Many counted the Dallas Cowboys out before the game Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite having a backup quarterback running the show, the ‘Boys were able to upset the Bengals at Jerry’s World 20-17 thanks to many contributing plays throughout the contest.
Dallas needed a total team effort to help them win against the defending AFC champions. Many key offensive players were out for Dallas with Dak Prescott, Michael Gallup, and Tyron Smith being the highlights of the missing players. While Micah Parsons stole the show with his stellar two-sack game, it was backup/role players like Cooper Rush and Noah Brown who made some of the biggest plays of the game.
Five Key Plays for Dallas Cowboys
Play One: Rush Converts Fourth-Down Pass on First Drive
Talk about a gutsy call by Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy early in the game. More known for being conservative, McCarthy turned to Rush early to pick up two yards on fourth down at their 44-yard line. Rush had one yard passing on two attempts before this pass, so he was essentially still going cold turkey on the field. Rush took the snap in shotgun formation where the pressure came, but he hung tough and threw a bullet pass down the middle to Brown for a 17-yard completion.
This play was big for multiple reasons. Rush’s completion to Brown showed that McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore had the confidence in him to convert instead of running the ball with Ezekiel Elliott. Confidence was built within Rush as well as it has been nearly a year since he stepped onto the field of a regular season game. This would be the play to help set up Rush connecting with Brown for the first touchdown of the game giving the Dallas Cowboys the 7-0 lead.
.@rush_cooper right on 🎯 to @Nb_Eight5 for a TD! 📺: @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/JOQqjqiYdm — Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) September 18, 2022
Play Two: Tony Pollard Runs for 46 on Completion From Rush
It wouldn’t take long for the Dallas Cowboys to get their second score of the game. After allowing a field goal on Cincinnati’s first drive, Dallas creates two big pass plays to help them increase the lead. Rush connected with Brown for a 28-yard pass to the Bengals’ 47-yard line. Two plays later, it was Tony Pollard producing the longest play of the game for the Dallas Cowboys where he caught a quick pitch-catch from Rush and ran to the sidelines for 46 yards. Initially, a 47-yard touchdown was overturned with Pollard being down at the one-yard line.
This play led to another touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys as Pollard got the carry for a short one-yard score to increase the lead to 14-3. At this point, the momentum was with the Cowboys with Rush feeling more comfortable in the game and the offense producing way more plays than their week one loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It also gave a warning to the Cincinnati defense that they had two backs to worry about for the rest of the game.
Play Three: Leighton Vander Esch Sacks Joe Burrow to Kill the Drive
Moving forward to the third quarter, the Cowboys’ offense now has slowed down and the Bengals are picking up steam offensively. They open the third quarter with a field goal as they trailed the Cowboys 17-6. Cincinnati’s next drive would have Jow Burrow driving the Bengals down the field. On a third and four at the Cowboys’ 24-yard line, it wasn’t Parsons making the play. It was Leighton Vander Esch getting to Burrow and sacking him for a loss of four.
Vander Esch’s sack forced the Bengals to kick a field goal to still be trailing 17-9. That play killed the drive and would be what was needed to prevent Cincinnati from taking full control of the game. Dallas’ defense needed that play to get back some momentum proving they have held down one of the league’s best young offenses.
Play Four: Trevon Diggs’ Third Down Tackle Shuts Down Final Bengals Drive
In a 17-17 tie game late in the fourth quarter, Cowboys fans held their breath as it felt a lot like Burrow was about to have a signature moment leading the Bengals down the field. Trevon Diggs was going to have something to say about that. On a third and three at the Bengals’ 15-yard line, Burrow would connect with Tyler Boyd, but would only go one-yard thanks to Diggs wrapping him up quickly and forcing a three and out.
Trevon Diggs HUGE third down passing stop!!! #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/YJYEegRlWh — Pro Football Culture (@proftblculture) September 18, 2022
It would be the last time the Bengals touched the football offensively as it seemed like things were going their way. Diggs didn’t have the most impactful game up to that point but made the most important play of the game to give the offense the ball back. Plays like the one Diggs made are why he has a bright future as one of the top corners in the NFL.
Play Five: Rush’s Final Pass to Lamb on Final Drive
Rush struggled for most of the second half to establish much of anything, but the final drive of the game was a thing of beauty. He completed one pass to CeeDee Lamb and one to Brown to move them into Cincinnati territory. The final completion was no exception as Rush conducted the no-huddle offense and successfully hit Lamb on a ten-yard completion to the Bengals’ 35-yard line.
Lamb’s completion set up Brett Maher for a 50-yard field goal to win the game. More than that though, it proved that while it wasn’t a perfect 2022 debut, Rush proved he has ice in his veins. It’s the second game-winning drive he has led, after leading the Dallas Cowboys to a late win over the Minnesota Vikings last year in his only start. Cowboy fans learned that hope is not lost as they have a quarterback who is more than capable of winning games.