Cowboys hold on, win 11th straight
Dez Bryant caught four passes for 84 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping the visiting Cowboys win their 11th straight game with a 17-15 victory over the Vikings on Thursday night.
Bryant’s 56-yard catch in the first half set up Ezekiel Elliott’s 1-yard plunge. The receiver caught an 8-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter after a fumbled punt by Minnesota’s Adam Thielen.
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 failed for the Vikings (6-6), who found out earlier Thursday that coach Mike Zimmer would not be able to attend the game after having emergency eye surgery Wednesday night.
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, a Navy alumnus, was elevated to head coach for the game and it remains unclear how long Zimmer will be out. Full-time officials: Troy Vincent, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, said he expects the league to hire as many as 17 full-time officials this offseason.
The additions are allowed under the collective bargaining agreement and would increase the size of officiating crews from seven to eight, Vincent said.
Currently, NFL officiating crews are part-time staff and hold jobs outside football. Vincent said full-time officials would allow the league to spend more time on training and consultation on a year-round basis. Cutler’s season over: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will have surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder and is out for the season.
Cutler injured his shoulder during a loss to the Giants on Nov. 20 but finished the game. Coach John Fox initially said the injury was not season-ending, but after working through treatment options Cutler chose to have the surgery. Surgery for Gronkowski: Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski is having surgery for a herniated disk in his back and is expected to be out for at least eight weeks.
The injury is thought to have occurred during the Patriots’ loss to the Seahawks on Nov. 13, in which Gronkowski said he received “probably one of the hardest hits I’ve got in my career” from Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. Extra points: Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins returned to practice on a limited basis but is dealing with a broken bone in his left foot, according to offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. ... Center Nick Mangold fully practiced with the Jets for the first time since spraining his ankle Oct. 23. However, five other starters missed practice: wide receiver Brandon Marshall. (foot, knee), offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (back, shoulder), linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle), defensive tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring) and safety Calvin Pryor (concussion). ... The NFL is re-evaluating its scheduling process but has no plans to discontinue weekly Thursday games.
Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) celebrates with quarterback Dak Prescott (4) after catching an 8-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass against the Vikings. Dallas won, 17-15.