Cow­boys hold on against Vik­ings for 11th win

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Dez Bryant sashayed through the Dal­las locker room with an un­mis­tak­able swag­ger and had noth­ing but good things to say about his ad­ver­sary this time around.

It was a stark change from a week ago, when he sparred with Wash­ing­ton cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man on Thanks­giv­ing. The trash talk­ing Dez and the po­lite Dez share one thing in com­mon: they both win. Bryant caught four passes for 84 yards and the go-ahead touch­down in the fourth quar­ter, help­ing the Cow­boys win their 11th straight game with a 17-15 vic­tory over the Min­nesota Vik­ings on Thurs­day night.

In a hard-fought bat­tle with cor­ner­back Xavier Rhodes, Bryant’s 56-yard catch set up Ezekiel El­liott’s 1-yard TD in the first half. Bryant caught an 8-yard scor­ing pass in the fourth quar­ter af­ter a fum­bled punt by Min­nesota’s Adam Thie­len. “I knew com­ing into this game it was go­ing to be a tough match and I had to be on my ‘A’ game,” Bryant said. “Be­cause if I wasn’t, he can get the best of you. We had a good bat­tle. We shared our thoughts through­out the game. It was good thoughts. It’s nice play­ing games like that.”

El­liott rushed for 86 yards on 20 car­ries for the Cow­boys (11-1). They have the long­est sin­gle sea­son win­ning streak in fran­chise history. Sam Brad­ford threw a 3-yard touch­down pass to Jer­ick McKin­non with 25 sec­onds to play, but the 2-point con­ver­sion pass failed. Brad­ford ar­gued for a penalty af­ter he was hit in the face by a de­fender, but there was no call for the Vik­ings (6-6). Min­nesota played with­out coach Mike Zim­mer af­ter he had emer­gency eye surgery Wed­nes­day night.

“I’m sick and tired of the reff­ing in this league right now,” Vik­ings de­fen­sive end Brian Ro­bi­son said. “I’m sick and tired of it. You’ve got hold­ing calls all over the place that peo­ple don’t want to call. Brad­ford gets hit in the face at the end of the game and you don’t call it. I’m not lay­ing this loss on reff­ing, but at some point it’s got to get bet­ter.”

Brad­ford com­pleted 32 of 45 passes for 247 yards, Danielle Hunter had two sacks and Kai For­bath kicked three field goals for Min­nesota, which has last six of the last seven games af­ter a 5-0 start.

Vik­ings spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Mike Priefer was el­e­vated to head coach for the game and it re­mains un­clear how long Zim­mer will be out. Min­nesota’s third-ranked de­fense did their fiery leader proud, hold­ing the ex­plo­sive Cow­boys of­fense to sea­son lows in points, yards (264) and first downs (13).

“It’s not the best game we played, but we showed up when we needed to and made the plays at the end,” El­liott said.

KEY PLAY

With Dal­las’ of­fense do­ing noth­ing, Kyle Wil­ber made the play of the game when he punched the ball out of Thie­len’s hand, then pulled the ball away as the two rolled to the turf. Of­fi­cials ini­tially did not catch the fum­ble, but a heads-up chal­lenge by Ja­son Gar­rett got the call over­turned and Prescott found Bryant on the next play.

CATCH­LESS IN MIN­NEAPO­LIS

Cow­boys tight end Ja­son Wit­ten did not catch a pass, snap­ping a team­record streak of 130 straight games with a re­cep­tion dat­ing to 2008.

A TD TO TIE TD

El­liott’s 1-yard plunge in the sec­ond quar­ter gave Dal­las a 7-3 lead. It was his 12th touch­down rush­ing this sea­son, ty­ing him with Tony Dorsett for most by a rookie in Cow­boys history.

BRAD­FORD UN­DER SEIGE

Play­ing be­hind a patch­work of­fen­sive line that in­cluded cen­ter Nick Eas­ton mak­ing his first ca­reer start in place of the in­jured Joe Berger (con­cus­sion), Brad­ford was un­der pres­sure all night long from a Cow­boys de­fense that has of­ten strug­gled in that area this sea­son. Brad­ford was sacked three times and had to leave the game on the fi­nal drive of the sec­ond quar­ter af­ter tak­ing a hel­met from Maliek Collins to his rib cage. Af­ter get­ting some med­i­cal at­ten­tion dur­ing half­time, Brad­ford was able to re­main in the game.

“I had to take a deep breath,” he said. “Af­ter that they were fine.” The bad news on the in­jury front for the Vik­ings came for safety Har­ri­son Smith, who left the locker room on crutches with a walk­ing boot on his left foot. He has been fight­ing through an an­kle in­jury over the last sev­eral weeks.

ZIM­MER TRIB­UTE

Be­fore the game, the Vik­ings played a short video of Zim­mer ad­dress­ing the team dur­ing a prac­tice. Zim­mer’s pri­mary mes­sage: “Do your job.”

That has been a com­mon theme dur­ing his three sea­sons in Min­nesota, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion likely wanted the play­ers to hear it one more time be­fore tak­ing the field. Af­ter the video, a pic­ture of Zim­mer was put on the big screen with a “Get Well Soon” mes­sage at­tached.

“They fought to the bit­ter end, and I know coach Zim­mer would’ve been very, very proud of them,” Priefer said.

Cow­boys: Dal­las heads to New York on Dec. 11 to face the Giants, the only team to have beaten the Cow­boys this sea­son.

Vik­ings: Min­nesota will travel to Jack­sonville on Dec. 11 to face the Jaguars, hop­ing the ex­tra time off will be enough for Zim­mer to re­cover and re­turn to the side­line.

— AP

MIN­NEAPO­LIS: Dal­las Cow­boys free safety Byron Jones (31) cel­e­brates in front of Min­nesota Vik­ings tight end Kyle Ru­dolph, right, af­ter break­ing up a pass in the end zone dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NFL foot­ball game Thurs­day, in Min­neapo­lis. The Cow­boys won 17-15.

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