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2023 NFL season, Week 17: What We Learned from Lions-Cowboys on Saturday night

Dallas Cowboys
2023 · 11-5-0
Detroit Lions
2023 · 11-5-0


  1. Lions' courage knows no bounds. After marching 75 yards within the final two minutes to get back in a game that was seemingly lost just minutes prior, Lions head coach Dan Campbell didn’t even hesitate to go for the win. Detroit would’ve been celebrating an improbable triumph thanks to the guts of its head coach had Taylor Decker’s would-be two-point grab not been negated by him failing to report as eligible, per the post-game pool report. But Campbell didn’t even ponder settling for overtime from the 7-yard line, trotting his offense back out there only to be faced with the same decision again after an offsides penalty on the next play. The Lions' third attempt for the win -- this time from the 3 -- fell incomplete, concluding a wild and crazy sequence that had everyone in Dallas on the edge of their seats had they not already left them minutes earlier. It didn’t work out for Campbell this time, but those are the consequences of a coach fearless enough to neglect conventional wisdom. It’s a characteristic we’ve seen all season from Campbell’s Lions, beginning with Week 1’s triumph over the defending Super Bowl champions and throughout a 2023 season that has seen several chances taken and no effs given. Keep this in mind when the NFC North champions look to win Detroit’s first playoff game in 30-plus years in the coming weeks -- there's no telling what this team will do for Campbell going forward, especially after a controversial defeat.
  2. Dallas nearly blew its perfect home record. How did the Lions nearly pull off an improbable win, you ask? Look no further than the Cowboys’ final possession after Donovan Wilson’s interception with 2:11 left to play. Needing to convert just one first down to seal the victory, a tripping penalty pitted the Cowboys with a first-and-25 coming out of the two-minute warning. An 11-yard completion forced Detroit to use its second timeout, but the passes kept coming for some reason. An incomplete deep shot on the next play was a head-scratcher that perhaps could’ve been argued as a go-for-the-win decision, but the wayward pass wasn’t nearly close and it saved the Lions a much-needed timeout and precious seconds on the clock. They used that last TO after the Cowboys’ final completion on third-and-long, setting up Brandon Aubrey’s 43-yarder to make it a 7-point lead. Those points ended up being the difference as the Cowboys defense proceeded to get shredded on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with some time to spare. Despite the win, it wasn’t a good look for Mike McCarthy’s squad and it will be the type of fine-tuning needed in the postseason. 
  3. Prescott-Lamb connection produces historic franchise numbers. With 13 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown on Saturday night, CeeDee Lamb became the franchise’s new single-season record holder in both receptions (122) and receiving yards (1,651), breaking both of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s marks. Lamb’s night was highlighted by an incredible 92-yard TD that came on a heads-up play by both the receiver and Dak Prescott. Evading an oncoming blitz by the Lions, Prescott broke free of a would-be safety and rolled out to the right, heaving it 50 yards off one leg toward Lamb, who left his defender in the dust on the broken play. Lamb was sensational on a night where the Cowboys’ run game was stuffed, accounting for more than half of Dallas' total offense (384 yards). Saturday night's performance was a continuation of Lamb's career-best campaign, and his connection with Prescott will be something opposing teams will need to key in on.
  4. Detroit will only go as far as its O-line will take them. The Lions entered halftime with just three points thanks to an offense that was saddled by a listless rushing attack and flustered by Cowboys disruptors on passing downs. However, Detroit got back in the game by staying true to its strength, opening the third quarter with a 13-play, 74-yard TD drive that featured 11 runs. The Lions found points on their next drive, too, this time on the heels of a spectacular 63-yard bomb from Jared Goff to Jameson WIlliams. While Detroit was forced to settle for a FG on that drive (perhaps needing to after failing to convert on fourth down in its first red-zone attempt), the second-half output was a testament to the wake-up call the Lions offensive line seemingly received at the half. In the end, the O-line produced 125 rushing yards and allowed just one sack of Goff, and should this all-star caliber unit see dominance in the playoffs, there’s no telling how far the Lions can go. 
  5. Cowboys’ rushing attack continues to stall. The Prescott-Lamb connection saved an offense that couldn’t string together runs that would’ve not only taken the pressure off the passing attack but perhaps prevented any such comeback attempt by Detroit. Tony Pollard mustered 49 yards off 18 carries (long of 18 yards) and a few of his sputtering attempts ended with boos cascading down AT&T Stadium. It’s beginning to be an alarming trend with the playoffs approaching, especially in a game in which the Cowboys’ O-line was fully healthy with Tyron Smith suiting up for this one. Guard Tyler Smith exited Saturday night’s game without returning and his would-be absence wouldn’t bode well for an offense that’s produced just one 100-plus yard rusher in a game this season, which was all the way back in Week 3.

NFL Research: CeeDee Lamb’s 92-yard TD reception is the longest offensive play by any team so far in the 2023 season (entering Sunday, Week 17).

Next Gen stat of the day: Jameson Williams reached a top speed of 21.48 mph on his 63-yard reception, his fastest as a ball-carrier of his career, and the fastest by a Lions ball-carrier since Andre Roberts in Week 4, 2016 (21.58 mph).

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