It took longer than expected.
But when the Dallas Cowboys finally got started with the beat down of the Indianapolis Colts, it was historically relentless and thorough.
The Cowboys set a franchise-record with 33 points in the fourth quarter in a 54-19 victory AT&T Stadium. It was most points scored in any quarter in franchise history.
The 54 points were the fifth most scored by the streaking Cowboys in a game. It was their third straight win and fifth victory on the last six games to move to 9-3 as they continue to try to keep pace with the 11-1 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East and race for the best record in the conference.
The Cowboys led 21-19 in the third quarter before the eruption began with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup. It was followed by a 38-yard fumble return for a touchdown from safety Malik Hooker. A 30-yard touchdown run from Tony Pollard was next. A 4-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott and a 23-yard run by Malik Davis closed the scoring.
The Cowboys recorded five turnovers in the game, including four in the fourth quarter to spark the final uprising.
5 Things from the Cowboys’ 54-19 win vs. the Colts
Ezekiel Elliott was not in the starting lineup for the first time his career
Tony Pollard, the team’s leading rusher on the season and top big play threat, got the start against the Colts at running back for the first team with a healthy Ezekiel Elliott active and ready to go.
It was marked the first time Elliott’s career dating back to his rookie season that he didn’t start a game when healthy. Going into Sunday, Elliott has 97 games played and 97 starts.
But against the Colts, it was Pollard on the field for the first two series and Elliott didn’t come into the game until the 8:41 of the first quarter.
And he made an immediate impact, rushing for 10 yards on his first play.
He and Pollard continued to alternate for much of the game.
Elliott finished with 77 yards on 12 carries and a crowd-pleasing four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that was capped by him jumping into the Salvation Army red kettle in the back of the end zone and popping up after quarterback Dak Prescott pretended to wind him up with his arms.
Pollard finished with 91 yards on 12 carries and touchdowns of 30 and 2 yards.
Anthony Brown continues to give up big plays but continues to compete
Opponents are increasingly choosing to go after cornerback Anthony Brown or rather anyone not named Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs in the Cowboys secondary.
Brown gave a 58-yard touchdown pass to Christian Watson against the Green Bay Packers and a 44-yard completion to Darius Slayton against the New York Giants.
And against the Colts, he allowed a 44-yard pass to Alec Pierce that was followed 14-yard touchdown pass to Alec Dulin on Diggs, who bit hard for the pump fake.
Brown giving up the big play is a problem the Cowboys need to solve but what’s also true is that Brown continues to compete and never lets a bad play multiply on him.
It was Brown who helped change Sunday’s game against Colts with tight coverage on Michael Pittman that led to a tipped interception by safety Malik Hooker, who returned it 26 yards to the 26 with :55 left in the second quarter.
Up 14-13, the Cowboys turned into a 13-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup and a 21-13 halftime lead.
Brown also had a pass deflection in third quarter.
The much-maligned Brown’s absence was felt later in the quarter when he departed the game with an ankle injury and backup Kelvin Joseph gave up a 15-yard touchdown pass to Pierce.
Malik Hooker has big day against his former team
Sunday’s game was personal for Cowboys safety Malik Hooker, a former first-round pick of the Colts.
He spent seasons in Indianapolis before being let go in free agency after the 2020 season after suffering a torn Achilles.
He joined the Cowboys in 2021 on a one-year deal, then had a strong finish to his season to earn a 2022 contract.
Hooker came the game as the team’s fourth-leading tackler and left it as it’s biggest defensive player.
Hooker had an interception into the second quarter, returning it 26 yards to set a touchdown before half, giving the Cowboys a 21-13 lead.
Hooker all but ended the game in the fourth quarter with a 38-yard fumble return for a touchdown to make it 34-19.
Rookie linebacker Damone Clark forced fumble on tight end Moe Alie-Cox.
The Cowboys forced five turnovers in the game, including three Matt Ryan interceptions.
Rookie cornerback Deron Bland got the second and third interceptions on consecutive possessions following the Hooker touchdown.
Ryan now has a league-high 17 turnovers this season.
The Colts had two fumbles in the game.
CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup show out for prospective receiver Odell Beckham
The Cowboys want receiver Odell Beckham to join their offense and upgrade the receiver corps for a possible Super Bowl run.
No. 1 receiver CeeDee Lamb and and No. 2 Michael Gallup held personal welcoming party for Beckham with some highlight plays.
Lamb had five catches for 71 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown on a play when he spun out of tackle, landing on top of the defender and then raced untouched into the end zone.
Lamb showed off his running ability with two carries for 23 yards on end arounds.
Gallup had four catches for 23 yards and two touchdowns. His 13-yarder before the half put the Cowboys in the lead for good. He had a 3-yarder from a scrambling Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter to make the score 28-19.
Mike McCarthy couldn’t lose to Jeff Saturday
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy would never say itbut he wanted Sunday’s game against the Colts very badly because of interim coach Jeff Saturday’s presence on the opposite sideline.
No veteran coach respects the process in how Saturday was given the job by owner Jim Irsay to replace the fired Frank Reich.
Saturday, a former Colts player and long-time friend of Irsay, was working an ESPN NFL analyst when was asked to take the job with no prior NFL coaching experience.
It was a move that’s considered a slap in the face to all coaches who worked to move up in the profession.
After winning the first game against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Colts have now lost three straight games with Saturday at the helm.