazier at the 22-yard line, which was less than a normal touchback. The Cowboys got the ball back with good field position and drove down for another touchdown.
Winston's head-butt proves costly – The Buccaneers were on the move in the second quarter, trailing 17-3, but had first-and-goal from the Dallas 8-yard line. After losing 5 yards on a rush attempt by Doug Martin, a frustrated Jameis Winston head-butted linebacker Justin Durant, who along with Benson Mayowa tackled Martin for the loss. The 15-yard penalty on Winston pushed the ball back to second-and-goal from the 28 and the Bucs eventually had to settle for a field goal.
Zeke gets loose for 20 – While it might not have been the most memorable play, this 20-yard run by Elliott got the Cowboys back on track offensively. Tampa Bay had just grabbed a 20-17 lead and the life was getting sucked out of the stadium. But Zeke went for 20 yards on second down, pushing the ball out to the Cowboys 46. From there they would get into field-goal range and tie the game at 20. But the run by Zeke helped get the wheels back in motion for the offense.
Bucs don't take advantage of fumble – After Jason Witten's surprising fumble that gave Tampa the ball at the Dallas 45-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, the defense stiffened with arguably its best stand of the night. A first-down run by Doug Martin was stuffed for a yard loss by Mayowa. Byron Jones then made a great play to fight off a screen pass to prevent a big play on second down, followed by a missed deep throw on third down. The Bucs got a gift with the fumble but had to punt three plays later.
Dak hits Dez from the end zone – Backed up near their own end zone and trying to hang onto a 23-20 lead, the Cowboys put their faith in Prescott again. On second-and-9 from their own 5-yard line, Dak Prescott stood calmly in the pocket of his end zone, and fired a strike to Dez Bryant over the middle for 19 yards. That not only gave the Cowboys some needed breathing room, but ignited the offense even more. A long run by Elliott led to a field goal and a six-point lead.