DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys gave the team who was tied for the best record in the league a beatdown in their own building on Sunday.
Not many could have seen it coming, especially after how the previous week had gone for both teams. The Vikings had one of the best wins of the NFL season with multiple rallies for an overtime victory at Buffalo, while the Cowboys were fresh off a collapse in Green Bay.
This game was going to show us who the Cowboys were. Would they compete and fight, proving last week was an aberration? Or would they wilt with the challenge in front of them?
Cowboys Nation had to be pleased with how their team responded.
A 40-3 blowout by the Cowboys showed the resiliency and potential that they have under Mike McCarthy.
Here’s what we learned about the Cowboys in the Week 11 win over the Minnesota Vikings:
Dak Prescott is revving up
This was Prescott’s fourth week back after missing five games earlier this season and he is beginning to look like his old self again. The veteran signal caller played an immaculate game completing 88% of his passes and all of his attempts were right on the money.
Prescott’s prettiest throw came via a 68-yard touchdown to Tony Pollard who was streaking down the right sideline. The play came on third down, where it is often suggested that Prescott struggles, when he lofted a perfect pass to Pollard, who never broke stride.
However, the best throw from Prescott came near the end of the first half. Prescott rolled right, and somehow found wide receiver CeeDee Lamb tip-toeing along the sideline for the 27-yard completion. It was a perfect throw that resulted in an additional three points. If Prescott was a hair off, the pass isn’t complete and Brett Maher doesn’t get a shot at his 60-yard FG.
The offense for the Cowboys is also starting to hit their stride with Prescott back, funny how that happens.
If the first four games were his preseason, Prescott looked to be in mid-season form against the Vikings.
Micah Parsons was back where he belongs
In Week 10, Parsons spent too much time at the second level as a linebacker and the defense wasn’t the same. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn wasn’t going to make the same mistake this week, putting Parsons back near the line of scrimmage for most of his snaps. It took just three plays to see the difference that Parsons makes as a pass rusher.
Parsons’ strip sack of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was a sign of things to come for the Cowboys’ defense. Dallas finished with seven sacks on the game – a season-high – two of which were by Parsons.
When Parsons is lined up on the defensive line, he creates havoc, not only for him, but the rest of the defense. The Cowboys lead the league in sacks, and they had their best game against the Vikings.
It’s no surprise that it happened with Parsons coming off the edge.
Brett Maher remains underrated
The Cowboys continue to turn to their kicker to make big kicks, and Maher continues to reward their faith in him. In Week 11, the veteran kicker made all four of his attempts, which included two 50-yard kicks (50, 53 yards), and a 60-yard field goal that he had to make twice!
By drilling the 60-yard attempt, Maher extended his NFL record of being perfect from extra long range.
Maker has been money all year as one of the best kickers in the league, and the Cowboys feel comfortable asking him to make long kicks. That trust resulted in points yesterday that helped swing the momentum towards Dallas at halftime.
Tony Pollard is no backup
The Cowboys have one of the best running backs in the league, but he’s not the starter, and it’s not Ezekiel Elliott. That’s not to downplay Elliott’s skills, he is still a very good RB in his own right, and he still plays an important role for the Cowboys’ offense.
However, Pollard is more than just Elliott’s backup. Pollard is a change of pace RB, with ridiculous speed, but also has the power to break tackles. Pollard averages 5.9 yards per carry, tops among RBs with at least 75 carries this season.
Against the Vikings, Pollard broke out his elite receiving skills as well. The two receiving touchdowns were a result of Pollard’s ability to run away from defenders. The Cowboys don’t have a WR with game breaking speed, but Pollard certainly has the jets to be a threat whenever he touches the ball.
Pollard is more than just a backup RB for the Cowboys; he’s their game-breaker and he can stake a claim to being the best skill position offensive player in Dallas currently. He might not be mentioned as an MVP candidate, but you could make the case that Tony Pollard should be in the conversation.
Do you think the Cowboys have turned themselves into one of the NFC’s best? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.