Bryant on rolling Cowboys: Plan 'way bigger than being 11-1'

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys are on the verge of the team's longest winning streak in any form - better than the carry-over run in 1968-69 after already topping the playoff-included surge from the proud franchise's first Super Bowl-winning season in 1971.

There's something else a 12th straight win would do when the Cowboys return from an extended break with a visit to the New York Giants on Dec. 11. It would give Dallas (11-1) a firm hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Now that's progress toward where the Cowboys hope they're headed. Dallas could clinch a playoff spot as early as Sunday with a Tampa Bay loss or tie or a Washington loss.

''The plan is way bigger than being 11-1,'' Bryant said after Thursday's 17-15 victory over Minnesota. ''It's a pretty cool situation but there's more ball left. This success thing is kind of tricky. You can't get too high. That's the beginning of falling off. That's something that we are not going to do.''

The win over the Vikings was the roughest of a run that started after a season-opening loss to the Giants. Dallas had season lows in points, yards and first downs along with penalties that contributed to just one third-down conversion in nine tries.

The Cowboys needed their punt coverage unit to provide probably the biggest play of the game, when Kyle Wilber forced and recovered Adam Thielen's fumble in the fourth quarter. Bryant scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 8-yard catch on the next play.

And Dallas won despite giving Minnesota a chance to tie when rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and center Travis Frederick botched a snap to force a punt.

A play earlier, Prescott thought he scrambled for a critical first down with a brilliant slide along the sideline that kept the clock moving. The spot was overturned on review.

''There's no question you can get challenged differently over the course of a 16-game season,'' coach Jason Garrett said Friday. ''And if you do have an ability to win different ways, it's certainly going to make you more difficult to beat.''

While Prescott was limited to 139 yards passing on just 18 attempts, fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott was slowed before a 30-yard run in the fourth quarter helped push him to 86 yards and set up Dallas' final points on a field goal.

The pattern for Elliott has been consistent in recent weeks - a slow start before a late surge that gets his rushing total close to 100 yards.

And now he gets ready for a rematch with the only team that contained him the entire game. Elliott had season lows of 51 yards and a 2.6-yard-per-carry average in a 20-19 loss to the Giants in his regular-season debut.

''We've certainly changed as a team, they've changed as a team, different guys have played, there's a lot of different factors that go into it,'' Garrett said. ''But there's no question we'll use that game extensively to prepare for this one. We're just starting that process right now.''

The Cowboys won 11 straight over two regular seasons in 1968-69 and two years later won the last 10 games, including the playoffs, for the Super Bowl title.

The last time Dallas was 12-1 was 2007 with Tony Romo at quarterback, when the Cowboys rested regulars late in the regular season, finished 13-3 and lost to the Giants in their first playoff game.

Dallas could be looking at a similar scenario this season, with Romo as the backup to Prescott after the rookie took the job and kept it following Romo's preseason back injury.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones isn't interested in top seed talk.

''Let's don't go there,'' Jones said on his radio show Friday. ''We've got some teams that are looking better. And then of course we know playing Philadelphia played us to the wire. And this Giant game has the makings of a playoff game itself. So, let's don't count it.''

Jones' star receiver isn't counting anything.

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

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