The Dallas Cowboys found a way to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 24-17 without their starting quarterback, left tackle, left guard, wide receiver, and cornerback Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
Along with Dak Prescott going 23/32 for 245 yards and two touchdowns and his fourth straight game without an interception, perhaps the most impressive replacement performance came from cornerback Morris Claiborne, who had a big fourth quarter with an interception, tackle for loss, and pass breakup on fourth down of San Francisco's final drive. His leadership and playmaking replaced that void left by Orlando Scandrick, who missed the game with a double-hamstring injury for the second straight time this season.
Left guard Ron Leary and left tackle Chaz Green did an outstanding job filling in for La'el Collins and Tyron Smith. The offensive line only allowed two sacks of Prescott and paved the way for 194 yards on the ground and 11 first downs by the ground game. The offensive line committed only one penalty the entire game, a holding call against right tackle Doug Free with 6:52 to go in the second quarter.
The receiving corps wasn't as outstanding in the other parts of the team playing without starters. With Dez Bryant sidelined with a hairline fracture to his tibia plateau below his knee, Brice Butler stepped in for Bryant at the X position. While he did catch five passes for 41 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown, Butler committed a taunting penalty with 12:14 to go in the fourth quarter and Dallas deep in their own territory though battling to maintain a 21-17 lead. The infraction backed up the Cowboys and created a second-and-16 from their own 16-yard line they couldn't erase.
On the next drive, after Claiborne's interception of Blaine Gabbert, Dallas faced a third-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Prescott threw a fade route to Butler in the right corner of the end zone the fourth-year receiver couldn't corral and forced Dallas to send Dan Bailey out for a 22-yard field goal with 4:11 to play and the 49ers having all three timeouts.
Bailey also had a pedestrian outing, at least such when compared to his lofty career. The Pro Bowler missed a 47-yard field goal on the Cowboys' opening drive, the first time all season they failed to score on their first possession of the game. Reports before the game indicated the six-year pro had back tightness that could have affected his kicks and leaving him with a 1/2 mark on field goals for the afternoon.
Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott had his second straight 100-yard game of his career with 138 carries on 23 attempts along with a 1-yard touchdown. He also caught a screen pass for 19 yards. His cohorts in the backfield, Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar, had seven carries for 34 yards and one carry for two yards.
Linebacker Sean Lee led the Dallas defense with 10 tackles on the afternoon, while safety Barry Church had eight tackles. Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford also recorded his second sack of the season while the defense held Blaine Gabbert to 16/23 for 196 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The Niners ground game was also only able to gain 106 yards with running back Carlos Hyde leading the way with 15 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Tight end Jason Witten caught the most Dallas passes with seven for 47 yards, while receiver Cole Beasley had three catches for 66 yards. Receiver Terrance Williams was also able to catch four passes for 44 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown to help Dallas establish its first points of the afternoon.
6:49 1st Quarter - Jeremy Kerley catches a 33-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert. 7-0 49ers
14:02 2nd Quarter - Carlos Hyde rushes for a 3-yard touchdown. 14-0 49ers
2:56 2nd Quarter - Terrance Williams catches a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott 14-7 49ers
0:12 2nd Quarter - Brice Butler catches a 4-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott. 14-14 tie
12:23 3rd Quarter - Phil Dawson kicks a 36-yard field goal. 17-14 49ers
1:11 3rd Quarter - Ezekiel Elliott rushes for a 1-yard touchdown. 21-17 Cowboys
4:11 4th Quarter - Dan Bailey hits a 22-yard field goal. 24-17 Cowboys
* Mo Claiborne picked off his first pass since Sept. 21, 2014.
* This is the second straight game Dan Bailey has missed a field goal, and such a streak has only happened three other times in his career.
* The last time a Cowboys running back posted a 100-yard, 1-TD game was Oct. 25, 2015 when Darren McFadden carried the ball 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown in a 27-20 loss at New York.
* Ezekiel Elliott becomes the first Cowboys rookie since DeMarco Murray to rush for 100 yards in two straight games. Murray did it from Nov. 6-13, 2011.
* Jason Garrett is now tied with Barry Switzer for the second-most 3-1 starts in franchise history with two.
* This is the first time Garrett has won on the road without Romo and Bryant since Jan. 2, 2011.
* Dak Prescott is now the first Cowboys backup to win three consecutive games since Steve Beuerlein in 1991.