If you like wide receivers, the passing game and great grabs, you had to like that football game between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. There were some decent catches of inaccurately thrown passes, some long passes thrown well that were exciting as hell and there were some flat-out phenomenal catches that if they were made in other games, would have had more impact than they did because they stood on their own.
But due to the fact that there were so many great catches in this game and they are considered collectively, we might have somehow taken them for granted.
We won’t do that here.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins had a little trouble hitting Dalvin Cook in stride out of the backfield in the early going of the game, but Cook always adjusted and caught all seven of his targets. The Cowboys receivers, on their way to 397 yards receiving in the game, were often wide open and hauling in passes from Dak Prescott (28 of them to be exact).
But we aren’t focusing on those receptions here. We’d rather highlight a near-handful of catches that were quite extraordinary and worthy of further recognition. Why? Because it is Tuesday and a long way until Sunday for the next Vikings game when they can do it again.
The first great grab came on the opening Vikings drive of the game when the Purple was in the red zone and Cousins rolled left out of the pocket was long looking for a receiver. Now, earlier in the season, Cousins rolled right from inside the Green Bay Packers 10-yard line and threw an ill-advised pass off his back foot that was picked off in the end zone and squelched an opportunity for the Vikings take the lead late in the game and likely win that most important contest. We aren’t here to harp on that disappointing play (again), but we feel it informs how Cousins threw the pass we are highlighting from the Cowboys game.
On this play in Dallas, Cousins was not having much luck finding an open receiver, and a Cowboys defender was rushing toward him to sack the Vikings quarterback. At the last moment, tight end Kyle Rudolph cut back his route toward the left and broke free from his defender along the end line. He had a step on the defender but was still covered, so, Cousins, lofted a little floater that was designed, according to him, to be a throw away—so no Packers game repeat could occur (well, he didn’t say that last part).
Rudolph thought it was a throw away, as well, but, as I said in my game wrap story, Rudy doesn’t get many targets, especially in the end zone, this season, so he basically said “the heck with it,” and reached up one of his big, white over mitts to snare the ball before it went into the stands. Rudy was completely outstretched as he was running in stride and made an incredible athletic play. The ball adhered to his oven mitt, as though it still had some hot and gooey pizza cheese on it, and he pulled it in for the first score. It was a great grab.
Later in the game, we were treated to another impossible snag, as wide receiver Stefon Diggs made a catch to his back shoulder that had no earthly reason to be made. Diggs was racing up the right sideline with a Cowboys’ corner in perfect coverage on him. Cousins threw to Diggs’ back shoulder, once again, putting the ball in a place where the odds were best that only his receiver could make the catch—if he does, great, if not, you live to fight another play.
But Diggs wanted to fight right now. He stopped his considerable momentum down the sideline and fell backwards, as best he could, reaching back with one arm as his speed was still carrying him forward. Somehow, he got his hand and arm under the pass as it was mere inches from the ground, curled his wrist to secure the ball and rolled it up to his body, never letting the precious pigskin touch the playing field. It was such an improbable catch that both the defender and the ref right on top of the play both waved it off in unison (only one of them doing so impartially).
But Diggs immediately jumped up to plead his case—which we have seen before from him and most NFL receivers who have never seen a catch they didn’t make. This argument was different, however, as the adamant and indignant Diggs gestured at the ref, pointing to the eye in the sky and finally saying, so it seemed, “You’ll see, up there when you take another look at it.”
Now, I have never been a big fan of Diggs’ theatrics (relatively mild as they are) I always felt he was so talented that he didn’t need them to prove his case. But this time it was welcomed. He appeared to know something that no one else in the stadium or at home watching knew—that he indeed made the catch. And since the play occurred within the last two minutes of the first half, the play was reviewed. Apparently review officials bought into the story that Stefon was selling and took another look. So, we all got one—and what a joy it was to see. Diggs had indeed, and without even a hint of further controversy, made that incredible catch (those gloves these guys wear are something else) and it led to a late field goal and the halftime lead for Minnesota. What a freakin’ catch!
The final two remarkable receptions were provided by the team across the field from the Vikings, and they happened on the same drive and looked incredibly similar. Amari Cooper made two phenomenal grabs on the right sidelines in which Prescott put the ball in the only spot it could not be defended—very near out of bounds. The actual securing of the ball in these two instances were not the most difficult part of the catches, and in fact, they were so much alike they were carbon copies of each other, except the second occurred in the end zone to give the Cowboys their only lead of the game.
Both passes were basically short outs toward the sideline and were fired into Cooper’s outstretched hands. Each time, once secured, he did a phenomenal twinkle-toe dance near the stripe to keep from going out of bounds—and each time, his momentum heading toward the sideline was so great that it appeared to me (and many others) that there was no way he made those catches in bounds. But, upon closer inspection, he clearly did. And longtime Vikings, such as myself, should not been have surprised, as we had seen that same play made routine by one former Purple Hall of Famer named Cris Carter, time and time again. My response at the time was, “well, there is no defending that.” And there wasn’t. For each play, the Vikings had decent coverage, yet there was no chance to stop those plays from succeeding—and Cooper and Prescott made it look easy, thus leading to our non-recognition of these great plays.
So, then, taken as a group, we saw a lot of great receptions on Sunday night. But taken individually, we were treated to a wealth of superior artistry from incredible athletes. It is worth mentioning this as we often bemoan on many occasions when one of our favorite team’s receivers drops a pass or doesn’t come up with the otherworldly play that changes the game and helps the home team win. So, let’s recognize these plays. They might not have been made to win a Super Bowl, but they occurred on a big stage and the post-season fortunes of each team hung in the balance at the time.
And, of course, we all know what happens when those kinds of catches are made during the most important games of the season—they get a name. During halftime of the Monday Night Football between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers the next night, ESPN ran a feature on “The Catch”—the improbable game-winning pass from San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana to receiver Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC title game. A dynasty was launched and a play was immortalized.
I would like to say two things about that play: That Catch was completed against the Dallas Cowboys . . . and Rudy’s grab was better.