Neither the Dallas Cowboys or Minnesota Vikings were on short rest in Thursday’s meeting, but Dallas’ combination of quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Dez Bryant did just enough to win the Cowboys’ 11th straight game in a 17-15 road victory.
Prescott continued to take care of the football with no turnovers, while Elliott ran for 86 yards and touchdown and Bryant caught four balls for 84 yards and a score.
A late touchdown by the Vikings (6-6) and Jerrick McKinnon cut the Dallas lead to two points, but a false start and a sailed throw by Sam Bradford stiffled Minnesota's hopes of an upset win.
Now, if either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose or tie or the Washington Redskins lose it would mean the Cowboys (11-1) could end Week 13 with a guaranteed wild-card spot.
Dallas secures final lead change
Bryant, who has struggled much of the season to create chemistry with Prescott. outflanked the Minnesota defense early in the fourth quarter to put Dallas up for good.
Bryant made the two biggest plays of the night with a long reception in the first half and the go-ahead touchdown in the second.
Before Thursday, Bryant had just three 100-yard receiving games and five touchdowns. Though he had just four receptions and 84 yards Thursday, his two big plays made the difference and extended Dallas’ league-best record of 11-1.
“We just stuck together. That was a great defense we just played, but we always believe in ourselves.,” Prescott told NBC after the win. “We have a great group of veterans that have been here and done this. They keep us under control and allow us to go have fun and be ourselves. It’s fun when you’re winning and you’re a brotherhood.”
What it means
Dallas, led by sensational rookies Prescott and Elliott, have been a revelation this season. Both are candidates for Rookie of the Year and league MVP through 13 weeks as the Cowboys are destined for the playoffs and possibly home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Thursday's win was Dallas' sixth straight road win. In those games, the Cowboys have averaged 28 points and proved the atmosphere of opposing stadiums isn't too big for their young playmakers.
If critics are concerned about Cowboys' ability to win big games on the road, they answered those questions Thursday.
Dallas travels to face the New York Giants next week, while the Vikings, who are 1-6 in their last seven games, must keep their playoff hopes alive against the Jacksonville Jaguars.