'Broken record': Dak Prescott picks apart defense, Cowboys blister Lions
Detroit — The Detroit Lions played their part in the illusion, wearing their road white jerseys at home for the first time in 50 years, and a huge contingent of Dallas Cowboys fans did the rest, loudly supporting the visitors in a 35-27 victory at Ford Field on Sunday.
Like the Lions have done many times this season, they got off to a hot start and took advantage of a turnover to grab an early lead. Also similar to the way many of the team's games have gone, the defense didn't have the answers to hold that lead.
"I feel like a broken record at this point, but another game I feel like the offense played well enough for us to win, but we have to figure it out collectively as a defense," linebacker Devon Kennard said.
Dak Prescott completed 29 of 46 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Cowboys.
The Cowboys (6-4) outgained the Lions (3-6-1) in total offensive yards, 509-312, and maintained their lead in the NFC East.
Detroit suffered its third straight loss and sixth in the past seven games.
It wasn't for a lack of a quick start. On the second snap of the game, Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis punched the ball free from the grasp of running back Ezekiel Elliott, quickly falling on the fumble at the Dallas 28-yard line.
It took the Lions' offense, led by backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, five plays to convert the turnover into seven points.
Making a surprising start after he was signed off the practice squad on Saturday, running back Bo Scarbrough had back-to-back runs of 5 yards, finishing in the end zone on the second.
Scarbrough is the fourth different running back to start a game for the Lions since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve last month.
"I thought he ran hard, thought he showed the physical part of the run game," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "That was good for us to see. Certainly, we have to go back and look at all the runs and the decisions and the vision and all the rest of it, but I just thought it definitely gave some life to some of the downhill runs that we had and some of the physicality in the run game that we needed."
After the two teams exchanged punts following short possessions, the Cowboys drove deep into Detroit territory behind three receptions by receiver Michael Gallup totaling 34 yards. But the possession stalled in the red zone, leading to a 30-yard Brett Maher field goal to make it 7-3.
With the Lions unable to respond, the Cowboys took their first lead early in the second quarter when Prescott connected on a short crosser to running back Tony Pollard, who dodged a tackle attempt by safety Tracy Walker before scooting into the end zone.
Walker, making his return to the lineup after missing two games with a knee injury, didn't make it through the first half and exited after aggravating the issue with his knee.
The Lions managed to go back on top thanks to a short field provided by return man Jamal Agnew, who brought a punt back 32 yards in to Cowboys territory. A third-down conversion by J.D. McKissic led to a 23-yard, left-side romp by Scarbrough down to the 2-yard line. Driskell was able to cap the series, keeping it on a zone-read on first-and-goal for the short touchdown.
"It was just blocked up perfectly," Driskel said. "They gave us the look where I pulled it, and (offensive tackle Taylor) Decker did a great job of sealing off the linebacker there, and it was just a huge hole for me. I just walked it in."
Detroit's lead was short-lived as Dallas needed a little more than three minutes to drive 75 yards in seven plays. The big gain came on a 41-yard bomb to Gallup, who made the grab down to the 9-yard line despite pass interference by cornerback Mike Ford.
"I was not even supposed to run that route, I kind of messed myself up, but that’s really why I had to catch the ball because I messed it up," Gallup said. "I just seen him throw it in the air, and he was behind me, so I had to fight through them, and luckily the ball did not go too far."
Two handoffs to Elliott and Cowboys were back in front, 17-14.
The Cowboys extended that advantage before the half. Slot receiver Randall Cobb gained 49 yards across the middle when cornerback Justin Coleman slipped in coverage, and Cobb beat Coleman again two plays later, 18 yards, into the end zone.
Despite the reasonable close score at the half, 24-14, the Cowboys outgained the Lions, 322-100 through two quarters.
At various times during the contest, loud "Let's go Cowboys" emanated from the stands and a deafening, "Defense! Defense!" rang out following a timeout as the Lions offense looked to complete a third-down play late in the first half.
Coming out of the break, Detroit sliced Dallas' lead to three. Big-play receiver Marvin Hall hauled in a 39-yard grab on third-and-14, setting up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Driksel to Marvin Jones.
The Cowboys responded by driving into the red zone, but again were stopped inside the 20, leading to a 34-yard Maher field goal, pushing the lead to 27-21.
Following a stalled drive near midfield and a short punt, the Cowboys engineered an 11-play, 84-yard drive that milked nearly six minutes off the clock.
Prescott completed seven of his nine throws on the series for 72 yards, capping it with a sidearm dumpoff to Elliott in the right flat. The back hauled in the low throw, kept his footing despite stumbling and raced across the goal line from 17 yards out.
"They hadn’t pressured all night and the first time that they did, we had the perfect play call for it, and Zeke made a heck of a catch," Prescott said.
A successful two-point conversion run by Pollard made it 35-21 with just under eight minutes remains.
The Lions had a pair of opportunities to slow or stop the drive. Cornerback Darius Slay had a near interception slip through his fingers, while Davis allowed Prescott to break free of his grasp in the backfield, resulting in a completion as opposed to a sack.
"It was an all-time play," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said about Amari Cooper's reception that went through Slay's hands. "I was standing right there and Slay undercut it. Slay is a really good player, a very good cover corner. He was right there. Dak elevated the ball and Slay went up for it and couldn’t quite get it. I don’t know how the hell Amari caught it, and then got his feet in. Slay kind of looked at them, then looked at me after the play and said, ‘I don’t know.'"
The Lions managed to keep the pressure on by responding with a touchdown of their own. Relying on his feet, Driskel scrambled twice for 29 yards before connecting with Danny Amendola with a cross-body throw on the move for another 21 yards. That set up a pocket completion to Jones across the middle, where the receiver broke two tackles to score his second touchdown of the day, this one from 25 yards out.
Down 35-27, the Lions went for two after Jones' score, but Driskel's pass to McKissic fell incomplete.
The Cowboys countered by driving into Lions' territory before forced to punt, draining just two minutes off the clock in the process.
With nearly four minutes to operate, Driskel and the Lions made things interesting when the quarterback rolled right and connected with Kenny Golladay deep for 34 yards, plus 15 more when the defender grabbed the receiver's face mask. But a penalty, sack and two incompletions forced Detroit to punt the ball back.
"The biggest issue was the quarterback movement," Garrett said. "He was extending plays, getting out of the pocket on design plays, getting out of pocket when we got up the field a little bit, made some good north/south runs, but also extended the plays. When you play a quarterback like that, it’s so critical to somehow, someway, hem him in."
Needing a first down, the Cowboys ran play-action and converted a 23-yard pass to Blake Jarwin to seal the game.
Driskel was 15 of 26 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Scarbrough had 55 yards rushing, and Amendola and Jones had four receptions apiece for 47 and 43 yards, respectively.