BILLS-COWBOYS QUARTER BY QUARTER ANALYSIS
Theme: Ezekiel Elliott gets going. The Dallas running back produced 46 yards on eight touches in the first quarter.
Key gain: Dallas beat a Bills blitz off right tackle with a screen pass to the right that Elliott took for a 20-yard gain to the Buffalo 29.
Punters perfect: The Bills got two good punts from Corey Bojorquez, a 58-yarder that went out at the Dallas 5 and a 35-yarder out at the 10. Dallas’ lone punt was downed at the Bills’ 2.
Lineup notes: Cowboys starters who were out were nose tackle Antwaun Woods, safety Jeff Heath and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. Woods was replaced by Christian Covington, making just his 13th start in five years. Heath was replaced by little-used Darian Thompson. The loss of Vander Esch wasn’t as great. While veteran Sean Lee doesn’t have the mobility of Vander Esch, Lee was making his 86th start.
Slow starters: Dallas had been outscored 40-69 in first quarter and hadn’t scored a touchdown in the opening quarter the past four games. That skid ended with the nine-play, 75-yard drive to start the game.
Theme: Bills hit Cowboys with big counter-punches.
Big blitz: Matt Milano hurried Dak Prescott into a rushed screen pass for Tony Pollard. Star Lotulelei stepped in front of the pass for the first interception of his seven-year career.
Big strip: Ed Oliver bulled back-up left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo then strip-sacked Prescott for the Bills’ second takeaway of the game.
Big trick play: John Brown’s double-reverse TD pass to Devin Singletary was the first pass of Brown’s six-year career.
Time to worry: After going 5 for 5 on field goals the past two games, it looked like Stephen Hauschka was back in form. Nope. He missed from 50 yards and then missed an extra point.
Zebra report: An interception by Micah Hyde to start the Cowboys’ last drive of the half was wiped out by a hands-to-the-face penalty on Jordan Phillips. The TV replay didn’t show the whole play. Close call but not egregious.
Early gamble: Dallas coach Jason Garrett went for it on a fourth-and-1 situation at own 19 on the first play of the second quarter. Dak Prescott’s QB sneak gained 2 yards, but the Cowboys were forced to punt.
Theme: Josh Allen keeps AT&T Stadium crowd quiet. Allen became the fourth QB since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to have multiple seasons with eight rushing TDs, joining Cam Newton (3), Michael Vick (2) and Steve McNair (2), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Bills Turkey Day tradition: Allen’s 15-yard TD run was the longest by a QB in a Thanksgiving Day game since Jim Kelly ran for a 15-yard score in a Bills 35-21 loss at Detroit in 1994. Kelly only had seven rushing TDs in his career.
Unreliable: Brett Maher missed a 47-yard field-goal try with 7:37 left in the quarter with the Bills up, 16-7. Maher has not been Mr. Automatic. He’s 19 of 28 this season.
Big miss: Dak Prescott had Ezekiel Elliott wide open in the left flat on fourth-and-goal play from the Buffalo 6 but misfired.
Good bounce: Stephen Hauschka’s 41-yard field goal wasn’t pure but got a good carom off the right upright and through the posts.
Second guess: After the 9:40 mark of the third quarter, Elliott didn’t touch the ball. Yes, Dallas was playing catch-up, but Elliott should have gotten a few more carries to keep the Bills’ pass rush honest.
Theme: A huge win for the Bills. The Bills were 17-point underdogs when they beat Minnesota last year. This win was bigger because the Cowboys are better than the Vikings were last year, and the Cowboys were in a desperate situation.
Winning year: The Bills guaranteed their fourth winning season in the last 20 years. The last time the Bills were 9-3 was in 1996. The last time they started out a season 5-1 on the road was 1966. They now have a shot to win six road games for the first time since 1993, when they were 6-2.
Sack attack: The Bills sacked Dak Prescott four times. He had been sacked only 12 times in the first 11 games. Trent Murphy got a sack with 5:48 to go to end a Dallas drive that had reached the Buffalo 22.
Second guess: Dallas owner Jerry Jones didn’t do his team any favors by talking like a tough guy all week and putting more heat on his coaching staff. How many NFL general managers would be that outspoken after a four-point loss at New England? None. The Cowboys coaches and players didn’t need any extra pressure from the major domo.