CINCINNATI – The Cowboys were on an unusually short week, having just played the previous Tuesday. In addition, they had to go back on the road again only five days later to face the Bengals.
This game had an unusual start, especially for a Dallas defense that hasn't forced many turnovers. But the Cowboys got the ball out three times in the early going, including one that led to a long fumble return for a touchdown.
But let's also remember those hidden plays that might be overlooked. Here are the five you can't forget about that played a big factor in the outcome.
D-Law's first play – Considering he's making over $21 million per season, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is expected to start every game. But the Cowboys decided to run a different alignment on the first play, so it wasn't until the second play that "D-Law" actually got on the field. And on that play, he stripped the ball away from Giovani Bernard, resulting in a turnover that led to a quick field goal by the Cowboys to steal away the first possession of the game.
Cooper converts first of 3 third-down conversions – It was the Cowboys' second drive of the game, following a third fumble recovery. But facing third-and-14 from their own 20-yard line, Andy Dalton hit Amari Cooper for a 20-yard gain and a first down. It proved to be the first of three third-down conversions on the drive, which lasted 15 plays and 88 yards, resulting in a Cooper touchdown catch to give Dallas a 17-0 lead. Without that first conversion, the Bengals likely start the next drive around their own 40-yard line down only 10-0.
Pollard's kickoff return – While Tony Pollard likely could've scored on the return if he had cut back to the inside, the second-year return specialist still made a big play to start the third quarter that led to points. The 60-yard kickoff return gave the Cowboys the ball at the Bengals' 43. The offense was then able to drive down to the 2-yard line and settle for a field goal. After the late touchdown by the Bengals before halftime, the momentum seemed to be in favor of Cincinnati, but that changed in a hurry with Pollard's return, his second straight game with at least a 60-yard run back.
Holding penalty negates TD – How interesting could this game have been if the Bengals weren't flagged for a holding penalty midway through the fourth quarter? A touchdown run by Samaje Perine of 13 yards was nullified because of a holding penalty on Quinton Spain, who had a hold of Jaylon Smith. Instead of the Bengals cutting the lead to 20-14, they were pushed back and never got a first down, handing the ball back to Dallas with 7:23 left and the Cowboys still owning a 13-point lead.
Zeke's longest run of the year – What a time for Ezekiel Elliott to rip off his longest rush of 2020, getting a 26-yard run around the left side of the line. The Cowboys had just stopped the Bengals on fourth down and were pinned back at their own 10-yard line. But "Zeke's" run flipped the field position and got the Cowboys back on the offensive again. A big pass to CeeDee Lamb moved the offense into position for Greg Zuerlein, who hit a 55-yard field goal to give Dallas a 16-point lead with 5:12 remaining. The Cowboys would tack on another stop and touchdown for the final 30-7 advantage.