ARLINGTON, Texas. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t about to lose this one, not against a Dallas organization he was with for 13 seasons.
That was apparent late in the third quarter with the Vikings trailing by one point and facing a fourth-and-goal on the Cowboys 2-yard line.
Zimmer had a choice to make: kick the easy field goal, or play to win by keeping the offense on the field.
The result? Dalvin Cook scampered in for a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Vikings a 26-21 lead. Minnesota added the 2-point conversion for a 28-21 cushion.
The sequence was a 5-point swing, as the eight points made a bigger statement than a field goal would have.
And with the Vikings winning by four points, it showed everyone in the stadium that Zimmer was playing to win.
“I came in here, and we were going to empty the bullets tonight, one way or the other,” Zimmer said. “So, that was really the mindset going in.”
Here are four other takeaways:
2. Up-and-down on 3rd downs | By Eric Smith
Dallas’ success on third downs on both sides of the ball was a key storyline, as the Cowboys entered Week 10 as one of the NFL’s best teams on both sides of the ball on the crucial down.
Dallas’s offense, which came into the game converting 50 percent of their third downs, had plenty of success against Minnesota. The Cowboys converted nine of 15 tries on the down, including five successes on third-and-7 or longer. At one point, Dallas was 9-for-12 on third downs, with the Cowboys passing on each of the dozen plays.
But the Vikings defense stood up when it mattered most, as Minnesota denied Dallas chances to convert on its final three third-down tries.
The Cowboys defense entered Week 10 second in the NFL having limited opponents to a conversion rate of 27.1 percent on third downs.
The Vikings had plenty of success there, converting eight of 14 tries (57.1 percent).
Stefon Diggs had three catches for 49 yards on third downs, including a spectacular one-handed grab that was initially ruled incomplete.
Kirk Cousins was also money on the critical down, completing 7 of 9 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
3. Zeroing in on Zeke — By Lindsey Young
The Vikings knew they would have their hands full with powerful Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, but they entered Sunday’s game determined to keep him out of the equation.
Minnesota did just that, challenging Dallas to try winning at home without relying on its star rusher.
Entering the _Sunday Night Football _contest, Elliott had six touchdowns and had been averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 92.6 yards per game. The Vikings held him to just 2.4 yards per attempt, and he totaled just 47 yards on the evening. He also was kept out of the end zone.
Zimmer was asked during his postgame press conference about Minnesota’s succeeding in focusing on Elliott.
“Yeah, well, we had to do that. We had to make them one-dimensional,” Zimmer said. “I wish we would have played better in pass defense than what we did. But we had to [stop Elliott]. They’re a good running football team, and I thought we did a really nice job in our run fits and the way that we tackled.”
4. Prescott was hard to stop | By Craig Peters
Dak Prescott didn’t run the football, but his mobility challenged the Vikings defense. Prescott was able to extend plays multiple times and allow receivers to create separation from Minnesota’s defenders.
The Vikings modified their rush plan throughout, trying to pressure Prescott and did so with varying success.
Minnesota created some negative plays that helped, but the Vikings also surrendered multiple third-and-extremely-long situations, including a third-and-12 on each of Dallas’ first two touchdown drives.
Prescott finished 28-of-46 passing for 397 yards with three touchdown tosses (23 to Michael Gallup, 22 to Randall Cobb and 12 to Amari Cooper.
Were Prescott especially shined was working the sidelines, connecting with receivers who tapped feet and stretched their arms, creating more territory for the Vikings to try to defend.
Cooper led all receivers with 11 receptions for 147 yards. Cobb added six catches for 106, and Gallup finished with 76 yards on four catches.
5. Special teams nearly flawless | By Craig Peters
The Vikings special teams unit played an important role in complementary football.
Britton Colquitt averaged and netted 42.5 yards on four punts. He had a long of 53 and placed two inside the Dallas 20.
Mike Boone had a nice tackle of Tavon Austin at the 17-yard line in the second quarter on the 53-yard punt, and Jayron Kearse downed a 41-yarder at the 6 with 4:34 remaining, forcing Dallas to need 94 yards to reach the end zone. The Cowboys were only able to drive 80 of that.
Dan Bailey, who was facing his former team for the first time, kicked a pair of comfortable field goals that were actually shorter than the pair of extra points he added.
Bailey’s eight points give him 999 in his career, which is tied with Dan Carpenter (2008-16) for 62nd all-time.
Bailey also recorded touchbacks on all five of his kickoffs.
Ameer Abdullah gained 29 on his lone kickoff return.