The Dallas Cowboys headed into Monday’s game with the Detroit Lions with their playoff plans complete.
They had already won the NFC East and they had already secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
But the Cowboys (12-2) had no interest in resting their starters against a Lions team needing a win to clinch a playoff spot and thus found themselves in the cross hairs of a 21-21 tie through the first two quarters.
A win would give the Cowboys a club-record tying 13th victory of the season.
But more important, the Cowboys, who started the game without defensive ends Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton because of injuries, saw two more defensive linemen go down in the first half.
Defensive tackle Terrell McClain left with an ankle injury and Ryan Davis left with a knee injury.
The Lions gashed the depleted the defense with scores on their first three drives, led by running back Zack Zenner’s 64 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Zenner also had two catches for 25 yards.
Zenner’s yards on the ground against a defense that came into the game leading the league in run defense helped open things up for quarterback Matt Stafford, who passed for 137 yards and also has a rushing touchdown.
The Cowboys started fast on offense, scoring on their first two drives.
Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott directed perfect opening drive, completing five of six passes to four receivers, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler.
The Cowboys needed just four plays to go 75 yards the next time they had the ball thanks to a 55-yard touchdown run from rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott.
But the Cowboys were forced to punt on their next two drives as they continue to be their own worst enemy with penalties.
The Cowboys had six penalties for 40 yards in the first half.
But when the Cowboys defense finally forced the Lions to punt with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the second quarter, the offense made it count.
Prescott led the Cowboys 51 yards on six plays. The highlight was a 25-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dez Bryant on third-and-7 play.
Bryant made a one-handed catch in the left corner of the end zone to tie the score with 1:04 left.