In need of a bounceback effort in week 11, the Dallas Cowboys needed a win to get back on track in the race for the NFC East. Having lost to the Minnesota Vikings at home in week 10, the Cowboys found themselves with very little margin for error moving forward. Facing a Detroit Lions team that was 3-5-1 coming into the game and without their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, the Cowboys’ defense was provided with a prime opportunity to rebound and make a statement.
Instead, the defense continued to struggle throughout as they allowed the Detroit Lions, led by Jeff Driskel, to score 27 points and they had a chance to tie the game at the end. Despite playing pretty average football for 55 minutes of game time, the Cowboys defense came up big when the team absolutely needed it at the end, forcing the Detroit Lions to punt and the Dallas Cowboys never gave the ball back.
Even on the final drive, the Cowboys were giving up chunk plays both through the air and on the ground.
Starting the drive at their own 14 yard-line, the Detroit Lions picked up five yards on a first down run by Ty Johnson. On 2nd and 5, Driskel hit Wide Receiver Kenny Golladay for a 34-yard reception that also resulted in a 15-yard facemask penalty on Darian Thompson that put the ball on the 1st and 10 at the Dallas Cowboys 32 yard-line with 3:01 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The big reception and the facemask penalty would be the last positive yards the Lions would gain in the game as the Dallas Cowboys’ defense came up huge at the end of the game.
A penalty for an illegal man downfield on the ensuing first down play would set the Lions back five yards and put the Lions in a 1st and 15 situation. On 1st and 15, Driskel tries to hit Kenny Golladay matched up with Chidobe Awuzie, who’s tight coverage forced the incomplete pass.
On second down, Maliek Collins beats the guard quickly to the inside and gets pressure on Driskel and makes the initial contact on the Lions’ quarterback and Michael Bennett came in to finish off the sack for an 11-yard loss. After the Bennett sack, the Lions faced a 3rd and 26.
On the play, the Lions attempted to set up a screen play, but DeMarcus Lawrence got just enough pressure on Driskel and was able to disrupt his throwing motion causing the football to fall short and force the Detroit Lions to punt.
The Cowboys offense, with a creative 2nd and 10 play, wouldn’t give the ball back after the Lions punt and they were able to kneel on the football and close out the game.
It was a huge stop for the defense that hadn’t had much success for the last couple of weeks and needed to step up to carry their share of the load. After the last two weeks, any kind of positive impact from the defense is huge as they get ready for arguably their toughest challenge of the season in week 12 against the New England Patriots.
The Cowboys defense still has a lot to work on moving forward, but that final series of plays was a big step in the right direction. For the Cowboys to achieve their ultimate goal in 2019, the defense has to do their part.