ARLINGTON, Texas – It's probably not how CeeDee Lamb imagined scoring a touchdown, but he's not complaining.
The Cowboys' rookie season had a productive day in the traditional sense on Sunday, catching five passes for 85 yards against San Francisco. Go figure, though, that his first touchdown in a month came as a member of the hands team.
"Honestly, it all happened so fast," Lamb said with a laugh. "It was a split-second decision."
In a season that has been weird from beginning to end, it stood out as unique.
Having kicked a late field goal to cut the Cowboys' lead to 34-27 with 40 seconds to play, San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould smacked a bouncing onside kick straight to Lamb near midfield.
Falling to the ground would have ended the game, but the way the kick was blocked made it hard to blame the rookie for what happened next. With all his would-be tackler stonewalled, Lamb caught the ball on the hop and took off – all the way to the end zone, as a matter of fact.
"I heard it from the defensive guys afterward, knowing I should've taken a knee – but it was too open," Lamb said.
It's probably fair to call that a teaching point. The 49ers took the ensuing kickoff and went down to score a Hail Mary touchdown, providing the game with its final 41-33 score line. But the rookie should feel too bad, given that his head coach seemed to understand his instinct perfectly.
"It's almost like you can't blame because he caught it on the high bounce," said Mike McCarthy. "You could see he was going to go down, but he just saw this huge hole in front of him. So, it was more of a natural reaction."
A unique play, but not too unique. As many sharp-minded observers pointed out, Randall Williams returned an onside opening kickoff for a touchdown against Philadelphia all the way back in 2003.
Fun as it might have been, it'd be a disservice if that's all that got remembered about Lamb's afternoon.
Facing a do-or-die situation, with three-straight wins required to reach the postseason, Lamb played arguably his best game since Dak Prescott left the lineup.
From the very beginning, he showed all the components of his game that made him a first-round draft pick. Late in the first half, he hauled in one of the most impressive catches of his season when he nabbed a 22-yard gain over the middle of the field despite getting blasted by San Francisco safety Jimmie Ward.
The hit knocked Ward out of the game, but the catch helped the Cowboys set up an end-of-half field goal attempt.
A half hour later, Andy Dalton scrambled right and found the rookie on a deep crossing route for 45 yards. Lamb beat his coverage across the field, but it was his run and catch – tiptoeing the sideline and turning upfield for an extra 20 yards – that stole the show.
"For me, I just had to give him a chance to go make a play," Dalton said. "That was a big point in the game. Right after that completion we downed the ball and scored on the next play. That was a momentum changer, and that can change games."
That's not to say it was perfect. Lamb also had an untimely drop, as consistency continues to be something he'll want to work on.
"Personally, I feel like I still have a lot to work on, and many others would tell you the same," he said.
Even still, it's been a productive season for a rookie who has played with four different quarterbacks this season. Sunday's showing was only further evidence.
The Cowboys will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in their last home game of the regular season on Sunday, Dec. 27 at 3:25 p.m. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.