Cowboys flash immense potential in this season’s most complete win

The Dallas Cowboys needed a win, and they certainly wanted a confidence boost after a sloppy showing in Green Bay. This was not that, though. Neither of those descriptions does justice to the 40-3 demolition we witnessed at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Cowboys flexed every ounce of their muscle against an overmatched Vikings team. This was Dallas at its terrifying finest, making a case for consideration among the NFL’s very best.

Thinking back to October, it was possible to see a performance like this coming. The Cowboys pieced together a four-game winning streak with Cooper Rush at quarterback, getting just enough from their offense to complement a menacing defense.

Against Minnesota, Dak Prescott evened the scales. The Cowboys’ quarterback has been up and down throughout this season, before his thumb injury and after. It wasn’t the case on Sunday.

Prescott played one of his best games in recent memory, torching the Vikings’ secondary for 276 yards and two touchdowns. His efficiency was even more impressive than the totals suggest, as Prescott completed an incredible 22-of-25 passes – 88%, or good enough for the second-best completion percentage of his career.

The result? Mind-boggling efficiency. The Cowboys scored points on eight-of-10 possessions, including a stretch of seven straight. During the competitive portion of the game, they were 10-of-13 on third down. They finished the afternoon with 458 yards of offense, their best total of the season.

It was an eye-opening pairing for a defense that needed little time to rediscover its mojo. Maybe it’s simplistic to say that all the Cowboys had to do was move Micah Parsons back to his familiar defensive end role. But with Parsons once again screaming off the edge — something we didn’t see much last week against the Packers — things looked awfully familiar. Paced by Parsons’ two sacks and a forced fumble, the Cowboys sacked Kirk Cousins seven times. Granted, it’s fair to mention that Minnesota left tackle Christian Darrisaw left the game with a reported concussion, it was still a brutal reminder of how hard it can be to throw against such a talented pass rush.

Even the Cowboys special teams were awe-inspiring. Once derided as a failed experiment back in 2019, Brett Maher boomed his way to the best game of his season. Maher connected on four field goals on the day — highlighted by a bizarre sequence that saw an officials’ review wipe his 60-yard field goal off the board, only for him to make it again on the re-try. Perhaps more important than any of those performances, though, was the competition in question. 

It’s become common practice during Prescott’s career for the Cowboys to easily dispense with the middling teams they go up against. The questions typically come when they play the league’s best, as they famously have fallen flat against the better teams on their schedule. We can quibble all we want about Minnesota’s quality, due to the heart-stopping nature of their wins, but the point remains. Given the sorry state of the NFC North, this is a Vikings team that’s practically a lock to win their division and will be fighting for high seeding in the postseason. It might only count as one win in the standings, but it feels important for the Cowboys to flash this type of potential against these types of teams — the ones that will be in their way in January.

For one terrifying afternoon, at the very least, they did exactly that.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.

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