Lions can’t keep up with surging Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys entered their final regular-season home game with the NFC East title and home-field advantage in the playoffs in their back pocket.

Even so, Dallas showed no signs of slowing down as it raced past the Detroit Lions in the third quarter on the way to a 42-21 victory on Monday night at AT&T Stadium.

The Lions (9-6) were the team trying to lock up a playoff berth, but they couldn’t keep up after halftime with Dallas (13-2), which had all of its stars on display.

Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott passed for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Dez Bryant caught a pair of TD passes and threw another, and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 80 yards and two scores on 12 carries.

The only sign that Dallas might have let its hair down a bit, with the NFC East title in hand, came in the third quarter when Bryant threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten.

On first-and-goal from the Detroit 10, Bryant took a pitch going to his left on a reverse and appeared headed upfield. But just before Bryant reached the line of scrimmage, he tossed to a wide-open Witten in the end zone for the score.

The Bryant-to-Witten connection put an exclamation point on the Cowboys’ domination of the third quarter.

After going to halftime tied at 21, Dallas won the third 14-0 by moving the ball efficiently and shutting down the Lions’ offense.

Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox ended Detroit’s second-half-opening possession by intercepting Matthew Stafford at the Lions 46-yard line.

Dallas stopped Detroit’s second series of the third quarter at the Lions 36, and Detroit kicker Matt Prater missed a 47-yard field goal on the Lions’ third and final offensive series of the period.

The Cowboys responded to Prater’s miss by driving 63 yards in seven plays. Prescott hit Bryant for a 19-yard touchdown that put Dallas ahead 42-21 and in total command with 12:12 left.

Stafford finished 26 of 46 for 260 yards and the one interception. Detroit running back Zach Zenner produced two touchdowns and 67 yards on 12 carries, while tight end Eric Ebron had eight receptions for 93 yards.

Bryant made a juggling one-handed touchdown catch, despite being interfered with by Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi, to tie the game at 21 going into halftime. Prescott converted a third-and-7 by hitting Bryant for the 25-yard touchdown with 1:04 left in the second quarter.

Detroit scored on its first three possessions to take a 21-14 lead with 7:40 remaining in the half.

Zenner ran 7 yards for the Lions’ first touchdown and 5 yards for the third. Stafford plunged forward 1 yard to convert a fourth-and-goal and tie it at 14.

Dallas struggled for most of the first half to stop the Lions’ combination of Stafford and Zenner. Stafford finished the first half with 137 passing yards, and Zenner rushed for 64 on 10 carries before intermission.

However, Prescott and Elliott helped the Cowboys keep pace.

Prescott hit wide receiver Brice Butler for a 21-yard touchdown to give Dallas a 7-0 lead after its first drive.

Elliott broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to put the Cowboys back in front 14-7.

Elliott finished the first half with 74 yards on eight carries.

NOTES: Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott entered the game with 1,551 rushing yards so far this season. He needed 258 yards in the final two games to pass Eric Dickerson’s NFL rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. … The Cowboys activated DE Randy Gregory, who made his 2016 debut following a 14-game suspension for multiple violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. … The Lions entered the game certain that next week’s home contest versus Green Bay will be for the NFC North championship and that it will be on “Sunday Night Football.” … Detroit’s eight-game streak of holding opponents to 20 points or fewer ended. Since Week 7, the Lions were giving up 16.5 points per game, the second-lowest total in the league during that time. … Lions QB Matt Stafford entered the game needing 270 passing yards to pass 4,000 yards for the sixth straight season. He would join Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan as the only NFL QBs to pass for 4,000 yards in six consecutive campaigns.