ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys jumped all over the Colts from the start and cruised to their first NFC East title since 2009.
While this one was clearly one-sided, all games have those hidden plays that can be forgotten, but ended up playing a huge factor in the outcome. Here are five that changed this game:
Decision to sit Hilton –Usually we don't go to pre-game decisions, but the Cowboys benefitted from the Colts deactivating wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The Colts' most dynamic weapon missed all week with a hamstring injury and if they didn't have the AFC South already wrapped up, it's likely Hilton could've played. Hilton is their big-play receiver who has shown the ability to get them quick scores. Without him, the Colts just didn't have the firepower to keep it close, much less get back in the game.
Colts flagged for taunting –The Cowboys' impressive first drive nearly didn't happen. But thanks to a taunting penalty on Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman, the Cowboys got an automatic first down after being stopped on third down. They took advantage of that and drove the ball into the end zone, getting a 7-0 lead on a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Terrance Williams.
Dropped pass on fake punt –For the second straight game, the Cowboys were trying for a blocked punt and this time, sent both corners off the edge for the block. Alertly, punter Pat MacAfee saw an open gunner and threw a pass to the right flat for safety Dewey McDonald, who was wide open. But McDonald just dropped the pass in the clear, giving the ball to Dallas at the Colts' 19. One play later, it was 14-0 when Romo hit Dez Bryant for a touchdown.
Carr's breakup on Fleener – The Cowboys led by two touchdowns and the Colts were looking to get back in the game late in the first quarter. But Luck's pass to tight end Coby Fleener was batted down by Brandon Carr, who appeared to have a hold of Fleener's jersey. The non-call led to a Colts' punt and the Cowboys were able to drive for a 21-0 lead.
Wilcox ends half with pick – While a 28-0 deficit was already a steep hill, any chance to come back seemed to end with the half. Luck's attempt to score just before halftime was picked off by safety J.J. Wilcox in the back of the end zone. Wilcox ran it out 36 yards and was eventually tackled by Luck. But a 28-7 lead keeps things interesting. However, the Cowboys' defense made sure it remained a four-touchdown lead.