Narrowing down Cowboys’ Week 11 performance to 3 stars is a thankless job

What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, the Minnesota Vikings were living the high life after coming back to beat the Buffalo Bills on the road. The Dallas Cowboys were deflated, losing a 14-point fourth quarter lead, for the first time in franchise history, to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Now the Cowboys are flying high after absolutely mauling the Vikings in their own home in record-setting fashion. The 40-3 victory was the largest point differential in a road win in Dallas history.

Games like this, it’s tough to pick three stars. Could Dak Prescott miss the cut while throwing for 276 yards and two touchdowns on an 88% completion percentage? What about Trevon Diggs, who followed Justin Jefferson all over the field, holding him to three catches and only 33 yards. Maher made every kick, including ones from 53, 50, and 60. . . twice.

Those are three players that could easily make the cut, but they weren’t the top guys this week. Here are the three stars from the Cowboys beat down of the Vikings.

Ezekiel Elliott

Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Elliott came back just as he left it, the guy most underrated from this offense. On the surface he didn’t have the resume of a star on paper.  He had 16 total touches for only 47 yards, he ran for only 2.8 yards per attempt, so how did he earn the third star of the game? By doing the job asked of him at a star level.

If the Cowboys had a short yardage play to make, Elliott made it and kept the Dallas offense rolling, and the defense resting. The opening drive, in order to stop from going three and out, Elliott picked up a 3rd-and-1 conversion. It didn’t change the fact that the offense stalled, being held to a field goal, but it was a sign of things to come for Elliott this game.

With the game tied at three, Elliott took in a one-yard TD run after two failed attempts by Pollard, putting Dallas up 10-3 with the first touchdown of the game.

With the team out of field-goal range, around midfield, Elliott picked up another 3rd-and-1 to extend a drive that put another three points on the board. The very next drive he was asked to convert 3rd-and-1 yet again, and he delivered. This time setting up a touchdown pass to Tony Pollard two plays later. Even the score to officially put the game away at 37-7 was a short-yardage touchdown run for Elliott. He wasn’t flashy, but he did his job at a star level.

Tony Pollard

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kellen Moore is starting to find more ways to get the best playmaker on the team the ball every week on offense. Pollard has amassed 464 total yards and six touchdowns in his last three games. The league leader in yards per carry among running backs got an even split of rush attempts with returning starter Ezekiel Elliott. Pollard put up 80 yards on those 15 carries, an excellent 5.3-yard average on the day, but the real damage was in the passing game.

Just before halftime, with the Cowboys only up 13-3, Dak hit Pollard for a one-yard dumpoff. Pollard took it untouched 29 more yards for an easy, breakaway TD reception.

Pollard went on to officially break the game open after halftime. The game was still in reach for Minnesota, down 20 points with a whole half to play, and the Vikings were in a great position with Dallas in 3rd-and-long. Needing 14 yards for a first down, Prescott went through his progressions and then saw Pollard matched up on linebacker Jordan Hicks out of the backfield. The result was another TD catch where Pollard went untouched, this one for 68 yards.

Want to be a star of the game, out gain an opposing offense all alone. Tony Pollard accrued 189 total yards and two touchdowns compared to the Vikings offense only being able to muster 183 yards with only three points.

 

Micah Parsons

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Parsons got the top star of this game not only by his numbers, but by how he set the tone for the game. Facing the best scoring team on opening drives in the league, an opponent who averaged over 50 yards their first drive, and had not gone three and out all year, Parsons made the momentum changing play on the third snap of the game.

The first pass attempt for the Vikings, Parsons was able to chase down Kirk Cousins for a strip sack and the Minnesota offense never recovered.

Parsons was unstoppable the whole game reaching a career high 10 pressures on Cousins in 27 pass rush attempts, a 37% pressure rate. He added four tackles, one of those for a loss, five QB hits, two sacks and the above-mentioned forced fumble.

Parsons called out the performance of the defense last week, saying he was disgusted by them blowing the 14-point lead, saying it wouldn’t happen again and it definitely didn’t. The Cowboys  broke Kirk Cousins’ consecutive games with a touchdown pass streak at 39. They not only ended that streak but didn’t even let Dalvin Cook score either. The Vikings only had one conversion on 11 third-down tries. Parsons led this defense to a hallmark performance against the team with the second-best record in the league in their own home.

You can find Mike Crum on Twitter @cdpiglet or at Youtube on the Across the Cowboys Podcast.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire