The Dallas Cowboys’ defense may not like the ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ title bestowed upon them.
But it’s fitting and they lived up to it once again on Thursday night. The defense bent, but didn’t break, in the Cowboys’ 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I thought the defense did a fantastic job all night long of really keeping the score down,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Even though they moved the ball at different times, we played really good situational defense.”
The Cowboys’ defense gave up a late touchdown drive to the Vikings, who had a chance to tie the game if they converted a 2-point conversion.
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The Vikings went the distance, scoring a pass from Sam Bradford to Jerick McKinnon. But the 2-point conversion was pushed back to the 7 because of a false start penalty, and Bradford airmailed tight end Kyle Rudolph as the Cowboys held on for the win.
In the end, it was a trademark effort by the Cowboys’ defense. Opponents are now 0-for-6 on 2-point conversions.
The 318 yards the Cowboys allowed — 65 of it coming on the Vikings’ final drive — was the fewest they have allowed in four games.
While the Cowboys still didn’t have a takeaway on defense, the pass rush improved and they made key stands throughout the night — particularly after the offense coughed up the ball.
Early in the second quarter, Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead fumbled and the Vikings took over at their own 34. But the Cowboys’ defense gave up only one first down on that drive and forced the Vikings to punt.
“We had to hold it down on the defensive side and our offense got rolling later in the game,” end Tyrone
Crawford said. “We did it all as a team.”
Late in the third quarter, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was stripped of the ball and the Vikings took over on the Cowboys’ 19. But the defense made another impressive stand and forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal.
In fact, the Vikings managed only three field goals on the night until the late TD drive.
The Cowboys’ pass rush also showed some life after they went without a sack in last week’s game against the Redskins. The Cowboys had two sacks on the night, one by defensive tackle Maliek Collins and the other by linebacker Anthony Hitchens.
More important, the Cowboys were able to get pressure on Bradford. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had several pressures, as Pro Football Focus credited him with five in the first half alone.
The only thing missing for the Cowboys’ defense were takeaways once again. They did force a turnover on special teams, but whiffed on two chances in the first half.
Safety Byron Jones had an interception fall through his hands, and Hitchens saw an interception taken away because of a hands to the face penalty on cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
Still, it was a solid night for a defense that has many wondering if they will be the downfall of the Cowboys.
The Vikings had only 126 total yards of offense in the first half, including only 25 rushing.