All eyes were behind center, as quarterback Dak Prescott returned after missing the previous five games due to a fractured thumb on his throwing hand.
Would he show any rust? Would the Dallas Cowboys offense be able to kick things up a notch? Would they take care of business against a struggling Detroit Lions squad?
To say the game was a thing of beauty would perhaps be overselling it, as Prescott and the Cowboys did struggle to find a consistent rhythm, especially early on. But in the end, Dallas came away with a hard-fought 24-6 victory over the Lions, which always looks good.
Not that Prescott was bad, by any means. He completed 76 percent of his passes for 207 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for an impressive 113.2 passer rating. Noah Brown and Dalton Schultz, who continues to battle through an injured knee, topped the team with five catches apiece, while CeeDee Lamb posted 75 receiving yards.
On the ground, Tony Pollard picked up 83 rushing yards on 12 carries with Ezekiel Elliott adding 57 yards and two touchdowns, his first multi-score game this season. In all, Dallas totaled 330 yards of offense.
Then again, with the way the defense was playing, Prescott and company didn't have to worry about doing the heavy lifting. The Cowboys did not surrender a touchdown while allowing 10 or fewer points for the third time this season. The unit came up with five takeaways on the day, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries, all of which came in the second half.
While the Dallas offense was slow out of the gates – going three-and-out on its opening two possessions with Prescott behind center for the first time since Dec. 22, 2019 – the Lions took an early 3-0 lead. On their second possession of the game, the visitors were able to move 49 yards in 10 plays with quarterback Jared Goff completing 4 of 5 passes for 34 yards. Detroit would stall at the Cowboys' 21-yard line, settling for a 40-yard field goal.
As the clock ticked over into the second frame, Prescott and his troops went on the march. The quarterback had connections of 15 and 11 yards to Schultz with a nice 24-yard completion to Lamb in between. The Cowboys were able to reach the Detroit 3-yard line and gave hard consideration to going for it on fourth-and-2, only to call a timeout and take the chip-shot 22-yard field goal.
Despite star wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown leaving the game due to a concussion, the Lions were again able to move the ball into field-goal range. Of course, they were helped by a questionable roughing the passer penalty on Micah Parsons that tacked on 15 yards to an already 9-yard completion for Goff. But the Dallas defense was able to put on the brakes, Detroit this time getting a 53-yard field goal from Michael Badgley to go back on top.
The Cowboys had another opportunity for points just before the half, moving from their own 24-yard line to the Lions' 20. But after Brown hauled in a 14-yard pass at the 6, the wideout was completing upended, fumbling the ball as he somersaulted to the ground. Detroit recovered the prize at the 3-yard line, ending the threat.
Everyone held their collective breadth during the drive when Elliott took a hard hit to his right knee, appearing to hyperextend it. But he did come back out for the second half.
Which it's a good thing he did. After Trevon Diggs earned his third interception of the season, giving Dallas possession at its own 18-yard line, the Cowboys needed only seven plays to reach pay dirt. Elliott hurdled a defender on a nifty 18-yard run with Pollard then breaking off a 28-yarder up the middle. But it was Elliott who got the honors in the end, plunging in from 1-yard out to give Dallas a lead it would never relinquish, 10-6.
Talk about getting a break when they needed it most. The Cowboys had their backs against the wall when the Lions traveled 79 yards all the way down to the Dallas 1-yard line, where they had first and goal. But on the very next snap, running back Jamaal Williams had the ball knocked loose by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Anthony Barr falling on the fumble to give the Cowboys possession.
The Dallas defense got itself another turnover shortly thereafter. Although the Cowboy offense had to punt after that goal-line recovery, they got the ball right back when cornerback Jourdan Lewis dove in front of a Goff offering to give his side possession at their own 46-yard line. Lewis was injured on the play and had to be helped off the field. He did not return.
This time, however, the Cowboys were able to take advantage of the turnover. In eating up 5:39 of clock over 11 plays and 54 yards, Prescott connected with Lamb for 15 yards, twice with Brown for a combined 25 and then once more with Schultz for another 7 to reach the 2-yard line. Two plays later, Elliott was again in the end zone.
Any hopes of a comeback were then quickly squashed when on the Lions' second play of their next series, rookie defensive end Sam Williams sacked Goff, knocked the ball loose and recovered it for the trifecta. After Pollard darted up the middle for 25 yards, the eventual touchdown came on a 2-yard pass from Prescott to tight end Peyton Hendershot, the rookie's first career score.
Once Parsons strip-sacked Goff yet again on the Lions' next series, this time Dorance Armstrong getting the recovery, there was nothing left for the Cowboys to do but the victory formation.