It’s hard to say who from the Vikings felt more satisfaction from the 28-24 victory over the Cowboys.
Mike Zimmer spent years on the Cowboys’ sideline but never got a chance to become the team’s head coach. Dan Bailey once became the NFL’s all-time most accurate kicker when he was with the Cowboys. Kirk Cousins took enough losses at AT&T Stadium as a member of Washington, not to mention enough losses in prime time, to last a lifetime.
In a Sunday Night Football game that had the feel of a playoff game, the Vikings stopped the Cowboys on fourth down at the Vikings 14 with 40 seconds to play.
The Cowboys, with three timeouts, got one last-gasp chance, needing 54 yards in 17 seconds, and Jayron Kearse intercepted Prescott’s Hail Mary attempt on the final play.
The Cowboys’ 443 yards, including 397 passing yards by Prescott, went for naught.
Dallas fell to 5-4 and into a first-place tie with the Eagles, who were idle Sunday, although the Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker as of now.
The Vikings moved to 7-3, keeping them a game behind the Packers. It was Minnesota’s fifth victory in its past six games.
The Cowboys got off to another slow start, falling behind the Vikings 14-0 on a pair of Kyle Rudolph 1-yard touchdown catches. They took their first lead 21-20 with 7:01 remaining in the third quarter on a 12-yard touchdown catch by Amari Cooper.
But the Cowboys had a hard time stopping the Vikings, who scored on five of nine possessions and gained 364 yards.
Dalvin Cook‘s 2-yard touchdown run on fourth down with two seconds remaining in the third quarter, followed by a two-point conversion on a pass from Cousins to Rudolph, held as the game-winner.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. You have to stop the run to beat the Vikings, and that’s easier said than done.
The Cowboys held the Vikings to 43 rushing yards in the first half, including holding Cook to 3.0 yards per carry.
The Vikings ended the game with 153 rushing yards.
Cook, who entered as the league’s leading rusher with 894 yards, ended up with 97 rushing yards on 26 carries. His biggest run came on his touchdown run.
The Cowboys had stopped the Vikings on three straight runs to bring up fourth-and-goal from the 2. Cook scored easily.
Cook also added seven catches for 86 yards.
2. The Cowboys need to pay Cooper.
The Cowboys cannot do without him, having given up a first-round draft choice for a lead receiver.
Cooper, who is in the final year of his contract, has proved worth the draft pick and worth No. 1 receiver money.
You would never know Cooper was questionable with ankle and knee injuries as he made spectacular catch after spectacular catch. He finished with 11 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.
3. Cousins rewrote the narrative.
The quarterback has a history of losing big games, especially those played after dark.
He entered Sunday night 6-13 all time in night games, and, in 25 games in Minnesota, he was only 14-10-1. The Vikings missed the playoffs last season.
In a big game on Sunday night, Cousins completed 23 of 32 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He got it done.
4. The Cowboys defense remains a huge question mark.
Dallas traded for defensive lineman Michael Bennett, but it didn’t get a safety as Jamal Adams proved too expensive.
The Cowboys still need a play-making safety, Xavier Woods‘ NFC defensive player of the week honors from Week Nine not withstanding.
The Cowboys sacked Cousins only once. They forced no turnovers. They gave up their third 100-yard rusher of the season.
The Cowboys, who entered the night ranked first in total offense, appear to have a championship offense. They don’t have a championship defense.
The Cowboys have scored at least 31 points in every victory this season. They didn’t get to 31 Sunday, and the defense couldn’t stop the Vikings.
5. Prescott, like Cooper, is going to get paid. He’s going to get paid by the Cowboys. One way or the other.
The Cowboys used to be built around Elliott. They now are built around Prescott.
Prescott now has five career games with 375 or more passing yards, the second-most in team history behind Tony Romo’s six.
Prescott has passed for at least 300 yards in three games this season to establish a new season high. It is the most 300-yard games by a Cowboys quarterback in a single season since Romo had three in 2006.
On this night, though, the Vikings were the better team.