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5 plays that shaped the Cowboys’ dismantling of the Colts

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys
Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Remember when this game was close?

How’s that for a convincing win? The Cowboys clicked on all cylinders with the whole country watching on Sunday Night Football, and before long they had notched a 54-19 victory. The blowout win clinched a winning record for Dallas and moved them one step closer towards a playoff berth.

Believe it or not, though, this game was close at one point. The Cowboys led by just two points at the start of the fourth quarter before outscoring the Colts 33-0 to finish things out. So how does an avalanche like this happen? These five plays were a big part of the reason why.

Dak Prescott’s interception helps keep Colts in the game

Let’s start with why the game was close to begin with. Once again, the Cowboys got off to an uneven start in this one, letting a wholly inferior team hang with them for too long. At the start of the second quarter, the Cowboys scored a touchdown to go up 14-10 and then forced a punt on the next drive; it looked like they were waking up.

On that ensuing drive, though, they nodded back to sleep. Six plays into the drive, facing third and 10 at the Dallas 35, Dak Prescott went Michael Gallup’s way and got picked off.

The Cowboys fans in attendance thought a pass interference penalty should have been called, and the replay revealed that cornerback Stephon Gilmore also got away with tugging on Gallup’s facemask. Either way, though, the turnover happened and it set the Colts up in field goal position. The defense held them to just three, trimming the Cowboys’ lead to one point, but this mistake was emblematic of the way they let the Colts hang around.

Malik Hooker’s interception before halftime helps Cowboys build on the lead

As halftime approached and the Cowboys still had a one-point lead, this game had all the makings of another letdown, or at least a narrow win that shouldn’t have been close. With about a minute left in the half, the Colts had the ball and were advancing close to midfield.

On second down, Matt Ryan went to throw a simple slant to Alec Pierce, but the ball got deflected up in the air. That’s when Malik Hooker came out of nowhere to make a play against the team who drafted him.

Between the interception and Hooker’s return, the Cowboys offense set up shop just outside of the red zone. They were able to run the clock down to 13 seconds before scoring a touchdown. As a result, Dallas took a 21-13 lead into halftime, all set up by Hooker’s pick. The score didn’t reflect it at the time, but this was the turning point of the game.

CeeDee Lamb’s big gain on third down leads to points

The Colts scored first in the third quarter, and a failed two-point conversion attempt kept them trailing by two. But the Cowboys offense responded with a long, methodical drive that stretched into the fourth quarter.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Dallas had a third and 10 at the Indianapolis 20-yard line. A field goal was possible, but a touchdown was necessary on this drive. Needing to move the chains, Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb on a quick crosser, and then Lamb did the rest of the work with some nifty moves.

Lamb very nearly scored himself on this play, but he picked up 17 yards when the Cowboys needed 10. Prescott threw a touchdown to Gallup on the very next play, and that’s when the avalanche began in earnest. But Lamb’s big catch and run made it all possible.

DaRon Bland’s first interception of the day sets Cowboys up to continue the onslaught

Following Gallup’s touchdown, the Cowboys got another one - this time a fumble recovery by Hooker - to up the lead to 34-19. The Colts got the ball right back and started moving, including an early conversion on fourth and short.

Three plays later, though, on third and six near midfield, Ryan lofted one for his tight end. Rookie DaRon Bland refused to let it slide, though:

Not only was this a great play on the ball, but Bland’s interception had a “blood in the water” kind of feeling for this Cowboys team. Things were getting ugly in a hurry, and Bland compounded that with this play. The Cowboys served up a 40-burger with a touchdown three plays later.

DaRon Bland’s second interception drives the final nail into the coffin

Now leading 40-19 with just under 10 minutes left in the game, the Cowboys were pretty safe. But after that Packers game a few weeks ago, this team knows no lead is ever safe, and they appeared to learn their lesson.

After the Colts had moved down the field and reached the Dallas 30, Ryan threw a quick out to Ashton Dulin, the receiver who had caught a touchdown earlier in the game. But this time, Bland generated a takeaway in every sense of the word.

This isn’t even a bad throw by Ryan. Bland just breaks on the ball and literally takes it away from Dulin. This is a Big Boy Interception through and through, and great to see from the rookie corner. The Colts had shown signs of life on this drive despite looking at a near guaranteed loss, but Bland put them out of their misery with this one.


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