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Gamebreakers: Cowboys who willed DAL to victory


(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.)

ARLINGTON, TX — Both teams had already clinched a playoff berth heading into this Week 17 matchup, but the Dallas Cowboys still had a lot on the line as they hosted the Detroit Lions — having also already won the NFC North for the first time in team history.

For the Cowboys, this fight was about trying to stave off a three-game losing streak while extending their undefeated streak at home to 16 games, and then using a possible victory to push momentum in the correct direction with one more road game remaining and the tournament awaiting on the other side of it.

And then, of course, there's the fact that the NFC East and a top seed in the NFC were still up for grabs, but the Lions were also angling for a better angle on the latter.

In the end, it was Prescott and the Cowboys' defense who got the last laugh, as several players for Dallas flat-out willed them to victory over the Lions.

CeeDee Lamb, WR

People throw the word "special" around a lot in this sport, and it's not often deserved. When it comes to CeeDee Lamb, however, you can wrap that word around his career already, and it's just getting started. The newest member of the 88 Club had another stellar first quarter when he battled the Lions, only he wasn't done there. He’d finish with two different franchise records and was the usual catalyst to the Cowboys' offense. The only thing that can stop Lamb this season is not being targeted.

Dak Prescott, QB

It was Prescott making sure Lamb had a day and, what's more, that he's had a season to remember and, what's more, that he's having such a phenomenal young career. The chemistry between the two has been on full display since Day 1, and hasn't waned one bit. So when Prescott went into full MVP mode and escaped a would-be sack in the end zone to find Lamb on a deep ball that resulted in a 92-yard reception and the record-tying catch, it was all so poetic. In all, Prescott weathered an up-and-down offensive outing to give the Cowboys a late lead, as was the case last week against the Dolphins.

Jourdan Lewis, CB

In case you've forgotten, Jourdan Lewis is a ball hawk. Having returned this season from a devastating injury that nearly ended his career in 2022, it took a few games for Lewis to regain top form, but he's done that and more over the past several weeks. His interception against Jared Goff was a thing of beauty — reading the pass to David Montgomery and jumping the route before taking the ball away and giving it back to the offense. DaRon Bland and Stephon Gilmore aren't the only cornerbacks in Dallas who can make quarterbacks pay in the air.

Donovan Wilson, S

Not to be outdone on the defensive side of the ball by his compatriot Lewis, Wilson had a big day himself, and one that included an interception as well. A sack by Aidan Hutchinson on Dak Prescott put a halt to what could've been a game-sealing drive, but Wilson wanted a word with Goff; and so he had it. Goff dropped back to target tight end Sam LaPorta on the second play of the 10th offensive drive by the Lions, with little more than two minutes remaining, and found himself victimized by a Wilson touchdown that gave the ball back to Prescott to end it once and for all.

Brandin Cooks, WR

The Lions forgot about what Cooks can do to an opposing defense, and he made them pay for it. It felt like he was simmering the entire game, and he detonated in the final quarter. When the Cowboys needed him most, he reeled in a perfect throw over the shoulder on the right sideline to reward Prescott with a 21-yard dot that kept their ninth offensive drive alive and, only a few plays later, rewarded Prescott again for targeting him — with an eight-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys a 17-13 lead with less than eight minutes to play in regulation.

Brandon Aubrey, K

The most lethal weapon for the Cowboys not named Prescott, Lamb or Parsons continues to come up big for Dallas. It's Brandon Aubrey, or "Butter" if you're nasty (*Janet Jackson voice*) whose two field goals helped the Cowboys build a seven-point lead that forced the Lions to try and tie the game with a touchdown on their final offensive drive. Aubrey continues to stretch his record-setting mark for most consecutive field goals to begin an NFL career — the mark moving to 35 after the Week 17 outing.

Dorance Armstrong, DE

The defensive line was more than effective for the Cowboys against the Lions, at least for the majority of the contest. One of the early impact players was Armstrong, who made sure Goff knew his name before the clock entered halftime. His sack of Goff on the Lions' second offensive drive forced a punt and kept the lead to only a field goal for Detroit, before Prescott and Lamb connected on the aforementioned 92-yarder to give the Cowboys their first lead of the game.

Dante Fowler, DE

Speaking of defensive ends getting in on the party, Fowler was not to be left out here. On the third offensive drive by the Lions, Goff lined up for an attempt on 3rd-and-3 before handing it off to David Montgomery. The problem for Detroit was that Fowler met Montgomery at the handoff for a two-yard loss that forced a punt thereafter. It was an up-and-down outing for the Cowboys' run defense, but they had several plays like this one that impacted drives — though they wished they had a few more as well.

DeMarcus Lawrence, DE

You have to love what Lawrence did off of the edge in run defense, as is often the case for the Pro Bowl pass rusher. The Cowboys had some issues plugging up the interior of their line against the run, largely due to the absence of Johnathan Hankins to injury, but the edge was often safe with Lawrence on the hunt. Two tackles for loss against the run in the first half was a testament to this, and to how he remains one of the best in the business at stopping the run from the edge.

Jayron Kearse, S

With the game on the line, it was Kearse making sure the job was done. It was a sequence of events by the two teams that truly, truly left everyone scratching their head. Goff and LaPorta had their way with Dallas' defense en route to a touchdown by Amon-Ra St. Brown and head coach Dan Campbell had no interest in tying the game. He'd go for two points and get it initially, but a penalty for illegal touching negated it. On the next play, Markquese Bell would get the interception, but an offsides on Micah Parsons negated it. On the next and final, Goff's target at the goal line was batted down by Kearse, and how sweet it was.

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