Admit it, Cowboys fans, you were spooked when you heard the news. But if the team was worried that star quarterback Dak Prescott would have to sit this one out due to his strained calf, they certainly didn't show it.
Behind a strong defensive effort and an offense that showed it could still move the ball, the Cowboys were rewarded with a last-second treat at the end of this Halloween night, a big 20-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
With the injury to Prescott, backup Cooper Rush was pressed into his first career NFL start and he played the part of hero perfectly. Although pedestrian at times early in the game, he was there at the end, connecting with Amari Cooper for the winning touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining in the game.
For the night, Rush completed 60 percent of his passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns for a 92.2 passer rating. Both Cooper and CeeDee Lamb topped 100 receiving yards, totaling 122 and 112 respectively, with seven players overall recording a catch.
But for all the offensive fireworks, it was the Dallas defense that perhaps deserves the real accolades. As a unit, they held Minnesota's high-powered offense to only 278 total yards and just an eight percent conversion rate on third downs. They also held quarterback Kirk Cousins to just 184 passing yards. Leading the effort was rookie linebacker Micah Parsons, who was outstanding with 11 tackles, including 10 solo, and four tackles for loss.
After the first 15 minutes of play, the Cowboys showed they could go toe-to-toe with the Vikings even without Prescott. Dallas dominated the time of possession in the frame, 10:20 to 4:40, and had outgained the home team 93 yards to 79.
But Minnesota held the advantage on the scoreboard, 7-0, after the Vikings took the game's opening possession and drove 75 yards in seven plays to the end zone. Big plays did the damage with a 31-yard pass to tight end Tyler Conklin and a 14-yard pass interference penalty on Trevon Diggs. That led to a 20-yard scoring toss to a wide open Adam Thielen.
Of course, the Cowboys' cause wasn't helped when following a drive to Minnesota's 19-yard line, a sack on third-and-7 forced Greg Zuerlein try a 43-yard field goal. His attempt sailed wide left, Dallas unable to close the gap.
The Cowboys were on the move as the game shifted into the second quarter, the combination of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard powering the offense from its own 5-yard line into Minnesota territory at the Vikings' 47. But an ill-advised pass down the middle into double-coverage resulted in an interception for Rush, ending Dallas' attack.
But Rush got the team going again on its next series and once again crossed midfield, reaching the Vikings' 20-yard line while eating up 6:25 of clock. Although unable to reach the end zone, at least Zuerlein was good this time on his 38-yard field goal to get the Cowboys on the board.
Unfortunately, Dallas then gifted the Vikings three points just before the half. The Cowboys defense appeared to have gotten off the field when it forced the Vikings to punt at their own 30-yard line. But a defensive offsides penalty gave Minnesota new life.
That was then followed by the Cowboys giving up a big 32-yard completion on fourth-and-inches at the Vikings' 44-yard line, again keeping the drive alive. Thankfully, Dallas did eventually stop the Minnesota march, but the home team converted a 45-yard field goal to go into the break with a seven-point advantage, 10-3.
Making matters seemingly worse, Dallas did get the ball back one more time before the half, but left tackle Tyron Smith, one of the best in the game, did not join the offense on the field. Battling an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago at New England, he did not return.
So with doubts only increasing as the Cowboys opened the second half with the ball, all Rush did was throw a strike down the middle to Cedrick Wilson on third-and-8 at his own 27-yard line. The receiver then juked his way past the Vikings defense to take it 73 yards all the way to the end zone.
And just like that, less than a minute into the third quarter, Dallas had tied the score.
In a bit of history, Rush's 73-yard touchdown pass was the longest by a quarterback making his first start as a Cowboy since Roger Staubach had a 75-yard touchdown pass against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 21, 1969.
A swap of punts would give Minnesota good field position at its own 45-yard line and Cousins and his troops used it to their advantage. Although they would only gain 33 yards, that was enough to get a 40-yard field goal from Greg Joseph to retake the lead.
But Wilson wasn't done. Late in the quarter, he took a pass behind the line of scrimmage on the left side, rolled back to the right and then threw a beautiful pass on the run downfield to Lamb for a big 35-yard gain. That led to another Zuerlein field goal, this from 39 yards out, to even the score at 13 as the game headed into the final frame.
Penalties again proved costly for the Cowboys. Minnesota would take possession at its own 26-yard line with 7:46 to play and worked its way down the field, thanks in part to Dallas miscues. A roughing the passer penalty provided 15 yards and a first down with two unnecessary roughness calls adding another 18 yards and two more first downs. The Cowboys did manage to keep the opponent out of the end zone, but the Vikings still took the 16-13 lead after a chip-shot 24-yard field goal.
That left 2:54 on the clock for Rush and the Cowboys offense to win the game. He quickly hit Cooper on a pair of passes for a combined 51 yards and then got help with a couple of Minnesota penalties. Dallas worked down the field where it faced a third-and-16 at the Vikings' 25-yard line. That's when Rush dropped a pass off to Elliott over the middle, who powered his way down to the 5-yard line with just 56 seconds left.
And then Rush lofted a perfect pass to Cooper in the back left corner of the end zone, the receiver making a spectacular leaping, toe-tapping catch for the touchdown and improbable victory. With that, it was all treats, Dallas extending its winning streak to six games.