Game Recap: Cowboys Stay In Playoff Hunt, Defeat Oakland In A Thriller, 20-17

Talk about by the skin of you teeth. That was crazy. But it was also a win, which is all that matters as the Dallas Cowboys continue their drive to make the playoffs.

In their last outing before the return of All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott from his six-game suspension, the Cowboys survived a scare from the Oakland Raiders, a Dan Bailey field goal with less than two minutes to play the difference in a 20-17 win. The victory ran the team’s winning streak to three straight games and kept the Cowboys in contention for the NFC’s final wild-card spot.

And this one had a little bit of everything, as the Cowboys used a balanced attack to rack up 330 yards of offense, of which 126 came on the ground. But no Dallas player had more than Alfred Morris’ 61 yards rushing, although Dak Prescott added 32 rushing yards and a touchdown in addition to completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 212 yards.

Not that the Raiders were really much worse in totaling 293 yards of offense. Quarterback Derek Carr threw for only 171 yards, but had two touchdown tosses while Marshawn Lynch pounded the Cowboys for 76 rushing yards. But the Dallas defense was able to come up big when it needed to, especially at the end.

Of course, the game didn’t seem like it would be that close in the closing seconds with the way it all started. You couldn’t ask for a more dominating performance in the first quarter. After 15 minutes of play, Dallas had nine first downs to zero for the Raiders, had outgained them 148 yards to 7 with a time of possession of 12:17 to 2:43.

Although they came out moving the ball, the Cowboys’ first possession of the game was brought to a screeching halt when Prescott overthrew Dez Bryant on a slant, the pass intercepted by Oakland cornerback Sean Smith. Unfazed, the defense forced a three-and-out after the turnover and the offense then bounced right back with points on it next two drives.

Dan Bailey, shaking off his struggles from the week before, split the uprights from 45 yards out to open the scoring. That was followed by the Cowboys going on an eight-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Rod Smith following left tackle Tyron Smith into the end zone for the touchdown and a 10-0 lead less than one minute into the second quarter. Prescott was good on all four of his pass attempts during the drive for 54 yards, the big blow a 31-yard completion to tight end James Hanna.

Oakland almost got on the board late in the second frame when Carr found Jared Cook just inside the goal line for what appeared to be the home side’s first touchdown. But the tight end was flagged for offensive pass interference, the Raiders’ second such call of the game. Kept out of the end zone, Oakland had to settle for a 39-yard field goal attempt, only to see kicker Giorgio Tavecchio just barely pull it wide, the Cowboys maintaining their 10-point lead at the half.

It wouldn’t last much longer, though. Getting the ball to start the third quarter, Oakland nearly scored on the ensuing kickoff, but an offensive holding penalty negated what would have been a 100-yard touchdown return. Unfortunately, the points came soon enough as the Raiders drove 90 yards in 11 plays to the end zone. Twice the team converted third-and-longs, with Carr also scrambling for a big 32-yard gain. He then capped things off with a 2-yard toss to Michael Crabtree for the score.

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Less than two minutes later, the game was then tied. The Cowboys were looking at a third-and-9 at their own 16-yard line when Raiders defensive end Bruce Irvin got around left tackle Tyron Smith and hit the ball as Prescott released it. The fluttering pass fell into the arms of a diving Sean Smith, who at first looked like he’d gotten up and returned it for touchdown. He was eventually ruled down by contact after review.

Thankfully, the Cowboys defense was able to hold strong and keep the Raiders from scoring, but Tavecchio was good this time from 39-yards out, the game now tied 10-10.

Their backs against the wall, Dallas needed a spark. And it got one in the form of Chris Jones. With the offense seemingly stuffed on its next possession, Jones came in on fourth-and-11 at his own 24-yard line prepared to punt. Instead, he took off running on a perfectly executed fake and darted 24 yards for the first down.

Given another shot, Prescott then rallied his troops down the field. With Tyron Smith now sidelined with a knee injury, Prescott hit Jason Witten for seven yards, found Bryant for 19 and also scrambled for a gain of 17. He finished the series by taking off again from the Oakland 5-yard line for the touchdown, Dallas back on top 17-10.

But Oakland’s Cordarrelle Patterson brought the kickoff back 44 yards to get the Raiders started at their own 47-yard line. Then in an almost mirror image of Irvin’s play when he got his hand on a Prescott pass earlier in the game, the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence returned the favor by hitting the ball as Carr was releasing it. However, instead of an interception, the floater fell right into the arms of receiver Seth Roberts for a 28-yard pickup.

That eventually led to another Raiders touchdown, Carr connecting with Crabtree again from 2 yards out, the game tied, 17-17, with 10:40 left in the fourth quarter.

Of course, just a week earlier at the Giants, the game was also tied midway through the final frame and the Cowboys went on to win 30-10. So at least Dallas was perhaps ready for this situation.

Views of the Dallas Cowboys Week 15 game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, CA.

Starting at their own 30-yard line, the Cowboys could manage only nine yards on their first three plays, setting up a fourth-and-1. Head coach Jason Garrett decided to go for it and Prescott dove through a scrum of players from both teams.

Out came the chain gang for a measurement, and referee Gene Steratore pulled out an index card to determine if they had converted. That’s how close it was. In the end, he signaled first down and four plays later, Prescott threw deep to Bryant, who came down with one of his patented catches for a 40-yard pickup to the Oakland 5-yard line.

The Raiders were able to keep Dallas out of the end zone, but Bailey was good with the chip-shot 19-yard field goal to give the Cowboys a 20-17 lead with 1:38 left in regulation.

It was now on the defense.

After cornerback Anthony Brown dropped what seemed like a sure interception on third down, the Raiders were facing a fourth-and-10 at their own 40-yard line. But Carr slipped out to his left to avoid the pressure and then threw it deep to Crabtree down the field. While the pass was a little short, incomplete, rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis was called for pass interference, giving Oakland the ball at the Cowboys’ 15-yard line.

The Raiders inched closer, reaching the Dallas 8, the game on the line.  Then on second-and-third, Carr scrambled around the right end and down the sideline, lunging for the pylon. But safety Jeff Heath hit him as he dove, and helped jar the ball loose, the fumble going into the end zone and then out of bounds, the ruling a touchback.

With that amazing turn of events, Dallas had possession and the victory. The win extended the Cowboys’ winning streak to three games and improved their record to 8-6 on the season, their playoff hopes alive and kicking. They’ll now return home to host the Seattle Seahawks at 3:25 p.m. next Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

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