Dallas Puts Beatdown on Lions, Forces NFC North Championship Next Week


Written by Chris Wesseling at NFL.com

A trio of Cowboys stars accounted for a season-high six touchdowns to lead Dallas (13-2) to a 42-21 victory over the Detroit Lions (9-6), wrapping up the 2016 finale of “Monday Night Football.” Here’s what we learned:

1. The Lions (9-6) entered the night embracing the possibility of ascending to the NFC’s No. 2 seed with a pair of wins and a Falcons loss to close out the season. The flip side of that scenario, however, is a chance to fall out of the playoffs entirely with a pair of losses and a Week 17 victory for theRedskins over a Giants squad already locked into the No. 5 seed. Detroit must hold off the white-hot Green Bay Packers next Sunday night to enter the postseason by virtue of the NFC North title.

The Cowboys’ victory keeps the Buccaneers’ hopes on life support; Tampa Bay is praying for an unlikely Washington tie to slide into the final wild-card spot. Already in control of home-field advantage for the conference’s road to the Super Bowl, Dallas has a chance for the best record in franchise history (14-2) with a victory at Philadelphia in the season finale.

2. Instead of resting key starters, theCowboys enjoyed their most efficient offensive performance of the season, highlighted by a long-awaited synchronicity between rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant. Showing pinpoint accuracy while keeping plays alive with his feet, Prescott finished with three touchdowns, 11.2 yards per attempt and a near-perfect 152.7 passer rating — perhaps his finest performance in a brilliant NFL debut season.

3. With a spectacular juggling one-handed catch over Johnson Bademosi just before halftime, Bryant moved past Hall of Famer Michael Irvin for second-most receiving touchdowns (67) in franchise history. He needs five more to pass another Hall of Famer in former Olympic gold medalist “Bullet Bob” Hayes for the top spot. On the first pass of Bryant’s NFL career — one quarter later — he pulled up before the line of scrimmage on an end-around and tossed a touchdown to Jason Witten. He capped off Dallas’ scoring bonanza with a beautiful back-shoulder score in the final stanza. Bryant joined former Patriots wideout David Patten as the only players of the Super Bowl era with a pair of receiving scores and a passing touchdown in the same game.

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