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There Is No Such Thing as "Running Up the Score" in the NFL

To hear the national media talk in the week leading up to Sunday's Vikings/Cowboys divisional playoff game, you would have thought that the Vikings didn't even need to bother showing up.  After all, the Cowboys had won their last four games leading into the contest, a streak that included two wins over the one-dimensional Philadelphia Eagles, a shutout win over the horrible Washington Redskins, and a victory over the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans.  The win over the Saints was, apparently, especially impressive, as only one other team managed to defeat the Saints at home all season (that being the 3-13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers).  Granted, the game against the Saints occurred on 19 December, nearly a month ago, but by God. . .it still counted for something, right?

But all of the questions this week were about how Minnesota would handle this or that or the other thing.  How would the Vikings handle DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer?  How would the Vikings slow down Jason Witten?  What could the Vikings do to stop Tony Romo?  Would the Vikings lose a close game, or would it be a Dallas blowout?

And, all the while, the Vikings just sort of sat back and listened to it all.  Sure, some folks tried to make it sound like Brett Favre and Jared Allen had made guarantees simply by having the gall to think that their team had a shot to not only keep it close, but to win the game outright.  Boy, some nerve those guys have, huh?

After all, the Cowboys were coming off of their first playoff victory since the mid-point of the Clinton Administration.  Wade Phillips was a coaching genius, Romo was some other-worldly combination of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, and the Cowboy defense was more impenetrable than Alcatraz and Superman's Fortress of Solitude.  Combined, even!

So, naturally, when the completely and utterly superior Cowboys found themselves on the wrong end of a 34-3 curb stomping by a Vikings team that was, apparently, just supposed to be happy to be there, some folks got bent out of shape about it.

The main culprit in this matter is Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking.  When the Vikings went for it on a fourth and three play that resulted in an 11-yard touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe. . .Brett Favre's fourth touchdown pass of the day. . .Brooking thought it would be a lovely idea to go over to the Minnesota sideline and run his yap in the general direction of the coaching staff.  And he continued to flap his gums after the game was over.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said the Vikings ran up the score, and Brooking agreed.

"I thought it was classless," Brooking said. "I thought it was B.S. Granted, we get paid to stop them, but we had zero timeouts left. I didn't think there was any call for that."

Well, gee, Keith. . .let's review why you didn't have any time outs, shall we?

After Brett Favre connected with Sidney Rice for his third touchdown catch of the day, the Vikings led by a score of 27-3.  The Cowboys turned the ball over on downs, and the Vikings took over from the Dallas 33 with 6:24 left in the game.  On first down, Minnesota handed the ball to Adrian Peterson for no gain.

And the Cowboys called a time out.

On second down, the Vikings handed the ball to Peterson again, this time for three yards.

And the Cowboys used their second time out.

On third down, Peterson again got the call, again for no gain.

And the Cowboys used their third time out.

The Vikings went for it on fourth down, failed to convert, and gave the ball back to the Cowboys after moving the ball three yards and burning only twelve seconds of game time off the clock.

Here's the problem I have with the combination of this sequence and Brooking's subsequent post-game whinefest.  If I'm down 27-3 in a game of Madden '10. . .which never happens, because I rule at Madden, but I digress. . .and there's six minutes left in the game, I don't start burning time outs.  Why?  Because I'm beaten.  It's over.  It's done with.  If I've only scored three points in the first 54 minutes of action, I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that I'm somehow going to rack up 24 in the next six.  Especially if Shaun Suisham is my kicker.

Yet the Cowboys, apparently, had exactly that delusion.  Why else would they have been burning time outs in that situation?  Of course, the Cowboys turned it over on downs again, and Minnesota put the final touchdown on the board on the subsequent possession.

As a Viking fan, I've seen my team wind up on the wrong end of some pretty nasty thumpings.  Two of the more recent examples that come to mind are the 41-0 loss to the Giants the last time the Vikings made an NFC Championship Game and the 34-0 debacle at Lambeau Field a couple of years back.  In both of those cases, I don't recall any members of the Vikings whining after the fact that our opponents ran up the score on us.  I remember them acknowledging that they got their butts kicked. . .because, really, how can you not acknowledge that. . .but there was no whining about how the score was run up or anything else.  And do you know why that is?

Because there is no such thing as "running up the score" in the National Football League.  There never has been, and there never will be.

This isn't college football, where the big boys go out and schedule games against Whatsamatta U to run up big victories and improve their BCS position.  Everybody out on that field is a professional, and every single one of them is paid to do their job.  Brooking and his defensive teammates decided that because they weren't good enough to do their jobs, the Vikings' offense should stop doing their jobs, too.  That's not how it works.

There's not one person on that Dallas defense that should bother coming in to collect their paycheck next week.  Not Brooking. . .not DeMarcus Ware (who sacked Favre on the Vikings' third play of the game and spent the rest of the afternoon getting his butt kicked by Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt). . .not Gerald Sensabaugh, who I still don't think is aware that Sidney Rice caught the pass that resulted in his first touchdown.  Not a one.  After spending a week reading their own press clippings, it appeared that the Dallas defense was already looking forward to another trip to New Orleans and couldn't be bothered to take the Vikings seriously.

If New Orleans goes out next week and beats the Vikings 56-0 in the NFC Championship Game, it won't have anything to do with the Saints "running up the score" on us.  It's up to the Minnesota defense to not allow the Saints to put seven or eight touchdowns on the board.  Conversely, if the Vikings go out and pound the Saints 56-0, it won't be because we "ran up the score" on New Orleans, either.  It's up to Darren Sharper and Jonathan Vilma and company to keep the Vikings out of the end zone.

Keith Brooking, rather than putting the blame for the Cowboys' pathetic performance where it belongs. . .that being on the Dallas Cowboys. . .chose to try to paint the Vikings as a bunch of big, mean bullies instead.  And that's a big, steaming load of garbage.

Oh, well. . .he's got an extra week to think about how dumb he sounded on this matter.  He certainly doesn't have any plans for next week, that's for sure.