On a night that was already going to be memorable given the induction of former head coach Jimmy Johnson into the Ring of Honor at halftime, the Dallas Cowboys made sure the game itself would be memorable as well.
A hard-fought battle between two NFC heavyweights would end on a needed high for the AT&T Stadium crowd as the Cowboys handed the Detroit Lions a nail-biting 20-19 loss. With the win, Dallas finished undefeated during the regular season at home and extended its home winning streak to 16 games. That's the longest for the team since an 18-game stretch from 1979-81.
In addition to Johnson, the night was a special one as well for CeeDee Lamb, who rewrote the team's record books. Not only did he set career game highs in receptions (13) and receiving yards (227), but he also passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin for catches (122) and yards (1,651) in a season. Just for good measure, Lamb extended his touchdown streak to eight games, the longest streak currently in the NFL as well as the longest in Cowboys history.
Feeding him the ball, of course, was Dak Prescott, who completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns for a 103.5 quarterback rating. Behind their effort, the Cowboys finished with 384 yards of offense.
Defensively, the game had been a strong one until the very end. DeMarcus Lawrence and Donovan Wilson in particular led a group that largely kept Jared Goff in check. The Lions quarterback threw for 271 yards and also had a pair of interceptions, finishing with a 67.2 rating. But 75 of those passing yards came on Detroit's final possession as the Dallas defense struggled to finally put the game away.
Fortunately, they eventually did.
Needless to say, the Cowboys didn't get out to the start they wanted, as the Lions took the game's opening drive and quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Detroit converted two third downs while driving into Dallas territory, but the defense held them at the 23-yard line, forcing the visitors to settle for a 41-yard field goal from kicker Michael Badgley.
And the Cowboys came right back and were on the move themselves, reaching the Lions' 32-yard line. But after Prescott missed Brandin Cooks on a deep throw to the end zone, he saw his next attempt intercepted by safety Ifeatu Melifonwu.
All that, however, was soon forgotten. After the Dallas defense forced a quick three-and-out, the Cowboys offense took the field again at its own 11-yard line and promptly lost 3 yards. But on third-and-13, Prescott narrowly escaped being sacked in the end zone and then heaved a pass deep to Lamb, who raced under the throw and then went the distance for a 92-yard touchdown.
That marked the longest scoring pass in the NFL this year and the second longest in Cowboys history. Don Meredith connected with Bob Hayes, both Ring of Honor members, on a 95-yard bomb back on Nov. 13, 1966 at Washington. But the pass and catch were both career longs for Prescott and Lamb with the reception also being the 111th for Lamb in this 2023 campaign, at the time matching Irvin's record for the most in one season in team annals.
With the momentum firmly behind the home side, it was time for the Dallas defense to return the takeaway favor. On the third play of the second frame, cornerback Jourdan Lewis sniffed out a potential screen and stepped in front of a Goff offering for his first interception of the season.
Although that fickle momentum would waver and wobble when the Cowboys failed to take advantage of the gift. Starting at its own 46-yard line, Dallas marched all the way to the Lions' 5. But after hauling in a short pass to set the team record, Lamb fumbled the ball through the end zone and out of bounds, the result being Detroit's ball at its 20-yard line.
And while Dallas appeared to successfully limit the Lions to just three plays, the visitors executed a perfect fake punt, upback Jalen Reeves-Maybin lofting a pass to gunner Khalil Dorsey for a 31-yard gain. Back in business, the Lions wasted no time reaching the Cowboys' 2-yard line for a first-and-goal. But that's where Dan Quinn's men made their stand, stopping Detroit four straight times to prevent the touchdown and keep the Cowboys' lead at 7-3.
Following an emotional halftime Ring of Honor ceremony for Johnson – punctuated by his unforgettable "How 'bout them Cowboys!" finale – today's players couldn't feed off the energized crowd. After Dallas was forced to punt to open the second half, the Lions went on an extended 13-play, 74-yard drive that ate 7:26 off the clock.
Running back David Montgomery did most of the damage, carrying the ball seven times for 44 yards while Goff kept the drive alive with a 4-yard completion to tight end Sam LaPorta on fourth-and-2 at the Cowboys' 41. That eventually led to Montgomery darting up the middle for the final 3 yards and the lead.
Undeterred, the Cowboys didn't take long to answer. Prescott moved his troops 42 yards to the Detroit 33-yard line where he left the points to kicker Brandon Aubrey, who was good on his 51-yard field goal attempt to even the score, 10-10.
The field-goal seesaw continued. On the third play of the final quarter, Goff connected with a streaking Jameson Williams, who got behind the defense for a 63-yard pickup to the Cowboys' 14-yard line. Dallas again didn't let its opponent cross the goal line, but a 30-yard field goal from Badgley put Detroit back on top.
Tired of the field goals, Prescott went to work on a 75-yard drive to the end zone, completing all five of his pass attempts for 54 yards with a 5-yard run up the middle thrown in as well. That included dropping in a honey of a 21-yard pass to Cooks on third-and-5 at the Dallas 41 before then wrapping up the drive with an 8-yard toss to the same receiver for the touchdown and four-point lead.
After a trade of punts between the two, the Lions took possession again with 2:33 left in the game. But on the second snap of their series, safety Donovan Wilson dove in front of a pass intended for LaPorta for his first interception of the season.
Set up at the Lions' 29-yard line, the Cowboys only managed 4 yards, but that was well within Aubrey's range, the kicker splitting the uprights from 43 yards to put Dallas on top, 20-13. The field goal also extended Aubrey's NFL record for consecutive field goals to start a career to 35.
With 1:41 left on the clock and Detroit out of timeouts, that left it to the defense to provide one last stop. But in a blink of an eye, Goff completed passes of 10, 25 and 14 to suddenly reach the Dallas 26-yard line. Another 15-yard completion and now the Lions were at the Cowboys' 11. And on the very next snap, Goff found St. Brown on the right sideline, the wideout diving into the end zone for the score.
Now having 27 seconds left, Lions head coach Dan Campbell went for two and Goff appeared to have found left tackle Taylor Decker in the end zone for the conversion. But the officials ruled that the offensive lineman didn't report in as an eligible receiver so drew a flag for an illegal touch.
Pushed back 5 yards, Campbell decided to go for it again, and though the pass fell incomplete, Micah Parsons had jumped offsides, penalty on the Cowboys. The ball bumped back up to the 4-yard line, the Lions tried for the two points a third time, and finally the Cowboys got the stop they needed as Goff's pass fell incomplete.
And what a fitting way to end the game with Lamb recovering the onside kick to secure the win. The victory pushed the Cowboys to 11-5 on the season, still in the chase for the NFC East crown behind the Philadelphia Eagles. They'll now wrap up the regular-season slate with a final game at Washington next Sunday.