The Vikings Loss to Dallas May Have Come at the Right Time

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Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell looks on during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It feels as if we all should have seen this coming. The Minnesota Vikings were coming off of an emotional victory over the Buffalo Bills, a strong Super Bowl contender. In came the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday to face the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Cowboys had just blown a 14-point lead to the Green Bay Packers. A Vikings loss to Dallas was the type of letdown that fans had come accustomed to.

Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons stripped Kirk Cousins on the third play of the game, helping set Dallas up to take a 3-0 lead. The Vikings threatened to answer with a touchdown, except a pass to T.J. Hockenson slipped through his hands in the back left corner of the endzone.

From there, it was all Cowboys as they dismantled the Vikings 40-3. The Vikings loss to Dallas sent them to an 8-2 record, snapping their seven-game winning streak. Despite their record, the Vikings now have a minus-2 point differential through ten games, as they also got destroyed 24-7 in a Week 2 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Fans want to say that the sky is falling after the Cowboys’ pass rush harassed Cousins to the tune of seven sacks, a career-worst for him. The Vikings couldn’t get off the field, allowing first downs on 12/17 third-down conversions. But if there was ever a time for a brutal loss like this, Sunday may have been the time for it.

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To say that there were silver linings from Sunday’s game may be tough to argue, but let me explain. The Vikings lost Pro Football Focus’ top-rated left tackle Christian Darrisaw in the second quarter. Second-round pick Andrew Booth made his first career start at cornerback with Cam Dantzler and fellow rookie Akayleb Evans injured. And defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, a stout run-defender, missed his third game in a row.

Dallas dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball. Although they were getting pressure on Cousins before Darrisaw exited, it appeared that the offensive line had turned into a bunch of turnstiles with his absence. On offense, the Cowboys found themselves in manageable third-down distances, averaging 4.8 yards to go.

Booth manned the left outside cornerback position and was picked on repeatedly. He looked as lost as the other starting cornerbacks had in the first month and a half of the season. When Dantzler and Evans are healthy, they should help stabilize the position.

On top of this, though, is that the Vikings will be forced to quickly move on from this game. They face the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving Night. Perhaps the Patriots, who had an improbable punt return touchdown with five seconds remaining in their 10-3 victory over the New York Jets, will face a similar emotional letdown that the Vikings did against the Cowboys. Although each team will be going to bed feeling differently on Sunday night, their approach and energy could be vastly different on a short week.

Fortunately, the Vikings will receive a mini-bye week following their Thanksgiving bout with the Patriots. This will allow the team to get healthy and get some of their key contributors back. Their absences cost the Vikings against the Cowboys and almost cost them against the Bills. If they can get healthy after the bye week, they will still field a mostly healthy roster heading into December.

The Vikings still hold the second seed in the NFC. Sunday was an embarrassing output that may convince fans that this is the “same old Vikings”. But with a quick turnaround, they can quickly get this bad taste out of their mouths. This is Kevin O’Connell’s first embarrassing loss in his young head coaching career. How does he and the team handle this on a short week? We’ll find out in four days.