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How The Cowboys' Takeaway Drought Ended At Just The Right Time

MINNEAPOLIS – An unbeaten November was kind to the Cowboys in just about every statistical category with perhaps one exception: takeaways.

Specifically, none -- on defense or special teams -- since Oct. 30 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Well, December's a new month, and the team's drought ended at a critical time in Thursday's 17-15 primetime victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Linebacker Kyle Wilber's forced fumble and recovery in punt coverage early in the fourth quarter helped the Cowboys regain the lead – ultimately for good – with a Dak Prescott touchdown pass to Dez Bryant on the ensuing play.

"It was really just our punt team," Wilber said. "L.P. (Ladouceur) gave me a pick. Everybody was out and running. (Vince) Mayle got there first, tried to get him by the knees and I just tried to get the ball out. That's what Coach emphasizes: take away the ball, make a play on special teams that makes a difference. Just trying to do my job."

Wilber poked the ball away from Minnesota's Adam Thielen and scooped up the ball in a pile. The officials initially ruled Thielen was down by contact, but a Cowboys challenge revealed his knee wasn't down when he fumbled.

Wilber's defensive instincts might have helped him make the special teams play.

"(Linebackers) Coach (Matt Eberflus) emphasizes punching the ball out, going for the ball, hitting and punching the ball out," he said. "That's kind of what we're trying to do. Defensively, Coach tells us to go for the ball during the whistle and after the whistle, so just keep it on your mind at all times."

The Cowboys' offense got the ball at the 8-yard line, their best starting field position all season. Before Wilber's play put them in prime position for the touchdown, the offense had scored seven points on nine possessions, punting five times and losing two fumbles.

"Our guys did a good job sprinting, covering and tackling throughout, and then the big takeaway, obviously, was a huge play in the game," head coach Jason Garrett said.

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