Bryant, Cowboys keep Lions’ playoff hopes on hold, 42-21

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ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 26: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a touchdown pass to Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys against DeAndre Levy #54 of the Detroit Lions in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 26, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dez Bryant threw his first career touchdown pass between a pair of scoring catches, Ezekiel Elliott ran for two TDs and the Dallas Cowboys kept Detroit from clinching a playoff spot with a 42-21 win over the Lions on Monday night.

With home-field advantage already wrapped up, the Cowboys (13-2) didn’t let up in their seventh straight home win while matching their franchise record in victories, reached two other times.

The biggest sign they were serious about this one came late in the third quarter, when Bryant took a reverse pitch from Dak Prescott and tucked the ball as if planning to run before pulling up and tossing a lefty lob to Jason Witten for an easy 10-yard score and a 35-21 lead.

Witten, the normally stoic 14th-year tight end, flashed Bryant’s celebratory “X” when the often-exuberant receiver made the signal in his direction after the touchdown.

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford lost in a visit to his hometown team again, after a wild-card defeat two years ago.

While the Lions (9-6) missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth with their second straight loss following five consecutive wins, they still control their postseason fate. Detroit plays Green Bay (9-6) for the NFC North title in the finale Sunday.

Elliott, the NFL rushing leader, had a 55-yard touchdown run in the first half and finished with 80 yards on 12 carries. He has 15 touchdowns rushing, two behind league-leading LeGarrette Blount of New England.

The first-year sensation known as “Zeke,” who is 177 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s 33-year-old rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards, was almost upstaged by Detroit’s “double-Z” — Zach Zenner.

The little-known undrafted back in his second year out of South Dakota State, filling in with Theo Riddick sidelined for a third straight game with a wrist injury, had a career-high 64 yards and two touchdowns at halftime. But Zenner faded in the second half, finishing with 67 yards.

Stafford had a 1-yard scoring plunge , but was sacked four times. He was 26 of 46 for 260 yards, including an interception that set up Elliott’s 1-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to break a 21-all halftime tie.

Prescott tied Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (2004) for the most wins by a rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era with 13. He was 15 of 20 for 212 yards with three touchdowns, including Bryant’s juggling 25-yard grab in the end zone when he fought off pass interference by Johnson Bademosi.

MILESTONES

Bryant broke a tie for second with Hall of Famer Michael Irvin on Dallas’ career TD receptions list with his 66th in the first half. The club record of 71 belongs to another Hall of Famer, Bob Hayes. … Elliott is up to third on the rookie season rushing list, behind Dickerson and New Orleans’ George Rogers (1,674 in 1981). He passed teammate Alfred Morris, who held third at 1,613 yards with Washington in 2012.

HIGHLAND PARK REUNION

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who graduated from Highland Park High School in Dallas with Stafford in 2006, attended the game. Nine days earlier, Highland Park celebrated on the same field after its first state title since Stafford led the way in 2005.

GREGORY’S RETURN

Dallas defensive end Randy Gregory made his season debut after serving a 14-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The second-year player almost sacked Stafford in the fourth quarter and had two tackles.

INJURIES

Dallas’ already-depleted defensive line sustained two more injuries in the first half, to Terrell McClain (ankle) and Ryan Davis (knee). Starting end Tyrone Crawford missed his first game of the season with shoulder and hamstring injuries. … Dallas cornerback Anthony Brown left in the first half with a possible concussion.

UP NEXT

Lions: Home against Green Bay.

Cowboys: At Philadelphia in a game that likely will feature plenty of backups for the Cowboys.

 

 

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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