It wasn’t so long ago that the Cowboys would have surely lost a game like the one they played against the Steelers on Sunday. The Cowboys teams we’re used to seeing probably would’ve thrown a soul-crushing interception with the 60 seconds or so that they had left after Pittsburgh scored on a fake spike. Probably a pick, a back injury and some shady sideline doctorin’ from Jerry Jones.
Not anymore. It’s really popular now to say that the Cowboys are “back.” Back from where? They’ve made the playoffs once in the last six seasons. They haven’t gone beyond the divisional round since the 1995 Cowboys won the Super Bowl.
Heartbreak and disappointment defines the Cowboys of the last decade. These Cowboys aren’t BACK, they’re a whole different team.
Fate finally seems to be on their side. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the two rookies at the heart of this new Dallas team, certainly believe that and they said as much before the game-winning drive on Sunday.
“I looked at him before the drive and said ‘Dak, this is why we’re here. This is why we came to Dallas,’” Elliott told Prescott. “He didn’t flinch.”
And that game, all of it. The coolest play was probably the Steelers breaking out the ol’ fake spike to score a touchdown and take the lead. That didn’t last, thanks to the most important play of the game, Ezekiel Elliott’s game-winning 32-yard touchdown. It is not a stretch at all to call it the best game of the year.
For all the talk about Dak/Romo, the offensive MVP is Ezekiel Elliott. He’s the first rookie with a 60-yard+ rushing touchdown and an 80-yard+ receiving touchdown in the same game since 1965. His 1,005 rushing yards are the third most for any player in their first nine career games. Stats aside, it’s clear that the offensive game plan runs through him, setting up play action passes, zone runs, etc.
You could also make a fair case that the offensive line deserves some MVP consideration. Three of the five highest graded players, according to Pro Football Focus this, this week were offensive linemen. The line was so effective at opening holes that 74 of Elliott’s 114 rushing yards came before contact.
Just look at the hole that opened up on Elliott’s game-winner:
And then there’s Prescott. He has the poise of a quarterback who’s been doing this for years. The Steelers blitzed him on 22 of his dropbacks, and he completed 75 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and a 150.0 QB rating, according to PFF.
The Cowboys are 8-1 now, and in firm control of the NFC (the next best team has six wins). That’s an even better spot than the 2014 Cowboys were in after Week 10. And it’s a much better spot looking ahead to coming seasons than any Cowboys team has been in for a long, long time.
Another Seahawks-Patriots game decided on the 1-yard line
This is only the third time the Patriots and Seahawks have played each other since they took on the identities we’re familiar with now, i.e. the Russell Wilson-Richard Sherman era Seahawks.
The first game was the infamous “U mad bro?” game, in 2012. The second one was Super Bowl XLIX, the one with the Malcolm Butler interception that you may recall.
The stakes weren’t as high in this one as they were in the last one, but it was still a great game. Yes, it was decided on the 1-yard line. And there was controversy over a pass interference non-call.
The Patriots, now 7-2, are still the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They don’t have as much breathing room with three other seven-win teams in the conference (all in the AFC West), but their playoff odds are still good.
Seattle’s standing in the NFC race got a huge boost from this game. They’re the second seed, and with the way they’re playing lately, there’s no reason to think they can’t hang onto that. Seriously, they beat the Patriots on the road on a short week because they played on Monday in Week 9 … that’s impressive.
AFC West rules
Save your “AFC Worst” jokes. Three teams in that division have seven wins. The top spot in the standing changes on a near weekly basis. It’s the Chiefs on top now, with the Raiders on a bye this week. The playoffs are seven weeks away, and already the division has a virtual lock on the two conference wild card spots.
The three teams that were in action on Sunday all saw their games go down to the wire. Excitement filled til the end!
Broncos win on a controversial blocked extra point
There have been three blocked extra points returned for a two-pointer since the NFL implemented the rule in 2015. The Saints have been involved in two of them. The Broncos were the first team to win a game on a two-pointer like this, and it’s surrounded in controversy.
The weird, wild ending of the Chiefs-Panthers game
This whole sequence was so strange. The Panthers punted the ball out of bounds for a touchback. Alex Smith caught his own pass and tried to throw it again, which was a penalty. With the game tied, the Panthers had a chance to put together a game-winning drive, but Marcus Peters took care of that by causing a very aggressive turnover. The Chiefs won with a last-second field goal. It was ugly, but they’ll take it.
Pity the Chargers
San Diego took it down to the wire too. A pair of late interceptions, including a pick six sunk them against the Dolphins. In any other year, the Chargers would still have a legit shot at the wild card too, but the other three teams in that division are just too good.
The Lions might be the best team in the NFC North
Detroit was the only team in the division that didn’t lose this week. Good thing they were on a bye. Or maybe not.
The Vikings lost to Washington, their fourth loss in a row. The Packers lost the Titans, their third loss in a row. The Bears lost to the Buccaneers, but they never really had a shot at this thing anyway.
It might already be too late for Green Bay. Their defense has now allowed more than 30 points in their last five games. They used to be one of the best teams in the NFL at stopping the run, but DeMarco Murray gashed them for 123 rushing yards and a touchdown. Their secondary had no answers for Marcus Mariota, who keeps getting better week after week. The Packers had no intensity, kept tripped over themselves and looked like they belonged in the AFC South, not the Titans.
The Vikings don’t have much hope left either … or offensive tackles. Jake Long was injured, their third offensive tackle to go down this year. Kicker Blair Walsh was bad again too. The Cardinals are visiting Minnesota next week, and it’s not looking like they’ll be able to stop the skid at this point.
Speaking of that Bears game, at least it was fun!
Trash game, fun football!
Jameis Winston dodged the entire Bears defense for an amazing 40-yard pass
We’re still not sure how he did this, but right after, he threw a touchdown pass that helped the Bucs bury the Bears.
Jay Cutler’s Hail Mary
The Bears-Bucs game had some of this week’s biggest highlights, weirdly enough. This Hail Mary at the end of the first half that Cameron Meredith caught for a touchdown was vintage Cutler.
Another Seahawks game ended in a no-call, but this time the refs got it right.
Why in the world did the Seahawks go for two when they were up seven late in the game?
The Seahawks settled for a field goal, even though it looked like they had already scored a touchdown.
Nothing was going to stop LeGarrette Blount from scoring this touchdown, even if he had to take the entire Seahawks defense with him.
Heavens to Betsy, it finally happened! The Patriots threw an interception!
Richard Sherman was called for a facemask penalty when all he did was grab Julian Edelman’s shoulder pad. I’m sure we won’t hear anymore about this, huh?
Dez Bryant honored his father, who passed away Saturday. The team gave Bryant the game ball after the win.
Jerry Jones and his son celebrated the Cowboys’ big win awkwardly.
The officials missed a pretty blatant facemask penalty that happened to Cole Beasley.
Whoops, the Steelers blocked their own two-point conversion attempt.
Dak Prescott threw a perfect 50-yard bomb to Dez Bryant against the Steelers, and Tony Romo approved.
Philip Rivers joins the exclusive 300th passing TD club, but he also threw two late picks, including a pick-six, to seal the Chargers’ loss to the Dolphins.
The Cardinals avoided the horror of going to overtime against the 49ers with a game-winning field goal.
The refs missed a helmet-to-helmet hit and Eagles WR Jordan Matthews wasn’t happyabout it.
Marcus Peters wants to be the Chiefs’ second-string punter so much that he booted a footballtoward the crowd.
Ezekiel Elliott outran every Steelers defender for an 83-yard touchdown.
Alex Smith threw the ball twice in one play. Yeaaaah, you can’t do that.
There’s no napping in football, Tajae Sharpe.
The Titans started the game off with a terrible onside kick. The Packers later matched them.
We did NOT need to see that much of Carson Palmer.
Not a great penalty for the Eagles to take so late in their game.
Cam Newton smiled after Eric Berry leveled him, but he probably wasn’t happy after Berry snagged an interception and brought it back for a score.
The Titans learned that if you mess with Aaron Rodgers you get the rest of the Packers, too.
The longest drive in Panthers’ franchise history ended with a punt.
Jameis Winston made the Bears defense look a little silly on what might be the play of the season.
See? Jay Cutler CAN throw touchdowns and not just interceptions (but he still throws a lot of those too).
It takes more than just five defenders to stop Cam Newton from scoring.
Bryce Petty has his first TD pass — on a hook-and-ladder play.
Blake Bortles threw his ninth career pick-six and then just stood still instead of making a tackle. Later, he added this odd turnover that bounced off his teammate.
Titans offensive lineman Taylor Lewan earned his second ejection of the year.
DeMarco Murray played some outstanding football against the Packers.
Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll was ruled out of the game with a concussion.
Lamar Miller left the Texans game with what appeared to be an ankle injury but later returned to action.
Kyle Long has an ankle injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Punter Andy Lee left with a hamstring injury and did not return, leaving kicker Graham Gano to handle punting duties.
Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes did not return after leaving with a possible concussion.
Vikings tackle Jake Long is likely done for the season with a torn Achilles injury. Long is the third offensive tackle the team has lost this season.
Larry Fitzgerald left briefly against the 49ers after getting flipped, but he was OK.