The Minnesota Vikings knew that they had to win this game going in, obviously. . .but after watching how the rest of the NFC North shook out this afternoon, they knew that there was much more than that on the line. After all, the Packers had just lost to a Dolphins team that many of their fans laughed at the Vikings for losing to, and the Bears had lost at Soldier Field to a Seahawks team that had spent their first two road games of the year looking like nothing short of complete junk, so the Vikings knew that they had an opportunity to make up a game on the two teams that currently sit ahead of them in the NFC North standings.
So, it was a bit disheartening when the Vikings coughed up the ball on their first offensive possession on a botched exchange between Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson, allowing the Cowboys a short field. Dallas turned that into a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Roy Williams, his first of two scoring grabs today as part of his emergence from the Witness Protection Program.
But the Vikings answered back, forcing a turnover of their own when Tony Romo threw a pass that bounced off the helmet of a Vikings' defensive lineman and into the hands of E.J. Henderson. After a bit of difficulty, Favre found Greg Camarillo on a really nicely designed play on third down for a 10-yard touchdown pass to even the score.
Dallas then dominated the majority of the second quarter, holding on to the ball for nearly eight minutes on a drive that concluded with Williams' second touchdown reception of the afternoon. By the time the Vikings got the ball back, all they could do was kneel on it and go into the locker room down 14-7 with their season hanging by a thread.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Percy Harvin made that whole icky, yucky, nasty first half of football disappear.
Harvin took the opening kickoff of the second half off of the foot of Cowboys' kicker David Buehler (Buehler. . .Buehler. . .anyone. . .) at his own 5-yard line. In just a matter of seconds, Harvin was suddenly running all by himself with nothing but open field in front of him, taking the ball to the house for a 95-yard kickoff return. . .the third of his NFL career. . .and giving us a brand new ball game by tying the score at 14.
After forcing the Cowboys into a three-and-out deep in their own territory and starting on the Cowboys' side of the 50 after a Mat McBriar punt, the Vikings finally got a lead for the first time on the afternoon, as Favre drove them 49 yards in nine plays, one of them being a bad snap that turned into a 20-yard catch and run. . .er, if "run" is the right word. . .by Jim Kleinsasser to move the ball to the Dallas 12. Four plays later, Peterson got behind Steve Hutchinson and blasted into the end zone to give Minnesota a 21-14 lead.
The Cowboys responded, however, finding a mismatch between rookie receiver Dez Bryant and cornerback Lito Sheppard, and Romo hit the youngster for a 33-yard touchdown pass to tie the score back up at 21. The Vikings went three-and-out on their next series, and what could have been a huge punt return by Bryant was negated by a penalty on the Cowboys. That would prove to be huge.
On the ensuing offensive series for the Cowboys, they were faced with third and one at their own 22-yard line. Now, the Cowboys had faced this same down and distance four previous times in this game, and converted each one by handing off to battering ram Marion Barber. E.J. Henderson was right over the center, and made it look like he was going to be bringing the heat on Romo. Rather than hand the ball to Barber again, Romo dropped back to pass and threw toward what he thought was a wide open Jason Witten.
Except Henderson wasn't bringing the blitz after all. . .he was dropping back into coverage, right into Romo's throwing lane. He reached up and snagged his second interception of the afternoon, and brought it back to the Dallas 30. From there, the Vikings muddled around a bit, and Ryan Longwell came in and drilled a 38-yard field goal to give the Vikings the lead back, 24-21. Longwell is now 76 of 79 from 45 yards and closer since becoming a member of the Vikings.
After that, the Vikings forced a three and out, and were able to run out most of the clock, thanks in large part to a pass interference penalty on a third down committed against. . .Greg Lewis? Yeah, I know, right! Pretty weird, but we'll take it. There was some lateral-based nonsense with a few seconds left on the clock, but the Cowboys would have been flagged for illegal forward pass, and one of the laterals was eventually smothered by Chad Greenway anyhow, and the game ended with a final score of 24-21.
It wasn't always pretty, and it wasn't always relaxing, but the Vikings went out this afternoon and won a game that they absolutely, positively needed to win against a team that was every bit as desperate for a victory as they were.
One name that you've probably noticed that I'm not mentioning until right now. . .Randy Moss. Yes, Moss had an alright game. . .he led the Vikings with five receptions and had 55 receiving yards. . .but he didn't have the kind of explosion that many of us were hoping for in his first game back in Minneapolis as a member of the Vikings. But hey. . .there are still 11 games left in the season, and I'm sure we'll see at least one vintage Moss explosion before the end of the year, and probably more. It's being said that he gave quite a speech in the locker room at halftime as well, and the team responded quite favorably.
So there you go. . .the Vikings aren't dead yet, and they've gotten themselves right back into the thick of the NFC North race with their victory today. We'll talk about this game for another day or two, and then. . .well, it's Packer week, ladies and gentlemen.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday night, folks! We'll certainly be enjoying it more than the fans of the other three NFC North teams will be enjoying theirs.