Cowboys vs. Colts score, takeaways: Defense forces four second-half turnovers as Dallas blows out Indy

The Cowboys moved to 9-3 on the season after handling the Colts on Sunday night, 54-19.

Indy gave Dallas a run for its money out of the gate, scoring 10 points on its first two possessions to take an early lead. The Cowboys were able to spark up a couple of touchdown drives to jump ahead, but the Colts did have an opportunity to go into the break with a surprising lead, particularly after Stephon Gilmore picked off Dak Prescott with just under three minutes to play in the second quarter. However, Matt Ryan and Co. were held to just a field goal on that possession and the veteran quarterback threw a pick on the following drive, which led to a five-play touchdown march by Dallas to go up by eight before the break.

In the second half, Indianapolis again was first to get the scoring started thanks to a 15-yard touchdown catch by Alec Pierce, but unable to draw even with Dallas after a two-point attempt to Parris Campbell failed. The Cowboys absorbed that punch and countered with a 75-yard touchdown drive by the offense. At that point, the defense did the rest, forcing four straight turnovers on Indianapolis to put the game away.

Dak Prescott completed 20 of his 30 passes for 170 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Tony Pollard and Michael Gallup both found the end zone twice. On the other side, Matt Ryan was 21 of 37 passing for 233 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

For a more detailed breakdown of how this game unfolded, check out our takeaways below.

Why the Cowboys won

As we continue to look at Dallas as a Super Bowl threat, the main reason is centered around their defense. That was on full display in the fourth quarter where the Cowboys slammed the door completely shut on the Colts possibly pulling off the upset. After allowing a 15-play touchdown drive that traveled 90 yards and brought Indy within two points of tying the score, Dan Quinn’s defense flipped a switch. the offense gave them some cushion as they went on a 75-yard touchdown drive of their own, to extend the lead to nine but they didn’t need it. The fourth quarter was a defensive avalanche that featured four consecutive turnovers, including a scoop and score by Malik Hooker. Even when the defense wasn’t scoring on their own, they were setting up the offense to cash in, which they did after each of the following three turnovers. That resulted in a 33-0 fourth quarter run that allowed Dallas to cruise to its ninth win.

Those 33 points are tied for second-most points any team has scored in the fourth quarter of a game in NFL history.

Naturally, the defense is going to be the main story coming out of this game, but the running game did have its moments as well. As a team, Dallas rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns. That was largely spearheaded by Tony Pollard — who got the start on Sunday night even with a healthy Ezekiel Elliott on the roster — as he totaled 91 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

CeeDee Lamb was also a difference-maker in the passing game. Not only did he find the end zone and lead the team in receiving, but as Dallas continued to put him in motion, he freed up others to make impact plays as well. A great example of that came on Michael Gallup’s first touchdown of the day in the second quarter. Lamb motioned out left, which forced Stephon Gilmore — who was originally covering Gallup — to remain on the outside. Gallup worked the middle of the field and eventually connected with Prescott who was rolling out to the right for the score.

Why the Colts lost

Indianapolis did seem to give the Cowboys its best punch, but it just wasn’t strong enough to make a lasting impact. They initially took advantage of some short fields and built a slim lead early, but the offensive line started to allow the Dallas front to get home late in the first half. After jumping out to a 10-7 lead, Matt Ryan was sacked on back-to-back possessions on third down and forced Indy to put the ball away. Then, they were held to just a field goal, despite defense picking off Prescott and immediately putting the offense inside the red zone. Ryan also tossed a pick with a minute to go before halftime, which was plenty of time for Dallas to go on another touchdown run.

Those four possessions in the first half after their initial touchdown was the time for Indy to plant their flag into the ground and put Dallas on upset alert, but they only managed to produce three points over that stretch. With the talent discrepancy as wide as it is between these two teams, the Colts needed to play perfectly and take advantage of those opportunities when they were there for the picking.

Of course, the second-half collapse that featured four consecutive turnovers will put any team in a coffin. That also continued a rough trend for Indianapolis in the fourth quarter. Coming into Week 13, the Colts had a -19 point differential in the fourth quarter of its last two games. Getting outscored 33-0 over the final quarter won’t exactly help those figures.

Turning point

While the second-half onslaught will garner most of the attention, Dallas started to pull away right before the half. The defense held the Colts to a field goal, despite the offense giving them the football in the red zone following a Dak Prescott interception. On the next defensive possession, Malik Hooker picked off Matt Ryan and sparked a touchdown drive by the offense that put the Cowboys up by eight going into the break. That kept the Colts at arm’s length and were able to maintain the lead even when Indy scored on a 90-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.

Of course, things went off the rails after that. Dallas extended the lead after the offense drove 75 yards down the field to go up by nine and the defense proceeded to record four-straight turnovers to win the game, including a 38-yard scoop-and-score by Hooker.

Play of the game

CeeDee Lamb’s 20-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Dak Prescott was one of the more impressive individual efforts in this game. The Cowboys wideout hauled in a crosser on third-and-9 and looked to be taken down well short of the first-down marker. However, as Rodney McLeod Jr. wrapped him up and Lamb never touched the ground, instead falling on top of the Colts safety. Lamb realized he wasn’t down and made the heads-up play to race to the end zone for the score and give Dallas its first lead of the evening. Lamb finished with a team-high five catches for 71 yards and that score.

What’s next

From here, Dallas will hang around AT&T Stadium and await the Houston Texans for a Week 14 showdown on Sunday. As for the Colts, they’ll be on the bye in Week 14 before going on the road to face the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 15 to begin the final leg of the 2022 regular season.

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