There were a lot of narratives coming into this Sunday night game between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys. For the Vikings, it was all about winning in primetime, on the road, against a good team. For Dallas, most everyone wanted to know just how good they were, based on the schedule they had played up until this game. The NFC East is probably the weakest division in the NFL, and all of their wins had come against other NFC East teams, and the Miami Dolphins. Their losses had included New Orleans, Green Bay, and lol the Jets. So there were a lot of folks that wanted to know if the Cowboys were pretenders or contenders.
After the Vikings dispatched them by a 28-24 score, I would argue that the Cowboys are probably the most overrated team in the league, and when my babies grow up, the last thing I would want them to be is cowboys. Right, Waylon and Willie?
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ‘em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ‘em be Vikings and Gophers and such
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
’Cos they can’t win at home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love
The SMR that just delivered in prime time follows.
Blue Chip Stocks
Dalvin Cook, RB: The Vikes decided early and often to make The Chef the focal point of the offense, and it paid off. On the first two drives that saw the Vikes go up 14-0, Cook had 76 yards from scrimmage. He ended up with 97 yards rushing, 86 yards receiving, and had an enormous touchdown on fourth and goal late in the third quarter that turned out to be the decisive score in the game.
Kyle Rudolph, TE: Between you and me, I was going to make Rudolph a blue chip for this catch alone, barring three lost fumbles or something ridiculous like that:
He also scored on the Vikings second drive, and when the Vikes went up 14-0, he had a very Matt Asiata-like line: 2 catches, 2 yards, 2 touchdowns.
C.J. Ham, FB: You won’t find that Ham had a lot of eye popping numbers either carrying or catching footballs. But if you watched the game, you saw him as a lead blocking sledgehammer that was flat out murdering dudes on the field, and those on-field homicides played a large part in Dalvin Cook having the game he had.
Kirk Cousins, QB: For one night, at least, everyone can just shut the hell up about Cousins not playing well on the road in prime time. Yes, Cousins had his receivers bail him out on some throws, and no, Cousins didn’t really connect on any big throws. But you know what? Kirk made throws when he needed to, didn’t turn the ball over, and engineered some cash money drives when the Vikings needed them. 23/32 for 220 yards and 2 TD’s with no turnovers is a line I’ll take every time.
Eric Kendricks, LB: Kendricks didn’t have an eye popping game, but he had a couple of eye popping plays. The most important one came in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, when he was covering Ezekiel Elliott. On 4th and 5, with Dallas on the Vikes 14 and needing a touchdown to win, Kendricks made a hell of a play to knock away a Dak Prescott throw that would have been a first down. It was a big time play by a big time player at the biggest moment in the game.
Alexander Mattison, RB: Mattison had a heck of a good game in a relief role of Cook tonight. He ended up with 52 yards on just 8 carries, and I thought the carry he had that was initially called a touchdown was wrongfully overturned. But that’s just me.
Mike Hughes and the rest of the secondary. Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb (really, Randall Cobb??) made some great plays tonight, especially the 64 toe tap catches Cooper had. But...yeesh. The Cowboys carved up the Vikings secondary all night, as Dak Prescott had 397 yards passing, and both Cooper and Cobb went over 100 yards receiving. The Vikes did a great job of getting the Cowboys in third and long, but the Cowboys had four 3rd and 8 or longer plays in this game, and they converted all four of them. Minnesota had a good first quarter defensively, but couldn’t find an answer to what Dallas was dialing up for the rest of the night.
Buy: The Vikings first quarter. The Vikings started the game exactly the way they needed to. The defense stopped Dallas, and their first drive ended with Brett Maher missing a 57 yard field goal attempt. Minnesota answered by going 53 yards in five plays, and it was culminated by that crazy Rudolph catch to go up 7-0. After Dallas punted on their second drive, the Vikings went 90 yards in 13 plays, and once again Cousins found Rudolph for another one yard TD to go up 14-0.
Sell: The Vikings second quarter. But all of that slipped away in the second quarter. Minnesota’s offense stalled early in the quarter, and the Cowboys offense came to life. They scored two touchdowns, and evened the score at 14-14 with just under two minutes remaining in the half.
Buy: The two minute drive to end the half. But to Minnesota’s credit, they took the ball with 1:57 left in the half, drove the field, and stunted the momentum Dallas had built up with those two second quarter scoring drives. They took the ball down the field, in one of the better two minute drives the Vikings have had in recent years, and kicked a field goal to take the lead at 17-14 going in to the locker room.
Sell: Throwing to Irv Smith in the middle of the field with 10 seconds left in the first half. But it feels like the Vikes might have left points on the field before halftime. With 10 seconds left and the ball on the Dallas 15 with one timeout, Kirk Cousins threw a short pass over the middle to Irv Smith, Jr., for seven yards. It seemed inexplicable at the time, at least to me. The Vikes had one timeout, so it felt like there was time for two shots into the end zone, as it was second down. It seemed really important to get a touchdown there to thwart Dallas momentum, but it felt like the VIkings were content to settle for a field goal.
Buy: Opening up the second half with a scoring drive. Still, though, the Vikes took that scoring drive to end the first half and built on it coming out of the locker room. They took the opening kickoff and went 66 yards in 12 plays, culminated by a Dan Bailey field goal to take a 20-14 lead.
Sell: Giving up a scoring drive to lose the lead right after that scoring drive. But the Vikings defense couldn’t build on that. At that moment in the game, it really felt like if the Vikings defense could force a three and out they could blow the game open. The Dallas defense had been on the field for 12 plays, and a quick three and out would have put a tired defense back on the field, having to face a RB tandem in Cook and Alexander Mattison that seemed to be finding a bit of a groove. Dallas went 75 yards on five plays, and it culminated with a ridiculous Amari Cooper toe tap touchdown that gave Dallas a 21-20 lead.
Buy: Stonewalling Ezekiel Elliott. Minnesota came in to this game intent on not letting THE Ohio State legend Ezekiel Elliott beat them. And they succeeded in that. Zeke ended up with just 47 yards on 20 carries, couldn’t get untracked all night, and his longest run of the evening was only six yards.
Sell: Dak Prescott carving up the Vikings secondary like Dexter. But Zeke not being able to run didn’t really matter, as Dak Prescott had a whale of a game. He made some flat out sick throws to Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Michael Gallup, who ended up with 76 yards and a TD. The Vikes had no answer for what the Cowboys were doing through the air, and the only time it seemed like the came up with a stop in the second half was the Jayron Kearse interception to end the game.
Buy: Football in the state of Minnesota this weekend. It was a great weekend for football in the state of Minnesota. On Saturday, the Golden Gophers upset fourth ranked Penn state and broke the top 10 for the first time since 1962. They control their own destiny to win the Big Ten West and advance to the Big Ten Championship game, and P.J. Fleck has made the Gophers relevant for one of the few times in my life. The Vikes beat Dallas on the road, advanced to 7-3, and have a really great shot to go to 8-3 heading into the bye. They have a lot of football left to play, and are still very much in the hunt for the NFC North title.
Sell: The season is over. For as good as this weekend was, neither the VIkings of Gophers have accomplished anything. Both teams have a lot of football left to play, and if they don’t stay focused, what could be special seasons for both could be rendered meaningless if they don’t keep their eye on the prize. Skol U mah, and let’s keep it going. Beat Iowa and bring Floyd home, and beat Denver.
Quote of the Week
So my wife is quite the comedian, it turns out. I was watching the game in the basement, and it just so happened she came down to see how things were going right after the Vikings had stopped the Cowboys on that 4th and five to pretty much clinch it. On first down, Cousins pitched it to Cook, who damn near fumbled the ball deep in Vikings territory while almost giving me a coronary. The following conversation took place:
Me: OH MY GOD HOLD ON TO THE BALL!
Mrs Ted: So if he had dropped that and the other team had recovered could they have gotten the ball and scored?
Mrs. Ted: That would have been funny.
Mrs. Ted: Well, you always tell me how the Vikings find dumb ways to lose. That would have been really dumb. And funny.
ME: Well...yeah. I can’t dispute that.