Needing a bounce-back win after a disappointing loss a week earlier, the Dallas Cowboys simply put on a clinic against the overmatched Minnesota Vikings, leaving the Minneapolis cold with a scorching hot 40-3 victory.
Everything worked to perfection as the Cowboys dominated in all three facets of the game. The heroics started with an offense that scored on each of its first seven possessions on its way to totaling 458 yards while racking up a time of possession of 37:24. Since 1978, when the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule, Dallas had never started a game by earning points on each of its first seven drives until today's performance. The Cowboys also converted 71 percent of their third down attempts and 67 percent of their trips into the red zone.
Dak Prescott was outstanding in this one. At one point completing 11 straight pass attempts, he finished with a season-high 276 passing yards with two touchdown throws and no interceptions for an impressive 139.3 passer rating, also his highest of the 2022 campaign.
For the fourth straight game, running back Tony Pollard surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage, the first Cowboys player to do so since Ezekiel Elliot turned the trick in 2020. Pollard earned 80 yards on the ground and another 109 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Meanwhile, Elliott returned from a two-game absence due to injury to chip in 42 rushing yards and two touchdowns as well.
But as high-flying as the Cowboys offense proved to be, the play on the defensive side of the ball was just as inspiring. Dallas sacked Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins seven times and surrendered only 183 yards of total offense and a time of possession of 22:36. The unit also snapped Cousins' streak of 39 straight games with a touchdown pass.
Linebacker Micah Parsons led the way with another two-sack effort and had five quarterback hits, a forced fumble and four tackles overall. But he was joined by the likes of defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who had two sacks and a fumble recovery himself, and safety Jayron Kearse who recorded his second sack of the season and topped the team with five tackles.
Not to be outdone, the Cowboys special teams did their part as well. Brett Maher converted all four of his field goals, which included kicks of 50, 53 and 60 yards. He now has seven field goals this season from at least 50 yards, the most in a season in team annals.
Heck, even punter Bryan Anger impressed. Despite only punting twice, he averaged 50.5 yards per boot and placed both inside the 20-yard line, the second of those coming to rest at the Minnesota 2-yard line.
Parsons made his presence known immediately with a strip-sack of Cousins on the third snap of the game, the fumble recovered by Armstrong at Minnesota's 27-yard line. That was Parsons' sixth career forced fumble, since 1999 the second most in a player's first two seasons in Cowboys history behind only DeMarcus Ware (8).
Dallas couldn't get into the end zone, a pass to Dalton Schultz in the back left corner of the end zone slipping through the tight end's hands, but Maher got them on the board with an early 27-yard field goal.
No problem reaching the end zone on their second possession, though. And this time they had to go 75 yards to get there. After the Vikings tied things up with a field goal of their own, Prescott and company came right back with a 10-play drive to pay dirt. Pollard did the heavy lifting with five carries for 44 yards, but Elliot got the scoring honors with a 1-yard plunge to take the 10-3 lead.
In addition, by holding Minnesota to just three points, the Cowboys remained the only team in the NFL that hasn't given up a touchdown in the opening frame this season.
The offensive onslaught continued for Dallas as the offense picked up points on all three of its second quarter possessions to make it five straight scoring drives in the half. First, the team worked the clock, eating up nearly eight minutes over 14 plays even though the Cowboys only traveled 48 yards. But that was enough for Maher, as he split the uprights on a 53-yarder to make it a two-score affair.
Dallas then came back with a quicker strike, covering 59 yards in eight plays and only 2:44 of time to again reach the end zone. The touchdown came when Pollard hauled in a short pass, got a great block from Schultz, and then turned on the afterburners down the right sideline 30 yards to the goal line.
Getting the ball one more time with only 31 seconds left and at their own 14-yard line, the Cowboys decided to be aggressive and not just run out the clock. Instead, Prescott completed four straight passes to reach the Vikings' 42-yard line. The last of those was a perfectly placed strike to CeeDee Lamb on the right sideline, the wideout making a beautiful tiptoe catch to give Maher a shot at a 60-yard field goal with five seconds remaining.
And the kicker appeared to make the attempt just inside the right upright, only to receive word that the officials had called time to review Lamb's previous catch. After the reception was indeed ruled complete, Maher had to stay out and give the 60-yard field goal another shot.
No problem. This time Maher's boot went straight down the middle, Dallas going into the break with a commanding 23-3 advantage.
No sense taking the foot off the gas pedal now, as the Cowboys kept the good times rolling by scoring twice more to start the second half.
They first opened the third quarter with another Prescott to Pollard connection doing the damage. On third-and-14 at his own 32-yard line, the quarterback hit his target in stride, Pollard having gotten behind the helpless linebacker. Sixty-eight yards later, the running back-turned-receiver was in the end zone, the game all but over.
The play was the longest of the season for the Cowboys as well as the longest of Pollard's career. And it was the longest completion for Prescott since a 75-yard touchdown throw against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 9, 2018.
Of course, the Cowboys weren't done. Elliott got his second score of the day, but Prescott set that up with a honey of a pass to Noah Brown along the left sideline, the 35-yard connection moving Dallas to the Vikings' 1-yard line.
With the game well in hand and the Cowboys scheduled to play just four days later, several of the team's key players punched out their time card early, their work done. Not Maher, however, who rounded out the scoring. He added a 50-yard field goal to cap a nine-play, 44-yard drive, and in doing so became the first kicker in Cowboys history to have three field goals of at least 50 yards in a single game.
The Cowboys victory, combined with the New York Giants' loss earlier in the day, moved Dallas back into second place in the NFC East. These two will now square off on Thanksgiving Day in a battle of longtime rivals.