Thursday’s roundup: Cowboys hold on against Vikings
Minneapolis — Dez Bryant sashayed through the Dallas locker room with an unmistakable swagger and had nothing but good things to say about his adversary this time around.
It was a stark change from a week ago, when he sparred with Washington cornerback Josh Norman on Thanksgiving. The trash talking Dez and the polite Dez share one thing in common: they both win.
Bryant caught four passes for 84 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping the Cowboys win their 11th straight game with a 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.
In a hard-fought battle with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Bryant’s 56-yard catch set up Ezekiel Elliott’s 1-yard TD in the first half. Bryant caught an 8-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter after a fumbled punt by Minnesota’s Adam Thielen.
“I knew coming into this game it was going to be a tough match and I had to be on my ‘A’ game,” Bryant said. “Because if I wasn’t, he can get the best of you. We had a good battle. We shared our thoughts throughout the game. It was good thoughts. It’s nice playing games like that.”
Elliott rushed for 86 yards on 20 carries for the Cowboys (11-1). They have the longest single-season winning streak in franchise history.
Sam Bradford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jerick McKinnon with 25 seconds to play, but the 2-point conversion pass failed. Bradford argued for a penalty after he was hit in the face by a defender, but there was no call for the Vikings (6-6). Minnesota played without coach Mike Zimmer after he had emergency eye surgery Wednesday night.
“I’m sick and tired of the reffing in this league right now,” Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. “I’m sick and tired of it. You’ve got holding calls all over the place that people don’t want to call. Bradford gets hit in the face at the end of the game and you don’t call it. I’m not laying this loss on reffing, but at some point it’s got to get better.”
Bradford completed 32 of 45 passes for 247 yards, Danielle Hunter had two sacks and Kai Forbath kicked three field goals for Minnesota, which has lost six of the last seven games after a 5-0 start.
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was elevated to head coach for the game and it remains unclear how long Zimmer will be out. Minnesota’s third-ranked defense did their fiery leader proud, holding the explosive Cowboys offense to season lows in points, yards (264) and first downs (13).
“It’s not the best game we played, but we showed up when we needed to and made the plays at the end,” Elliott said.
Surgery for Zimmer
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer underwent emergency eye surgery late Wednesday night to repair a detached retina and did not coach Thursday’s game against the Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer coached Minnesota during his absence.
“The most important thing is the concern for Coach Zimmer and his health,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said during a conference call, adding “it’s not worth the risk” for Zimmer to rush back.
Zimmer’s latest surgery was the third on his right eye in the past month. According to a team source, the third-year coach had been scheduled to undergo the third surgery today but was unable to wait any longer after his vision became worse Wednesday afternoon after the team’s final walk-through of the week.
Spielman would not say whether there is potential for Zimmer to miss multiple games. The team was to reassess the situation this morning.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will have season-ending surgery Saturday to repair the labrum in his right shoulder.
Matt Barkley figures to start his second straight game when Chicago (2-9) hosts San Francisco (1-10) on Sunday.
Cutler, who also missed five games because of a sprained right thumb and may have thrown his last pass for the Bears, injured his shoulder during a loss to the Giants on Nov. 20 but finished the game.
... Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is having surgery for a herniated disk in his back, a person with knowledge of the details said, and likely will miss eight weeks or more.
The injury is believed to have occurred during a loss to the Seahawks on Nov. 13, in which Gronkowski said he received “probably one of the hardest I’ve got hit in my career” from safety Earl Thomas.
... Former Jets and Chiefs running back Joe McKnight (USC) was shot to death in an apparent road rage incident in New Orleans on Thursday, sheriff Newell Normand said. McKnight was 28.
... Jets center Nick Mangold fully practiced for the first time since spraining his right ankle on Oct. 23, putting him on track to play Monday night against the Colts.
... CBS officials say NFL games are coming to its CBS All Access subscription service, starting Sunday. Games aired on CBS will be available for streaming on tablets, to TVs and on cbs.com, if customers live in one of the 150 markets where the CBS All Access app comes with a live CBS feed.