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Scout's Eye: Defense At Its Best on a Short Field, Hitchens' Night, More

  • I continue to say that this Dallas defense is at its best when it can play on a short field. They tend to bring more pressure with their front, which affects the quarterback, and the secondary is able to use the smaller space in order to stay in coverage and clog those throwing windows. They were able to do it after the Dak Prescott fumble as well as on the two-point conversion where Bradford was high with his pass.
  • Heck of a night from Anthony Hitchens. He led the team with 10 tackles and had a sack. He also had an interception taken away from him after a questionable hands to the face call on Orlando Scandrick. I can't tell you how many times I've seen linebackers coach Matt Eberflus run drills where his guys had to sprint across the field, extend their hands and make a snatch catch on the move. Even though it was called back, it was nice to see that type of work during practice pay off.
  • Nice to see Dez Bryant take advantage of Harrison Smith on the double-move. I have always felt like Smith is a much better player when he can play down around the line of scrimmage. When plays are in front of him, he always has a chance. With Xavier Rhodes playing off in zone coverage and Bryant working against Smith, there was no way that Smith was going to be able to stay with him, especially with a running start. Great job by Prescott to get the ball out in front so Bryant could track it down. I also liked the screen pass to Bryant down in the red zone. Had a gut feeling that they were going to go back to that play if he once again got free access in the route, which he did from Rhodes.
  • Had Benson Mayowa has an Inactive in my "Final Thoughts" on Wednesday. He finally was able to capture the corner on a rush and grab a sack. This is something he had not done in previous games, and I don't blame the coaches for wanting to sit him down. He still has some work to do in the running game, where he has not played better than Ryan Davis. Maybe the time off got him going and we will continue to see better technique rushing the passer here down the stretch.
  • Really nice job of coverage by Brandon Carr on the third-and-6 play against Laquon Treadwell right at the end of the third quarter. Sam Bradford looked like he wanted Treadwell to come back for the ball, but he continued up the field. Even if he did come back, it appeared that Carr was in excellent shape to defend the play. Instead of getting the first down and continuing the drive, the Vikings were forced to kick a field goal for a two-point lead.
  • Last week it was a heads up play by Damien Wilson to recover the Washington onside kick, and this week Kyle Wilber, along with Vince Mayle, was able to get in position on punt returner Adam Thielen to not only drive him backward but also knock the ball out of his hands. Until that play, the offense was really going nowhere and by Wilber taking the ball away from Thielen on the way to the ground, it finally gave the Cowboys some field position to work with, and they turned it into the go-ahead score. These linebackers are playing extremely well.
  • How good was this Vikings secondary? The Cowboys converted only 11 percent of their third downs and their receivers only had eight receptions for the entire game. Dallas came into the game as the league leader in third-down conversions, but the Vikings were able to completely shut them down. 
  • I thought that Lucky Whitehead might have a nice game as a kick returner with the way the Vikings had struggled to cover kicks, but that didn't happen at all. Whitehead was never able to shake loose on his one return. On the only other opportunity the Cowboys had for a return, Lance Dunbar was able to carry the ball for just 16 yards.
  • I would have never believed that Minnesota was going to run more offensive plays than Dallas. My gut feeling for a Cowboys victory had Dallas running 70-plus plays and wearing down the Vikings defense. The Vikings ran 69 plays to the Cowboys' 49, which was the lowest play total for the season.
  • Interested to check out the tape and see what happened right before the half with the Cowboys having the ball on their own 49-yard line and two timeouts. I couldn't tell if anyone was open down the field that Prescott might have missed, but even after he got sack, they still had one timeout in the bank and didn't use it. If no one was open, I understand. And maybe with the way the Vikings were playing coverage, Garrett just wanted to get out of the half and not put an interception on his young quarterback. Need to see the situation.
  • I think I need to brush up on this sliding rule for quarterbacks. I could have promised that last week against the Redskins, when Prescott went down they marked him where his knee hit. This week it appeared that they went with where his shin hit. It was a heck of a heads up play for him to have the presence of mind to stay in bounds all while trying to secure the first down. It would have likely been the game-winning play if he had pulled it off.
  • Chris Jones held the Minnesota Vikings punt return unit to three returns for a total of minus-5 yards. People give Dan Bailey a ton of credit for the job he has done this season, but Jones has been just as much of a weapon and has contributed each week in these victories.
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