The Vikings lost the ball on their third snap of the game, quickly spotting the Cowboys three points.
Dallas got more than it needed the rest of the way in a 40-3 walloping of Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
The victory improved the Cowboys to 7-3 on the season and 4-0 all-time at the venue that opened in 2016.
Minnesota fell to 8-2 on the season. In spite of the loss, combined with a 17-16 win by Philadelphia in the final minute at Indianapolis earlier Sunday, the Vikings still have the second best record in the NFC.
Numerous factors played into the lopsided loss beyond the opening turnover, but the biggest thing was a recurring discrepancy on third downs.
View game action photos of the Vikings vs. Cowboys in the Week 11 matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Dallas converted 12 of 17 third downs, compared to a 1-for-11 showing by Minnesota.
The Cowboys were 8-for-10 on the down in the first half, averaging third-and-3.3. The Vikings went 1-for-6 with an average of third-and-7.3.
Dallas faced third-and-3-or-fewer on eight of its 10 third downs in the first half and scored a 1-yard touchdown on one of those plays. Minnesota faced third-and-3-or-fewer three times and suffered a sack fumble by Kirk Cousins that was forced by Micah Parsons and recovered by Dorance Armstrong. Minnesota also suffered an incompletion on a play from the Dallas 9-yard line and another sack when needing 3 or fewer yards.
Things went from bad to worse in multiple aspects, but even more so on third downs in the third quarter.
In the second half, Dallas scored a 68-yard touchdown on third-and-14 to make it 30-3 early in the third quarter, and the Cowboys got a 35-yard completion on third-and-5 to set up another score.
Here are four more observations presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings, followed by a scoring summary:
1. Cowboys stampede
Dallas stayed ahead of the chains and kept its entire playbook open.
The Cowboys rushed 40 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns, controlling the clock.
Tony Pollard proved particularly explosive for Dallas out of the backfield, catching six passes for 109 yards and scoring twice through the air.
Dallas netted 458 yards of offense to 183 by Minnesota.
2. Passing comparisons
The Cowboys suffered just four incompletions the whole game and did not take a sack. Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush combined to go 26-for-30 for 307 yards.
Dallas did not take a sack.
The Vikings were a lot less crisp, totaling 17-for-30 for 159 yards between Cousins and Nick Mullens.
Minnesota suffered seven sacks.
3. Star power contained
Dallas contained Justin Jefferson, limiting the phenom to three catches for 33 yards. Adam Thielen was limited to two for 25.
It was a major departure from the numbers Jefferson had posted since Week 4: 51 catches for 814 yards and two scores.
4. Eye on injuries
The Vikings will have a short week ahead, hosting the Patriots on Thanksgiving night.
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who suffered a concussion at Buffalo, returned to the starting lineup Sunday but left the game with another concussion.
He was again replaced by Blake Brandel.
The Vikings were again without Dalvin Tomlinson (calf injury in Week 8) and were missing cornerback Akayleb Evans (concussion in Week 10). Andrew Booth, Jr., started in place of Evans.
Q1, 10:22 remaining
Cowboys 3, Vikings 0
Brett Maher kicks a 27-yard field goal [7 plays, 18 yards, 3:22 time of possession]
Defensive stand: The Vikings defense was able to limit the damage after Dallas took over at the Minnesota 27-yard line following a Kirk Cousins fumble forced by Micah Parsons and recovered by Dorance Armstrong. Harrison Phillips tackled Tony Pollard for no gain on a pop pass, and Chandon Sullivan covered Dalton Schultz on a throw to the end zone on third-and-3 from the 9.
Q1, 6:39 remaining
Cowboys 3, Vikings 3
Greg Joseph kicks a 25-yard field goal [10 plays, 69 yards, 3:43 time of possession]
Red zone stall: The Vikings moved the ball well with a completion of 14 to Justin Jefferson, a 17-yard run by Dalvin Cook and a 10-yard catch by Adam Thielen on third-and-6, but the drive ended on consecutive incompletions to T.J. Hockenson on second-and-3 and third-and-3.
Q1, 1:26 remaining
Cowboys 10, Vikings 3
Ezekiel Elliott rushes for 1 yard (Maher kicks PAT) [10 plays, 75 yards, 5:13 time of possession]
Pollard back-to-back: Pollard rushed for 18 and 20 yards on consecutive carries, moving the ball from the Dallas 46 to the 16. Dallas followed with passes of 8 to Michael Gallup and 6 to CeeDee Lamb.
Q2, 5:31 remaining
Cowboys 13, Vikings 3
Maher kicks a 53-yard field goal [14 plays, 48 yards, 7:54 time of possession]
Dak effect: On first-and-10 from the 17, Dak Prescott escaped what would have been a sack by Za'Darius Smith and loss of several yards. The gain of 1 enabled the Cowboys to get a 7-yard completion to Noah Brown that was followed by a gain of 5 on third-and-2. Prescott also converted a third-and-6 from the Minnesota 43 with a gain of 11 on a designed run. It looked like the play clock expired before the snap, but the play continued.
Q2, 2:44 remaining
Cowboys 20, Vikings 3
Short pass, big gain: After surveying options, Prescott made a simple toss to Pollard, and he hit the afterburners through space on the way to the end zone.
Q2, 0:00 remaining
Cowboys 23, Vikings 3
Maher kicks a 60-yard field goal [5 plays, 44 yards, 0:31 time of possession]
Sideline play: Dallas moved into Maher's range when Lamb reeled int a 27-yard pass, keeping his feet in bounds and control of the
Q3, 12:32 remaining
Cowboys 30, Vikings 3
Pollard catches a 68-yard pass from Prescott (Maher kicks PAT) [5 plays, 75 yards, 2:28 time of possession]
A dagger: Prescott put the ball on the money to Pollard, who had a step on Jordan Hicks, turning a third-and-14 into the longest touchdown allowed by Minnesota this season.
Q3, 10:09 remaining
Cowboys 37, Vikings 3
Elliott rushes for 1 yard (Maher kicks PAT) [5 plays, 41 yards, 1:54 time of possession]
Call stands: The brunt of the damage occurred on a 35-yard pass to Brown against Andrew Booth, Jr. Minnesota challenged the ruling when replay showed the ball coming lose at the end of the catch, but officials upheld the ruling.
Q4, 10:04 remaining
Cowboys 40, Vikings 3
Maher kicks a 50-yard field goal
Within reach: Malik Davis moved into Maher's range with a 9-yard run on third-and-1 from the Minnesota 41.