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Cowboys Win at Vikings Despite Injuries to Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith, Trevon Diggs

On a scary Halloween night without Dak Prescott and Tyron Smith, the Cowboys got quite a rush from their backup quarterback … but got banged up, too.

10. TRICK AND TREAT - The Cowboys had their Halloween candy and ate it, too. When you have something worth protecting, protect it. The Cowboys are going to win the NFC East and, come January, host a playoff game at AT&T Stadium. That's why we had zero problems with Dak Prescott and his tweaked calf sitting out Sunday night's heart-stopping, 20-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. It's one game of 17. It's not worth a setback that could cost your MVP candidate multiple games later in the season. 

Said Cowboys' vice president Stephen Jones on 105.3 The Fan before the game, "It was a tough call. But at the end of the day, it's a long season." 

Amen. Chalk one up for load management. Oh, and as an unexpected bonus, the Cowboys won.

But … injuries came knocking, too.

In addition to Dak (who plans on playing next week, Trevon Diggs sprained his right ankle, Amari Cooper tweaked his hamstring (but played through it for the game-winner), Tyron Smith left with an ankle aggravation and Jabril Cox is on crutches and getting an MRI on what looks like a serious knee injury.

9. HAUNTINGLY FAMILIAR - Let's be honest, Xavier Woods was brutally bad last season on the worst defense in Cowboys' history. He was the safety that against the Baltimore Ravens so blatantly quit that even mildly opinionated Fox analyst Troy Aikman to let loose

“That’s about as poor of safety play as you’ll see,” Aikman said of Woods. “I just don’t know exactly what this is. It’s not what you want to see from your safety, that’s for sure.” 

So were we surprised when the Cowboys let him walk in free agency? Nope. Were we shocked that he is starting in the NFL this season and causing two turnovers Sunday night? Yep.

8. UN-BREAKING NON-NEWS - Allow this to serve as exhibit No. 1,053 why we don't need sideline reporters. NBC's Michelle Tafoya - who is as good, and as bad as any of 'em - actually thought this was pertinent information in her report just seconds before kickoff. 

"Cooper Rush told me 'Dak will be leading this team whether he's on the field or not'. And, indeed, I confirmed with Dak he's going to do everything and anything that he can to help Cooper be successful tonight." 

Seriously, what a colossal waste of time. 

Late in the first half, meanwhile, Tafoya was silent when Cowboys' left tackle Tyron Smith wasn't on the field due to an ankle injury. 

If it's not a cutesy, canned, pre-fabricated featurette spoon-fed to them by teams' public relations departments, sideline reporters are useless.

7.  MITIGATING MISTAKES - Greg Zuerlein pulled a 43-yard field goal early, Rush committed two turnovers in the middle, CeeDee Lamb dropped a key pass and Dallas' defense was called for three personal fouls on a Minnesota scoring drive late. 

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Usually, Prescott can camouflage those miscues. But on a freaky Sunday night in Minneapolis, it was Rush who drove the Cowboys 75 in eight plays in the final two minutes for an improbable win in which they didn't lead until 51 seconds remained.

6. FRIGHT NIGHT - The Cowboys are now 4-4 on Halloween. None scarier than this one.

5. EMBARRASSMENT OF RECEIVER RICHES - We watch a lot of football. We zero in on the NFC East. And we're telling you, the Washington Football Team (even with the very good Terry McLaurin), Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants would kill for a No. 1 receiver as good as the Cowboys' No. 4, Cedrick Wilson. 

He was Dallas' only offensive spark early, catching a perfect Cooper Rush pass in strike and streaking for a 73-yard touchdown early in the third quarter. Rush's pass to Wilson was the longest pass by a quarterback making his first start for the Cowboys since Roger Staubach had a 75-yard touchdown pass against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1969. 

And while we ponder if the Cowboys afford to pay No. 3 receiver Michael Gallup next offseason, might we start to put some effort into the same question about Wilson?

4. FEED HIM CREDIT - Ezekiel Elliott had a relatively pedestrian night with only 50 yards on 16 carries against a Vikings' defense that stacked the box and dared Rush to throw. But the Cowboys' star running back had perhaps the game's biggest play on a simple check-down he - by breaking three tackles - turned into a crucial first down. With Dallas facing 3rd-and-11 at Minnesota's 20 and trailing by three in the final minute, it appeared we were headed for overtime. A safe call and throw to Elliott out of the backfield, however, resulted in him powering his way to a 15-yard gain. 

Immediately, the Cowboys stopped thinking tie and went for the win. On the next snap, Rush his Amari Cooper for the game-winning touchdown.

3. RUSH TO JUDGEMENT - And to think, the Cowboys could have started Mike White in Prescott's place. 

Where there was NFL backups-turned-starters success Sunday with White (New York Jets), Geno Smith (Seattle Seahawks) and Trevor Siemian (New Orleans Saints), Rush's first career start might have upstaged them all. Not at all looking like a quarterback making his first start, Rush went 24 of 40 for 325 yards and two scores. He did throw an interception, lose a fumble and was sacked three times. But all in all, a success story for the ages. White, meanwhile, threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Jets' upset of the Cincinnati Bengals. Relevance? White was a fifth-round draft pick in 2018 by the Cowboys.

2. COOPER SQUARED - This game belonged to, well, Cooper. Rush, of course, played well enough to win. And it was receiver Amari who propelled Dallas' game-winning drive with an acrobatic, juggling, 33-yard catch and then capped it with a similarly acrobatic, high-point grab and nifty double-toe tap touchdown catch in the back of the end zone with 51 seconds remaining. 

Just two plays earlier, Amari was on Dallas' sideline massaging his right hamstring with a neon yellow softball. 

For what it's worth, the Cooper-Rush-to-Amari-Cooper TD is the 1st in NFL history where the passer's first name and receiver's last name are an exact match. Cowboys also have the only pass TD where passer's last and receiver's first were an exact match: Andy Dalton-Dalton Schultz last year in, you guessed it, Minnesota.

1. DAK FOR MVP - Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder. And despite the dramatic victory, Prescott's MVP candidacy grew stronger by not playing. With Prescott, the Cowboys were on pace to be the highest-scoring team in franchise history at 34 points per game. Without him Sunday night, they failed to score a touchdown in the first half and managed just 20 points. What we're saying is that the Cowboys' star quarterback is the difference between Super Bowl hopes and being forced to get cozy with mock drafts.