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MiAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It's not difficult to understand why there was so much intrigue heading into the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins.
The two teams are eerily similar in how their seasons have panned out, but the former has been two different teams within itself when looking at their performances at home versus on the road, but the Cowboys and head coach Mike McCarthy were hoping to turn the corner in that regard.
It went to the wire, and the Dolphins took the one-point win, but several Cowboys did all they could to try and prevent that outcome.
Brandon Aubrey, K
Steady as he goes, Aubrey continues to be a lethal weapon for the Cowboys, one that would make both Danny Glover and Mel Gibson jealous. He extended his historic streak of field goals to start an NFL career to 32 on the evening in the third quarter, on one that shrunk the lead to just six points, and another field goal in the fourth quarter put it back at a six-point deficit after the Dolphins extended the lead with another FG of their own. On a day when the Cowboys' offense mostly struggled, Aubrey did anything but.
CeeDee Lamb, WR
It was a hot start for the passing attack of the Cowboys, and due in large part to Dak Prescott's targeting of Lamb, who took over the first quarter; and that includes getting into the action as a running back out of the backfield. The All-Pro wideout had 95 receiving yards on four catches with an explosive 49-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown before the offensive cooled in the second quarter, but not because of anything Lamb wasn't doing. He'd finish with 118 receiving yards on the day, 14 rushing yards, one touchdown and a blatantly uncalled interference in the end zone.
Dak Prescott, QB
As mentioned, Prescott made sure to find Lamb early and often in Miami. The two connected quite a bit and in varying ways to keep the Dolphins off-balance, and when things slowed to a crawl ahead of halftime, it was largely due to pressure by the Dolphins' defensive line causing disruptions. Ultimately, when it mattered most, the two-time Pro Bowler mounted a fourth quarter, 17-play drive that culminated in an amazing touchdown catch by Cooks. When Prescott had time to operate, he made the throws and moved the chains, but he often had anything BUT time in the pocket.
Brandin Cooks, WR
It was a quiet day for Cooks in Miami, until it wasn't. The speedy wide receiver stepped up when Prescott and McCarthy needed it most, and that was with time dwindling in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys desperately clinging to a chance at a comeback upset victory. On 3rd-and-goal from the eight-yard line, Prescott dropped back and delivered a dot to the back left of the end zone and the toe drag swag was enabled by Cooks — giving the Cowboys the lead with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
Jalen Tolbert, WR
As you'll see noted often in this article, the offense struggled to move the chains and that was largely due to pressure on Prescott. That means there came a time or several when players had to make timely catches, and Jalen Tolbert understood the assignment. On 2nd-and-4 with the Cowboys down 16-7, Tolbert rewarded Prescott with a 45-yard grab that involved snatching it away from the defender at the high point. It was one of Tolbert's most impressive catches this season.
Micah Parsons, W (Weapon)
It's safe to say Parsons is displeased with the officiating. His roughing the passer penalty to end the second half — one that helped the Dolphins to score and retake the lead — sent him into a frenzied argument with the official, having to be restrained by his teammates. That aside, Parsons was disruptive in the backfield and also in the run game, one stop in particular against De'Von Achane on 3rd-and-5 in the second quarter leading to the Dolphins being forced to punt on that respective drive.
Donovan Wilson, S
He did what he was asked to do: help in run support and not allow the big play. Wilson was a tackling machine against the Dolphins, leading the Cowboys in that category at halftime and for the majority of the contest. It wasn't the flashiest showing for Wilson, but it also was from a bad day — the veteran safety keeping everything in front of him and that's not an easy task when considering the speed he was tasked with bottling up.
Jourdan Lewis, CB
I loved how active Lewis was at the line of scrimmage in this game. On more than one occasion, he was making an impact in run defense (a TFL on Raheem Mostert comes to mind) and when Mike McDaniel tried to get his receivers involved in the rushing attack (Lewis held Jaylen Waddle to a two-yard gain on a play that could've been much worse in the third quarter on 2nd-and-10). He's one reason the Cowboys' defense had a solid day against the run.
Hunter Luepke, FB
OK, so this one is a bit perplexing. Luepke was integral in helping the Cowboys' offense move down the field on their opening drive — converting for first downs on two separate third downs and also grabbing an eight-yard reception — but then things went horribly awry. With only one yard to go to punch it into the end zone, the handoff from Prescott was mishandled and the Dolphins recovered the fumble. It's one hell of a mark against the rookie, but it's the only mark against him in what was otherwise his best game of the season.