The Dallas Cowboys rode 17 fourth-quarter points thanks to two interceptions and a special teams touchdown to earn their fifth win of the 2020 season.
Quarterback Andy Dalton and the offense were the beneficiaries of multiple short fields, and were able to keep the San Francisco 49ers at bay before eventually putting them away late. It all added up to a satisfying 41-33 win, and one of the Cowboys’ best all-around performances of the 2020 season.
The victory moved Dallas to 5-9 on the season, dropping the 49ers to the same record with just two weeks remaining in the regular campaign. That distinction has to be made because yes, the Cowboys still have an iota of a chance to make the playoffs.
It was over when . . .
. . . Cornerback Anthony Brown picked off San Francisco QB Nick Mullens, the club's second in the fourth quarter, giving the Cowboys' their fourth forced turnover of the game. Two plays and 40 yards later, Tony Pollard found the end zone to seal the deal.
Game Ball No. 1: RB Tony Pollard
Pollard certainly made the most of his opportunity stepping into Ezekiel Elliott's shoes. He was utilized creatively as both a runner and receiver, leading the team in both rushing yards and passing targets, totaling 132 combined yards and two touchdowns in the process. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1340766243045851136
Game Ball No. 2: DE DeMarcus Lawrence
Despite not jumping off the stat sheet, DeMarcus Lawrence has long been the most consistent and best player on the Cowboys defense, often affecting game in subtle ways. There was nothing subtle about his first-quarter strip sack, again allowing Dallas to run out to a fast start. He finished this game with five total tackles, increasing his sack total to 5.5 and tying his career high in forced fumbles with two games remaining. https://twitter.com/DallasCowboysPR/status/1340724613337276417
Game Ball No. 3 DB Donovan Wilson
Once again the second-year DB out of Texas A&M made his presence felt, making plays in the back of the secondary; ones the Cowboys defense has lacked for a long time. After showcasing this exact skill in practice and preseason, Wilson was able to record the first interception of his career early in the fourth quarter, which started to turn the game's tide into Dallas's favor. https://twitter.com/dallascowboys/status/1340761596763762704 Wilson also chipped in six solo tackles, eight total, maintaining his growing reputation as an enforcer.
Key Stat: -6
After recording four more turnovers in Week 14, the Cowboys are up to a -6 turnover differential on the season. The Dallas defense has generated seven takeaways in the last two games, after recording only 11 in Weeks 1 - 13. This positive turnover regression has greatly benefitted a defense that really could've used some earlier in the year.
Now 3-2 following their bye week, the momentum the Cowboys are generating as the season winds down may be unwelcome by some (Team Tank). But after such a tumultuous and unfortunate 2020, the strides the team seems to be making deserve to be celebrated, despite what it does to their draft positioning.
To their credit, McCarthy and Kellen Moore put together a manageable and creative game plan that resulted in a season-high in points. All three phases played well, culminating in a complete team performance. Reserve TE Blake Bell even got in on the action, utilized on a QB sneak to convert a third down in the red zone.
Rookie DT Neville Gallimore also had a few nice moments, continuing his development and second-half surge. He bowled over the San Francisco offensive line to pickup another QB hit, five tackles (one for loss) and pass breakup.
Despite losing Xavier Woods during the game, the Cowboys secondary was operating as close to full-strength as it had all season, with Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and a returning Trevon Diggs all seeing playing time. The secondary may have allowed 308 passing yards to a team not known to air it out, but 49 came on the last heave of the game, a Hail Mary that scored a touchdown as time expired. Lingering questions remain in the secondary going forward. but at least the vision was able to come through this week.
Next, Dallas is set for a rematch with the Eagles in Week 16. Potential NFC East implications may be up for grabs, depending what happens in the Washington-Panthers game before kickoff.