December 23, 2018 / 9:37 PM / 6 months ago

Cowboys dispatch Bucs to clinch NFC East title

EditorsNote: resent with tweaking of Crawford information, other details

A Sunday that started on a somber note for the Dallas Cowboys ended with an NFC East title.

Despite losing defensive end Tyrone Crawford to a neck injury on the game’s second play, Dallas got its first defensive touchdown of the year and a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20 in Arlington, Texas.

Crawford was stretchered off the field less than a minute into the game on what looked like an ordinary play. The good news was that Crawford appeared to be moving an arm and both legs while being treated on the field. He was taken to a local hospital with a neck sprain and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said later that, “Everything checks out, really good.”

Without Crawford, the Cowboys (9-6) were able to close out the division crown and earn a home game in the NFC playoffs despite being outgained 383-232. Dallas played turnover-free, unlike Tampa Bay (5-10).

The Buccaneers entered the game as the league leader in turnovers, and committed two more.

The first one was damaging. Quarterback Jameis Winston tried to scramble for a first down but coughed up the ball on a blindside strip-sack by Randy Gregory, and Jaylon Smith returned the fumble 69 yards for a 14-3 lead late in the first quarter.

Tampa Bay closed that deficit down to 17-13 at the half when Jacquizz Rodgers scored on a 2-yard run with 20 seconds left in the second quarter. After that, the Cowboys’ defense kept the Bucs off the board until Winston’s 7-yard scoring strike to Mike Evans with 2:05 remaining in the game, cutting a 14-point deficit in half.

Winston completed 34 of 48 passes for 336 yards in an odd game that also saw him get flagged for a block in the back. Evans caught six balls for 90 yards.

Prescott went 20 of 25 for 161 yards and a 4-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gallup with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter. It came two plays following a Winston fumble that Gregory recovered and returned to the 4. Prescott also ran for a 7-yard score in the first quarter.

Ezekiel Elliott rushed 18 times for 85 yards for Dallas.

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