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Gamebreakers: Cowboys who tried to save the day


(Editor's note: The content provided is based on opinions and/or perspective of the editorial staff and not the Cowboys football staff or organization.)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The weather outside wasn't frightful and, for the Dallas Cowboys, the outcome was as well. On a five-game heater after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, ultimately avenging that loss last week, the Cowboys felt great for their matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

And that was especially true given the fact the weather was tolerable.

Josh Allen and the Bills had other plans, however, heating up themselves as they make a push for the playoffs — trying to track down the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East — and they showed why they're so difficult to deal with at home.

They handled the Cowboys from start to finish, but there were several from Dallas who did all they could to prevent the loss from happening.

Stephon Gilmore, CB: Gilmore took the field on Sunday against the Bills despite battling illness all week, and on the heels of a stellar outing against the Philadelphia Eagles. His task in Week 15 was another daunting one, namely to keep a lid on Stefon Diggs. Gilmore was one of the standouts in Orchard Park, holding Diggs to only three catches in the first half and no explosive plays downfield. The veteran cornerback showed grit in a time when the Cowboys definitely needed it.

Brandon Aubrey, K: On a day wherein the offense couldn't get cooking, it was Aubrey doing the job when called upon, as has become the norm when he's sent onto the field. He extended his historic streak of made field goals to begin an NFL career to 31, and remains one of the most lethal weapons the Cowboys have in their arsenal — one who deserves to be in the NFL Rookie of the Year (and/or Offensive Rookie of the Year) conversation.

Juanyeh Thomas, S: It was initially expected that Malik Hooker would take the field, despite illness, but he was ruled out just ahead of kickoff. That thrust second-year safety Juanyeh Thomas onto center stage, figuratively and literally speaking, and he played some good football in Buffalo. He's been putting good things on film whenever given the opportunity this season, and replacing Hooker is no easy feat, but he didn't give up any big plays and was solid in run support as well; and the play made on 3rd-and-5 against Cook to help force a bobble and drop kept the Bills from nearly sealing the game in the third quarter.

Damone Clark, LB: You'll look at the touchdown to James Cook in the first half and see it was Clark in coverage, but label that a masterful play called by the Bills and it was also the only negative for Clark in the first half. He flashed on more than one occasion, especially in run support, and an uncalled holding penalty prevented him from getting a sack on Josh Allen. He'd leave with injury in the second quarter but, speaking of grit, returned to try and claw his way to a victory.

Markquese Bell, LB: You wouldn't call this the best outing for Bell, seeing as he's put better on film, but he nearly turned the game around for the Cowboys — if not for a hurry-up play by Allen. In the second quarter, with the Bills threatening to make it a 21-3 contest, Bell forced a fumble against Diggs that was recovered by Donovan Wilson; only it wasn't viewed that way by the officials. Two plays later, Dallas would see Jayron Kearse hit with a questionable 15-yard penalty that ultimately kept the Bills' drive alive en route to a touchdown that should've never existed.

Tony Pollard, RB: It was tough sledding in the air for the Cowboys, but Pollard looked great on the ground. He was decisive, quick and shifty, and hit lanes with power to get to the second level. Heading into halftime, Pollard was the brightest star of the entire offense, but with the game getting away from the Cowboys as the clock rolled on, Dallas was forced more into the air and away from the ground attack. But, when given his touches, Pollard was on the move.

Donovan Wilson, S: Much like Clark, Wilson was like a Visa card, as in he was everywhere the Bills wanted to be. He joined Clark as one of the top-2 leaders in tackles at halftime but, also like Clark, left the game with injury in the second quarter. Wilson had the best game of his 2023 season one week ago, and while he wasn't perfect against James Cook and Josh Allen, he was one who continually battled to try and help a struggling defense find its groove.

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