MINNEAPOLIS – The Cowboys needed this win in the worst way, and for a while they played like a desperate team.
They came out hitting, forcing turnovers and getting big plays on both sides of the ball. And for the first time in over a month, the Cowboys figured out how to secure a much-needed win.
But all games have those moments that can be forgotten, yet have a huge impact. Here are the five plays you can't forget about that were a big factor in the outcome.
CeeDee fights for yards – It certainly won't be his most memorable catch of the day, but the rookie from Oklahoma had a big moment early on after his first catch. On the Cowboys' second drive, CeeDee Lamb caught a pass from Andy Dalton around the 11-yard line, but he kept his legs moving and fought three defenders who were trying to strip the ball away. In the process, Lamb bull-rushed his way to the 5-yard line. That changed the way offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could call plays, and it allowed them to run something new – a quick screen to Ezekiel Elliot who was flanked out wide – for an early touchdown.
Vikings' fake punt wiped out – The Cowboys were going for an all-out block and left the Vikings' gunner wide open. Punter Brandon Colquitt alertly noticed and threw the ball to Kris Boyd for a 23-yard gain to the Cowboys' 33. But the Vikings were flagged for an illegal formation, which led to another punt. This time, it was Boyd who was flagged for an illegal block that tacked on 15 yards on top of Lamb's punt return. Instead of the Vikings having the ball at the Dallas 33, the Cowboys got the ball at their own 48.
Decision to kick FG before half – While it might have been criticized at the time, the Cowboys made a wise choice to kick a field goal with a 13-7 lead and five seconds to play at the 1-yard line. Perhaps they could've run another pass to the end zone, but without a timeout, there's a chance to get a sack or even a penalty, which would've resulted in a 10-second run off. So the Cowboys opted for a field goal and a 16-7 halftime lead. Moves like that are always emphasized more in a three-point win.
Dalton to Cooper on fourth down – The game-winning touchdown likely doesn't happen if the Cowboys don't extend the drive with a crucial conversion from Dalton to Amari Cooper. Facing fourth-and-6 at the Vikings' 29-yard line, Dalton hit Cooper on a sideline route for 10 yards to the 19 right at the 2:00 warning. The Cowboys were then able to carry the momentum and score the go-ahead touchdown. Without that conversion, the Vikings probably could've run out the game with a couple of first downs.
Dropped pick by Boyd before TD – There's another key play involving Boyd. This time, he nearly picked off a pass by Dalton on the goal line that could've ended the game. On first and goal from the 4-yard line, Dalton went for a slant to tight end Dalton Schultz, but the route was jumped by Boyd, who nearly got the pick. After that, the Cowboys ran the ball with Zeke for 2 yards, which then set up a play-action pass to Schultz for the go-ahead score.