The Dallas Cowboys finally snapped their takeaway drought, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Cowboys didn’t force a takeaway in their four games in November, and missed chances early against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.
Until early in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys punted.
Linebacker Kyle Wilber forced and then recovered a fumble by Vikings returner Adam Thielen with 10:39 left in the game. Officials initially ruled Thielen down but overturned the call after it was challenged by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. It was Garrett’s first successful challenge this year after going 0-for-2 in his first two tries.
That gave the Cowboys the ball at the Vikings 8, and they scored on the next play on a pass from Dak Prescott to Dez Bryant for a 14-9 lead.
“(Vince) Mayle got there first and tried to get him by the knees, and I just tried to get the ball out. That’s what coach emphasizes to us – take away the ball and make a play on special teams that makes a difference,” Wilber said.
It was a desperately needed takeaway for a team that hadn’t had one in a month.
The Cowboys’ defense had chances in the first half but couldn’t capitalize.
Safety Byron Jones dropped a potential interception in the second quarter when the Vikings ran their “wildcat” formation and running back Jerick McKinnon threw a poor pass intended for tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Jones read the play perfectly but couldn’t come away with it.
On the Vikings’ next offensive series, linebacker Anthony Hitchens intercepted a pass by Sam Bradford. But that was wiped away on a penalty by cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
Witten streak ends
Jason Witten’s franchise-record catch streak ended at 130 consecutive games. The tight end caught a pass on third-and-eight in the fourth quarter, but a holding penalty on Ezekiel Elliott negated the play.
Officially, Witten was not targeted in the game.
The last time Witten didn’t catch a pass was Nov. 2, 2008, in a game against the Giants.
Witten had 678 receptions for 7,236 yards and 39 touchdowns during the streak.
Fumble or not?
The Cowboys came into the game with only seven giveaways. But they had two fumbles Thursday, losing one.
Ezekiel Elliott fumbled on the Cowboys’ sixth play from scrimmage on a hit by Linval Joseph. Officials initially ruled a recovery by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. But replay overturned the lost fumble.
Elliott has fumbled four times this season but lost just one, in Week 2 against the Redskins.
Receiver Lucky Whitehead was not so fortunate. On the second play of the second quarter, facing a third-and-one, Whitehead got the ball on an end around.
He picked up six yards but lost the ball on a hit by defensive end Everson Griffen. Linebacker Eric Kendricks recovered for Minnesota.
Escobar’s bad night
The Cowboys have only two tight ends on their roster after Geoff Swaim was lost for the year after being injured in the Philadelphia game. Gavin Escobar played only 29 snaps the first eight games. He had played 47 the past three.
The Cowboys worried about his blocking – and it came back to bite them Thursday.
Escobar was penalized for a chop block on defensive end Brian Robison, negating a 7-yard Ezekiel Elliott run. The spot foul resulted in a 14-yard penalty, and the Cowboys ended up punting.
Escobar was called for a holding penalty on the Cowboys’ next series on an Elliott run, and Dak Prescott fumbled when sacked on the next play.
▪ Cowboys’ opponents are 0-for-6 on 2-point tries this season.
▪ The Cowboys’ 11th consecutive win tied the franchise record for longest winning streak, including combined seasons. The Cowboys have not lost since a 20-19 defeat to the New York Giants in the season opener.