News & Analysis

NFL Week 11 PFF ReFocused: Dallas Cowboys 31, Minnesota Vikings 28

Nov 22, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) catches a pass for a touchdown against Minnesota Vikings defensive back Jeff Gladney (20) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In unexpected fashion, the bout between the red-hot Minnesota Vikings and faltering Dallas Cowboys was one of the most exhilarating of the weekend. The Vikings entered the contest having rattled off three straight victories, while the Cowboys had yet to earn their first win since quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury.

Led by Andy Dalton and Co., Dallas outlasted Minnesota 31-28, tying all other NFC East teams with three wins on the season.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

STORY OF THE GAME

Early first-half turnovers proved deadly for the Vikings, despite both Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook posting incredible numbers. Linebacker Donovan Wilson forced and recovered a strip-sack on the Vikings’ first drive of the game, setting up an easy Ezekiel Elliott receiving touchdown. With just under a minute remaining in the second quarter, Wilson forced yet another fumble, this time flying downfield to hit Cook soon after he began to turn upfield on a reception, though this time Dallas was unable to capitalize on the possession.

Kirk Cousins had a near-flawless game, completing 22-of-30 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. He threw the ball 20-plus yards downfield just six times, but he completed four passes for 137 yards and a score. Rookie sensation Justin Jefferson produced a relatively quiet game outside of a deep touchdown, netting just three grabs for 86 yards. A large reason for his thin stat line was the dominance of Thielen.

As many receivers have done against the porous Dallas secondary, Thielen put on a show, recording eight receptions for 112 yards and two scores, including a stellar one-handed catch in the back of the end zone. Cook continued his impressive play, garnering 160 yards and one pylon plunge on 32 touches.

In his first game back from injury, Dalton showcased the talent that many believe makes him the best second-string QB in the NFL. He completed five of his seven pass attempts from inside the red zone, three of which went for touchdowns. He was 22-of-32 on the day, gaining 203 yards and the three aforementioned scores.

Elliott notched his first 100-yard performance of the season, picking up 103 yards on 27 carries while adding 11 yards and a touchdown on two receptions. It was not just Elliott flashing his ability in the backfield this week, as Tony Pollard took a 42-yard scamper to the house, finishing with five carries, 60 yards and one dash into the end zone.

Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb shined in the receiving game. Cooper hauled in six of his seven targets for 81 yards, moving the chains on five receptions. Lamb caught four balls thrown his way for 34 yards and one of the best touchdowns of this season. It may have been that he ran the wrong route, or it may have been just a miscommunication, but he had to readjust and contort his body the opposite way in order to come down with the football in the back of the end zone.

In the end, it was the Cowboys who remained on top and somehow find themselves still in the race for the NFC East title.

ROOKIE WATCH

Outside of Lamb, third-round defensive tackle Neville Gallimore was the only other Dallas rookie to receive noteworthy playing time. He was unable to do much with his time on the field, generating zero pressures on 15 pass-rush snaps and netting just one solo tackle against the run.

For the Vikings, cornerbacks Jeff Gladney (66) and Cameron Dantzler (42), as well as edge defender D.J. Wonnum (28), saw over 10 snaps. Gladney was the worst of the bunch, conceding five receptions for 47 yards, two first downs and a touchdown on eight targets. Dantzler only saw two passes head his way, forfeiting just one for 11 yards. Wonnum beat his man once but could not record the pressure due to Dalton throwing the football before he reached him.

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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