Fourth quarter success
This one was a bit of a snoozer for three quarters -- you could argue that a tie game between division rivals in December isn’t so, but I’m gonna say struggling to keep up with the 2-10 Giants is, indeed, a snoozer. Dallas missed a couple field goals (more on that later) and settled for one on an opening drive that stalled at the four-yard line. The defense fell asleep on a Giants touchdown drive to give New York life. It was 10-10 at the end of the third.
But, then, the fourth quarter rolled around and the Cowboys erupted. Jason Witten caught a 20-yard touchdown for his only catch of the day. Three-and-a-half game minutes later, Dak Prescott found Rod Smith for an 81-yard touchdown. Just over a minute later, Smith found the endzone again from 15 yards out to make it look like a blowout.
Smith totaled 113 receiving yards on the day and added 47 yards on the ground. Smith averaged 14.5 yards per touch in the game.
Bailey’s bad day
Dan Bailey dropped out of the NFL all-time lead in field goal percentage on a historically bad day for the historically awesome kicker.
For the first time in his career, he missed an extra point. It was also just the third time in his career he missed multiple field goals in the same game. The last came on Dec. 18, 2016, when he went 4-for-6 against the Buccaneers. Before that, he missed two in his twelfth game as a pro on Dec. 4, 2011.
His career field goal percentage fell to 89.109 percent, behind Justin Tucker, who boasts an 89.815-percent mark. Tucker and his Baltimore Ravens play Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
The defense came out with a vengeance Sunday afternoon. They forced two fumbles in the first quarter and finished tackles with authority against their division rival. Oddly enough, they didn’t record a sack -- but made three tackles for loss.
The Cowboys hitting hard this game 👀— Nick (@ngrace42) December 10, 2017
Cowboys are HITTING!!!!— Rudy (@dude_rudy) December 10, 2017
Cowboys defense is hitting tho— Chris McMillian (@ChrisNMcMillian) December 10, 2017
Cowboys be hitting hella hard!!— B o b b y (@RickyQB_) December 10, 2017
Am I tripping or are the Cowboys Defense hitting hard asf today 😤💪🏽— Lorenzo Franklin (@Doyle122333) December 10, 2017
Sean Lee recorded a game-high 18 tackles (10 solo) and a game-icing interception late in the fourth quarter.
Dak and YAC
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott notched a career-high 332 yards passing with the help of three huge plays. The aforementioned 81-yarder, along with plays of 54 and 50 to Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant, accounted for a big chunk of his yards.
What’s even more unique about the career best is that a massive portion of the yards came from receivers after the catch. On those three big plays, which totaled 185 yards, 163 came after the catch. Smith caught the ball roughly six yards downfield. Beasley was about nine yards from the line of scrimmage, and Dez was on a slant about seven yards downfield.
That’s 49 percent of Prescott’s total passing yards coming after the catch on just three plays.
Regardless of how you dissect the stats, though, Prescott went 20-of-30 and had three touchdowns -- including a 20-yard dime to Witten. And that’s more than serviceable, especially from a guy who hadn’t topped 200 yards since Nov. 5.
The Cowboys have won back-to-back games and are one game away from getting Ezekiel Elliott back for the final two games of the year. But they aren’t getting much help from their fellow playoff contenders.
The Falcons, Lions and Packers -- the three teams ahead of them in the running for the sixth NFC playoff seed -- all won their respective Week 14 games.
The Cowboys need the following to happen if they want to make the playoffs, even with a 10-6 record:
• Falcons lose two of their remaining games, which come at Tampa Bay, at home against the Panthers, and at New Orleans.
• Packers lose one of their remaining games, which come in Carolina, in Detroit and at home against the Vikings.
• Lions lose one of their remaining games, which come at home against the Bears, home against the Packers and on the road against the Bengals.
• Seahawks lose to the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, and also lose their Sunday game at Jacksonville, a Week 15 game against the Rams or a Week 17 game against the Cardinals.