Your NFC East champs took care of business.
The Cowboys came into the game with little to play for, having already wrapped up the division title thanks to the Giants' loss to Philadelphia last Thursday. And they were facing a Detroit Lions squad that is still fighting for its playoff life.
But it didn't matter, as the Cowboys rolled to a dominating 42-21 victory in front of 92,885 fans and a primetime Monday Night Football audience.
While rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott continued to shine, it was veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant who took top honors in this one as he finished with 70 receiving yards on just four catches with two of those going for touchdowns. Bryant also threw – yes, threw! – one scoring pass, the first of his career.
Of course, Prescott and Elliott both put up impressive numbers as well. The quarterback completed 75 percent of his passes for 212 yards and three touchdown tosses without an interception. Meanwhile, his running mate averaged 6.67 yards per carry on his way to 80 rushing yards with two touchdowns.
Overall, Dallas totaled 375 yards of offense while holding Matthew Stafford and company to only 319 total yards, 229 of which came through the air. After a rough start, the Cowboys defense completely shut down Detroit's high-powered offense.
In fact, the first half was a shootout in every sense of the word, as the Lions scored on each of their first three possessions, while Dallas equaled them by reaching the end zone three times as well.
Things got started as they so often have during this 2016 season with the Cowboys scoring on their opening possession of the game. Prescott complete 5-of-6 passes, the final one a 21-yarder that saw Brice Butler make a beautiful leaping grab for his third touchdown of the season.
While that drive took nine plays, the Cowboys needed only four on their next series. That's because Elliott took the handoff at his own 45-yard line, broke off right tackle and raced 55 yards for the touchdown. That marked the running back's 15th overall score on the year (14 rushing, 1 receiving), breaking Herschel Walker's record for the most touchdowns by a rookie in Cowboys history.
But at this point Dallas was just trading scores with the visitors. Running back Zach Zenner rushed 7 yards up the middle for Detroit's first score before Stafford then barely crossed the goal line on a quarterback sneak to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter.
And when the Lions then took the lead with their third straight touchdown, Zenner again earning the honors, the Cowboys appeared in for a long night, seemingly unable to stop Detroit's offense.
But as reported by Kristi Scales on the Cowboys Radio Network, that's when linebacker Sean Lee pulled the defense together on the sideline and basically lit a fire under his teammates. Dallas also had to switch up its scheme somewhat. Already thin at defensive line with Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence and Cedric Thornton all out, the Cowboys saw Terrell McClain and Ryan Davis leave in the second quarter due to injury, which forced the team to play more of its dime package.
[embeddedad0]Whatever the reason, from that point on Detroit would never score again. The defense forced punts on the Lions' next two possessions, which allowed Dallas to tie the game at 21-21 before the half. That came thanks to a Dez Bryant catch that saw the wideout haul in Prescott's pass nearly one-handed … and while being interfered with.
The defensive momentum continued into the second half when on the Lions' opening series of the third quarter, Brandon Carr dove in front of a pass intended for wide receiver TJ Jones, tipping the ball to safety J.J. Wilcox. Given the gift at Detroit's 38-yard line, the Cowboys were soon enough on the board again, taking the lead after Elliott raced around the right end for his second score of the night.
When Dallas then forced yet another punt and scored once again, upping its advantage to 35-21, the game was more or less over. But this touchdown was unlike any seen before as Bryant took an end-around handoff from Prescott and then threw a pass in the end zone to a wide-open Jason Witten.
Once the Cowboys pushed their lead to 42-21 – this after Bryant recorded his second touchdown catch of the game – there wasn't much left to do but watch the rest of the fourth quarter run out. Elliott did that from the sideline as his night was done.
The Lions threatened one more time, reaching the Dallas 4-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in the game, but defensive end David Irving sacked Stafford and knocked the ball loose. Kyle Wilber was there to recover the prize to give possession back to the home side. It was the Cowboys' 10th takeaway in its last three games.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news for Dallas on the night, though. In addition to the injuries to McClain and Davis, rookie cornerback Anthony Brown left the game in the first quarter due to a concussion and then in the third quarter Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith departed with a knee issue. These developments may only ramp up the debate on whether to rest or play the starters in next week's final game.
With the victory, the Cowboys moved to 13-2 on the season, which ties the franchise record for the most wins in a season. Dallas went 13-3 in both 1992 and 2007. The team will have an opportunity to break the mark when they travel to Philadelphia for the season finale, taking on the rival Eagles next Sunday at noon.
View all of our favorite gameday photos from the Cowboys game against the Detroit Lions in Week 16 at AT&T Stadium.