The Dallas Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, giving them their third win of the season, and moving them back in contention for the NFC East title.
In what had to be a huge weight off of the shoulders of both the players and staff, Dallas had been trending towards a win since before the bye week, playing the undefeated Steelers to a narrow loss.
Finally, they broke through once against a hot Vikings team, that had won three in a row themselves. But, is this a sign of things to come for Dallas? Or is it just a flash in the pan.
Let's discuss that, as well as the good, bad, and Ugly of the Cowboys 31-28 win at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Cowboys won a football game!
That's something that this team hasn't been able to say since Week 5 of the regular season. That is six weeks of nothing but criticism, defeat, and frustration for a team that came into the season with Super Bowl aspirations.
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Not only is it a huge relief for the organization to finally get back into the win column, but it puts the Cowboys into position to compete for not just a division title, but a first-round playoff game in the friendly confines of AT&T Stadium.
It also gives a boost of confidence to the roster from top to bottom. And that starts with a player like Andy Dalton, who after throwing for 203 yards and three touchdowns and hitting eight different receivers, got his first win as a starting quarterback since December 29 of the 2019 season.
It gives a boost of confidence to the skilled positions as well, most notably the running backs, which combined for 163 yards and a score on 26 rushes, including 103 yards for Ezekiel Elliott, giving him his first 100-yard performance of the season.
We also can't forget the offensive line, which (despite it being labeled as 'fantasy football nonsense' by head coach Mike McCarthy earlier in the year), was restructured to put All-Pro Zack Martin at right tackle, and insert Connor McGovern at right guard.
'Nonsense'? It resulted in arguably the best performance up front for Dallas of the entire 2020 season, where the unit paved the way for 180 total yards rushing, gave up just one sack, and allowed just two hits to Dalton for the entire game.
From top to bottom, at least offensively, it felt like one of those games that (just about) everything went right -- and that is something the Cowboys have not experienced since, well, last season.
The Cowboys won a football game!
Yes, we are being a tad facetious here. However, there is no denying that thanks to wins from the Houston Texans, Washington Football Team, and Los Angeles Chargers, in addition to their own, the Cowboys hurt their draft position on Sunday. As a result, Dallas is now one of six teams with a 3-7 record, instead of sitting alone with the fourth-worst record in football.
That is a major difference and one that could end up playing a role in who Dallas ends up selecting with their first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. And considering the holes, this team still has, especially on the defensive side of the football, that matters.
Obviously, labeling a win as bad isn't a rational thing, no matter the consequence, but we at least feel comfortable labeling it as 'not ideal' with just six games left to play in the regular season.
This defense is still really bad at football.
Sure, there were key stops on the final two Minnesota drives of the game that sealed the win. And yes, the defense forced three fumbles, two of which came from safety Donovan Wilson. And yes, Dallas recovered two of those fumbles, making all of the difference in the world in the win.
However, none of that changes the fact that for the other 90-something percent of Sunday's game, the Dallas defense was getting absolutely torched both on the ground and through the air.
For the afternoon, Minnesota finished with 430 total yards of offense, including 115 yards and a score from MVP candidate, Dalvin Cook, as well as 314 yards and three scores through the air for quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Minnesota also accumulated those numbers, despite Dallas feeling relatively healthy on that end after the bye week, and returning a starting-caliber defensive back in Chidobe Awuzie.
It's a frustrating result for the defense, one that touches back to our earlier point about the draft position, but one that we have also grown to expect on a week-in/week-out basis.
At this point, the Cowboys defense is what it is, and it is going to keep surrendering a lot of points until things change. The only problem is, that change can't begin to take place until after the regular season, so we might as well kick back, relax, and get used to it. ... and move onto Washington's Thanksgiving Day visit.