1st Down: After a game in Buffalo last week that Vikings fans will tell their grandkids about, this beatdown was just as unexpected--in the exact opposite direction. I was a little worried about an emotional letdown after the back-and-forth Bills thriller, but I thought being back at the friendly confines of U.S. Bank Stadium would take care of that. Sadly, Dallas continued to play at our place like it was their own (having yet to lose on its turf). For as much as we all bemoaned that Week 2 MNF Eagles loss, this one was oh so much worse in point of fact.
2nd Down: It was exceedingly obvious that the offensive line was the weakest link this afternoon. More like a few links, I think. To say that Kirk Cousins played poorly is almost a bit inane, as he never really even had a chance to get started. The pressure was on him so much--and so quick--that most pass plays when the game's outcome was still in doubt were lost causes before the receiver's routes could even be executed. Easily the worst o-line shellacking of the season thus far, and one of (if not THE) worst of Cousins' Purple tenure. Right now, falling behind by more than a score to a team with an attacking, pass rush defense is almost an assured loss. The o-line is the A-1 area of improvement if there is a deep playoff run in this squad, to be sure.
3rd Down: I was a little surprised the offense went so run-heavy to start the game, but perhaps that was exactly because of the fear of Dallas' pass rushers. It just so happened that instead of controlling the tempo and potentially keeping the Cowboys D guessing, a quick turnover and then a goal-line failure gave Dallas an early lead they never looked back from. It was "open season" on Cousins almost from the word go, and Mike McCarthy's bunch have the secondary that won't give up the ghost even on blitzing situations. Just the perfect storm of things trending wrong for the Vikings.
4th Down: In all honesty, it's tough to say much more about this one. Minnesota simply got steamrolled in every aspect of the contest. Cook had no space, Cousins was on the ground more than upright (meaning Jefferson was a non-factor), and Hockenson had a rough opening series or two that kind of set the tone for the rest of the game. Another test, I guess, for O'Connell's inaugural season wearing the headset. Losing to the Eagles in Philly is one thing--losing to Dallas at home in a mega-blowout is another. One could say this is the first time all season the Vikings are facing real pressure to keep themselves in the thick of the true NFC contenders. They rattled off seven consecutive W's after that first L, so perhaps that bodes well in shaking this one off.
Up Next: vs. Patriots (6-4); Thursday Night Football. Perhaps one silver lining here--there's no time to cry over this one. Four nights from when I'm typing this out, they'll be back out on the same field against New England. If it is at all true that athletes want to quickly atone for a horrible performance, this is the best possible scenario in which to do exactly that.