DAL-MIN grades: O-line leads Cowboys to close victory

Dallas comes up with the win despite struggles from rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.

| 7 months ago
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DAL-MIN grades: O-line leads Cowboys to close victory

Dallas Cowboys 17, Minnesota Vikings 15

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Dallas’ 17-15 win over Minnesota in Week 13:

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback grade: Dak Prescott, 76.5

Prescott suffers from rookie struggles in close win

Prescott didn’t throw the ball downfield in harm’s way, but he coughed up two fumbles in the game, with one leading to three points for the Vikings. For the most part in this one, Prescott struggled to consistently move the offense. We’ve become accustomed to seeing him hitting short throws lead his receivers past the sticks, but on Thursday his 10 targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage netted just 56 total yards.

Top offensive grades:

C Travis Frederick, 83.6

LT Tyron Smith, 83.0

LG Ronald Leary, 82.9

RG Zack Martin, 78.9

WR Dez Bryant, 76.3

The holes were there for Elliott, but he didn’t capitalize 

Ezekiel Elliott is going to be watching the game tape this week knowing that he left some more yards out on the field. Never mind the long run that got called back by a holding penalty — there were multiple reads Elliott missed throughout the game that would have likely still churned him over 100 yards. (He finished with 86 and a touchdown.) The left side of the Cowboys’ offensive line was caving in the backside of outside zone runs play after play, and Elliott was often slow to work back there.

Top defensive grades:

CB Orlando Scandrick, 88.9

DE DeMarcus Lawrence, 85.2

DT Maliek Collins, 85.1

LB Anthony Hitchens, 84.1

CB Anthony Brown, 83.7

Lawrence, Collins lead pass-rush attack

Entering the game, DE DeMarcus Lawrence had just 11 pressures on 202 pass rushes this season. Going up against the struggling Vikings offensive line allowed him to total nine total on the night. Rookie Maliek Collins also had by far his best pass-rushing game of the season, with six pressures of his own, including two sacks. It certainly helped in the secondary as well. Anthony Brown and Orlando Scandrick were the top-graded defenders in coverage, and on a combined 10 targets, they surrendered six receptions for just 32 yards, with no catch going for more than seven yards.

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback grade: Sam Bradford, 69.8

Bradford efficient when given time to throw

Sam Bradford was under pressure for exactly one-third of his 48 dropbacks on Thursday night. When he was kept clean, he completed 25 of 31 aimed throws for a 101.5 passer rating. But when he was pressured, he completed just 50 percent of his 14 passes. Still, he made good throws in both circumstances, and at times wasn’t helped out by his receivers, like his near-perfectly thrown pass in the end zone that went through tight end Kyle Rudolph’s hands.

Top offensive grades:

RT Jeremiah Sirles, 76.5

TE Kyle Rudolph, 74.6

WR Stefon Diggs, 74.2

C Nick Easton, 71.2

WR Adam Thielen, 70.5

Offensive line hinders offensive production

Minnesota has had to piece together an offensive line this season, and it hasn’t gone well. Thursday night was no different. LT T.J. Clemmings may get the brunt of the scrutiny after allowing eight total pressures and committing three penalties, but he was far from the only issue up front. RG Brandon Fusco allowed five pressures of his own for the fourth time this season, including two sacks. LG Alex Boone gave up three pressures, with maybe the biggest one coming on the two-point conversion attempt that left Bradford throwing with a hand in his face. The line did get a little better as the game wore on, but they are going to need a find a way to improve quickly if they want to make the playoffs.

Top defensive grades:

DE Everson Griffen, 84.6

CB Xavier Rhodes, 79.2

LB Eric Kendricks, 78.7

DE Brian Robison, 77.9

DE Danielle Hunter, 75.9

One mistake ruins impressive performance

When you play as aggressively as Harrison Smith does at safety, you’re bound to get burned at some point. It’s unfortunate that it had to happen in a game that was so close where the rest of the secondary played well. Outside of Smith’s 74 yards, the rest of the secondary combined to allow 43 yards on 7-of-10 targets. While he allowed the touchdown to Dez Bryant, Xavier Rhodes was lights-out besides that, allowing only two catches on his five other targets.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Thinkaboutit

    Cowboys aint s##t, how can they beat a healthy team with a good defense? They cant, the blueprint is out and its gna be another seahawks patriots superbowl. Also how tf do you not see the hands to the face call but a ref behind Aaron Rodgers can see a thumb graze his facemask (lions fans know what im talking about). The NFL continues to get more and more fishy every year.

    • rt

      11 previous opponents said EXACTLY the same thing.
      and then they all lost.

    • Pyrex

      Well, they’ve beat every one of them. That facemask call occured after Bradford sailed that ball 10 feet over the end zone. What Bradford wanted was a do-over. The officiating was fair, in my opinion. Scandrick was called on a ridiculous penalty to bring back that 50 yard run by Zeke. Minnesota had every single opportunity to win that game. Dallas averages less than a turnover a game, and Minnesota had three. Several huge plays were called back, everything in the world that could go wrong, did. On top of all of that, they still couldn’t get it done. I believe the Seahawks are a great team, but their defense is not as balanced or talented as the Vikings, and I do not believe their offense can outscore Dallas. The important thing to remember is Dallas has the opportunity to watch the film, just like their opponents do, and fix the problems. Both teams have had rough games in week 13. The Cowboys definitely tried to shoot themselves, but won. The Seahawks were completely obliterated.

      • 81TinaKane

        Yea you most likely need to watch that last play again, Bradford was hit in the face/arm as he was throwing the ball not after, there’s a reason Bradford is 2nd in the NFL at completion %, the non call was pretty bad and caused the high throw, no guarantee the Vikings score but the call needs to be made, Bradford didn’t want a do over just the correct call to be made. Id say MN defenseis a lil better then Baltimore, heck they’ve played one more game and still give up less passing yards then b’more, have more sacks, more ints, more FF, less points per game, only spot that B’more looks to be better is rushing defense

        • Eric

          There is a pretty good slo-mo gif of the play floating around the internet. Its close, but the ball was out of Bradford’s hand before the defender made contact. Bradford was impacted by the pressure, but the actual hit did not change the flight of the pass.

          • 81TinaKane

            Ill agree to disagree ive watched the play enough times to know that a. His was hit as he threw the (wrist to elbow area) b. He could not follow through because of the hit. I agree the facemask part was after he got rid of the ball, but a guy completing over 70% doesnt throw the ball 10 feet over the receiver with out his arm/elbow being hit

        • Travlr

          Should have never been a play N E way.
          Left tackle on the 2 point try was moving well before the snap
          False Start – try from the 12 was correct ref call!

    • Major_Tom

      They missed a facemask on Dak earlier in the game.

    • Aikman9

      Crybaby Drivel… Got bullied in your own house and ain’t got nothing but to whine ’bout the Refs… Not the refs fault the vikes are weak and irrelevant.

      GO BOYS!

      • crosseyedlemon

        The Vikings have hit the skids and the only thing Minnesota fans have to look forward to in the spring is another dreadful performance from the Twins….so I think a little crying should be permitted.

  • Mike J.

    Scandrick almost always catches my eye when the ‘Boys are on telly. Nice, under-rated player.

  • Glenn

    Can you please explain how brown and scandrick grade 83-88 allowing 6 catches on 10 targets yet you describe Xavier Rhodes as “lights out” allowing 2 catches on 5 targets and he gets a grade of 79?