NFL: are the Dallas Cowboys the best team in the NFC?
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Vikings in Minnesota without Dak Prescott, have won six on the spin, and their defence is going from strength to strength.
After going through his warm-up routine ahead of Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Dak Prescott spoke to the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach, Mike McCarthy, who decided that the best plan was not to play his starting quarterback, who has been struggling with a calf injury.
Rush impresses in Prescott's absence
With Prescott on the sidelines, Cooper Rush was given his first start in the NFL, and he didn’t disappoint. Rush threw for 325 yards, two touchdowns and one interception as the Cowboys claimed a 20-16 win over the Vikings.
Amari Cooper, a wide receiver who is criticised for only playing well when the Cowboys are at home, had a fantastic evening: 122 receiving yards and the match-winning touchdown, 51 seconds from the end.
Cowboys defence key to win in Minnesota
However, it’s the Cowboys’ defence that deserves all the credit for this valuable triumph. Dallas restricted Minnesota to 278 yards, which included 78 receiving yards for Dalvin Cook, and the Vikings were just one for 13 in converting third downs, Randy Gregory showing All-Pro form once more.
The last time the Cowboys limited their opposition to a 7.7% success rate on third downs was back in 2013, against the Los Angeles Rams.
Gregory was on top of Kirk Cousins all night. He sacked him once and handed out three of the seven hits that the Dallas defence put in on the Minnesota quarterback. Gregory now has five sacks in four games.
“The way the defence responded, keeping the point total down, overcoming way too many penalties, particularly on that last drive... I just think the adversity, the back and forth, the up and down, I can't say enough about our football team the last two games, New England and tonight," McCarthy said.
True. Without their star performer, the Cowboys found the way to defeat a team with a lot of offensive weapons, like Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and Cook, among others.
Thielen, who scored the Vikings’ only touchdown in the first offensive drive of the night, was restricted to six receptions and 78 yards, while Jefferson only managed to receive two balls and pick up 21 yards.
Left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle), linebacker Jabril Cox (knee) and cornerback Trevon Diggs (foot) have been added to Dallas’ injury list.
The good news is that there’s optimism that Prescott will be able to play next week, when Dallas take on the Denver Broncos.
The Cowboys have won six in a row, with their only defeat this season coming in Week 1, at home to the NFL champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and by a margin of just two points.
Are the Cowboys the best team in the NFC?
If this defence keeps playing as it is, I think the Cowboys have plenty of reason to be considered the team to beat in the National Football Conference.
Tampa Bay, the Rams, the Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers are the other contenders in the NFC, but Dallas look like they have what it takes to beat them, because this team has shown two crucial qualities: resilience and a lack of Prescott-dependence.
HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS?