The yard line for the down-and-distance, and the fact that Dallas' offense still was on the field in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, spoke to the importance of the situation to the Cowboys.
Fourth-and-1, from one's own 43-yard line, trailing just 6-3, doesn't seem like the ideal situation to go for it.
But perhaps because the New Orleans Saints' defense had been the equivalent of a vice grip – Dallas had, in order, a punt, field goal, punt and lost fumble in its previous four possessions – against the league's fourth-best offense, and scoring opportunities were going to be rare, the Cowboys chose to bow up on their side of the 50-yard line.
With 1:36 left in the half, running back Ezekiel Elliott took a handoff and plowed two yards, the necessary distance to gain the first down.
The problem for Elliott was, by the time he fully had fallen to the turf, he no longer had the football.
During the mass of will imposition, Saints safety Vonn Bell proved to have the strongest ability and best vantage point to impose. Because while Elliott was cradling the ball, Bell managed to reach in and take it from him, and recovered the fumble that he forced.
It was the second consecutive Dallas possession that ended with a lost fumble, and the second consecutive Dallas possession that Bell was the Saint who turned up with the football (linebacker A.J. Klein punched the ball away from Cowboys tight end Jeremy Witten on the previous possession).
Like the previous recovery, this one also silenced a Dallas scoring threat. And for the Saints, it set up a drive that resulted in a field goal as time expired in the half, giving New Orleans a 9-3 lead in what became its 12-10 victory.
One scoring threat averted and another converted, a significant development in a low-scoring defensive struggle.