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Vikings-Cowboys has all the makings for a fantastic 4th quarter

If the Vikings can hang with the Cowboys for three quarters, the fourth will feature a dominant defense against a dominant Dak Prescott.
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Dak Prescott is killing opponents in the fourth quarter.

According to ESPN, the rookie quarterback is 30 of 33 for 325 yards, 2 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing touchdown in his last 11 fourth quarter and overtime drives.

"I guess I've got three quarters under my belt at that point," Prescott said, via ESPN. "I know what they're going to give me for the most part. The rhythm of the game, I know my matchups, and I'm locked in at that point."

Prescott has 18 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions on the season, but his incredible efficiency late in games has helped the Cowboys win a team record 10 straight entering Thursday's showdown with the Vikings (6-5) at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Best passing defense Prescott has faced all season

Minnesota is ranked fourth in total defense, second in scoring defense and fourth in passing defense. Here's every team the Cowboys have played and where their passing defenses currently rank.

  • vs. Giants - 23rd
  • @ Redskins - 17th
  • vs Bears - 12th
  • @ 49ers - 16th
  • vs. Bengals - 14th
  • @ Packers - 13th
  • vs. Eagles - 5th
  • @ Browns - 31st
  • @ Steelers - 22nd
  • vs Ravens - 7th
  • vs Redskins - 17th

As you can see, only the Eagles and Ravens boasted passing defenses as good as the Vikings.

The Eagles got burned late by Prescott when he threw the game-tying touchdown to Dez Bryant and the overtime winner to Jason Witten, but overall he had more incompletions (20) than completions (19). He was much better against the Ravens, going 27 of 36 for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was 14-of-15 in the second half of that game.

Defense dominating the fourth quarter

The Vikings, meanwhile, have allowed just six touchdowns in the fourth quarter or overtime all season – and only four of them were of any consequence. The other two came in garbage time of blowout wins over the Titans (Week 1) and Texans (Week 5).

The only fourth-quarter touchdown to give an opponent a lead over the Vikings was Detroit's overtime score to beat the Vikings on Nov. 7.

Opponent 4th-quarter touchdowns vs. Vikings

  • Week 1: Marcus Mariota 4-yard pass to DeMarco Murray with 28 seconds left of a blowout
  • Week 2: Aaron Rodgers 10-yard rush with 12:41 left to cut the Vikings lead to 17-10.
  • Week 3: Giants 1-yard rush early fourth quarter to cut the Vikings lead to 17-10.
  • Week 5: Texans 1-yard pass late in the fourth quarter of a Vikings blowout.
  • Week 9: Golden Tate 28-yard touchdown in overtime to beat the Vikings.
  • Week 10: David Johnson 4-yard reception with 7:24 left in the fourth to cut the Vikings lead to 30-24.

Even in losing five of their last six games, the Vikings have allowed just one touchdown and seven field goals in the fourth quarter.

They're just a lot better in the second half than they are in the first half. According to Pro Football Reference, opposing quarterbacks own a 75.2 first-half passer rating. That number dips to 64.7 in the second half.

A lot of that success has to do with playing with a lead and getting pressure on the quarterback. Minnesota has just 5 first-half sacks this season compared to 22 in the second half.

Perspective: 13 teams have 22 or fewer sacks in both halves combined.

Granted, all of this probably won't matter if the Vikings struggle against the best offensive line and running game in the NFL.

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