The Vikings went into Big D on Sunday night to take on the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys. It was a huge game for both teams’ playoffs hopes, even at this juncture in the season. The contest was a tough battle throughout, but the Viking held on for a big win by the slim lead of 28-24.
The Vikings started strong early with a 14-point lead on their first two drives and looked on their way toward a laugher. But the Cowboys rallied back in the second quarter and eventually wrestled the lead away from the Purple. But a strong Vikings running game got it back for good, and Minnesota came out victorious by not giving up a Hail Mary by the Cowboys in the final seconds.
The win brings the Vikings record to 7-3 and a game behind the Green Bay Packers (who beat the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon) in the NFC North Division. The Vikings return home to take on the Denver Broncos next Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, where they need to keep the momentum rolling.
Kirk Cousins is trending, but then he always is—he is the quarterback and the subject of weekly scrutiny, whether he plays well or not. Well, Cousins played a decent game and got a big monkey off of his back (see below) with the win. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns, no picks and a 111.5 passer rating. He did miss an open Kyle Rudolph for a first down that could have been picked and potentially change the momentum of the game. But that is nit picking. Cousins was mostly on the mark and led his team to a huge win on a national stage. Let the confidence build, Kirk. Let it build.
What a catch! Kyle Rudolph, who now has four touchdowns in the last four games, made an incredible touchdown reception. It appeared as though Cousins was trying to throw the ball away, which was the right play, but Rudy essentially said, “to hell with that. I don’t get many targets, so I am going for this one.” His one-hander at the back end line was a thing of beauty and put the Vikings up early. In fact, he wants the ball so much, Cousins gave it to him again—he had two catches and two TDs plus a PAT on his first three (of five) receptions. For Rudy, who started slow this season, has been coming on in limited opportunities. His role this season has had more emphasis on blocking. But the coaches have rediscovered Rudolph, and seeing him in the end zone is a great sign.
“I wasn’t sure if [Kirk] was throwing the ball away or not,” Rudolph told KARE-11 TV. “I saw it in the air and I knew I had a chance to get to it. Those are the kind of plays you have to make. When your number is called, the quarterback trusts you, putting the ball up in coverage, you’ve got to come down with it.”
Dalvin Cook is the MVP on this team. As he goes, so goes the Vikings offense. When he isn’t finding room between the tackles, he finds some outsides the ends—and usually makes something happen when he gets the ball out there. In this game, Cook was the workhorse again, rushing the ball 26 times for 97 yards and a two-yard score. Plus, he was team’s leading receiver, making seven catches for 87 yards on seven targets. The Vikings need Cousins to play well, but they go nowhere if Cook doesn’t. Alexander Mattison is a great backup, but Cook is the main man, and Ezekiel Elliot of the Cowboys found that out tonight.
The Vikings defense started out strong in the first quarter (despite missing their interior anchor of the line in Linval Joseph, who had surgery on his meniscus this week), as they bottled up Ezekiel Elliot for the most part. Zeke carried the ball 20 times for 47 yards (just 3.7 per carry) and that was a key to the victory.
Where they did fall down was in coverage, as Dak Prescott and his receivers lit them up for nearly 400 yards (Amari Cooper had nine catches for 147 yards and a great, toe-tapping TD reception).
We will give some props to Mike Hughes (who was starting for the inactive Trae Waynes), as he was a busy man on Sunday night. The Cowboys tried to indoctrinate the young man and early on they found some success. But in the second quarter, Hughes began to gain his footing and nearly had a pick six. The entire secondary had its problems and needs to get them fixed. Jayron Kearse did make a nice pick of a Hail Mary on the final play of the game, which allowed the D to leave the field with the win and a better feeling about themselves.
The Offensive line had some good moments and bad moments (per usual). They looked good in the second half when they ran the ball and crammed it down the throats of the Cowboys’ defense. They needed to be better with pass protection (and head coach Mike Zimmer was calling for it at halftime). Cousins got hit once while throwing and it nearly became a fumble recovery for a Dallas touchdown) it was overruled and called incomplete. The line sustained injuries to Brian O’Neill (he returned) and Josh Kline (he did not). Got to get them healthy for next week and after the Broncos they get the bye break.
Should be Ending
Prime time road game losses against a quality opponent. We have considered this trend ever since Cousins came to town. And tonight he shut down that conversation for a while, at least until next time.
Penalties, we haven’t railed on them for some time. But it’s hard to blame the Vikings for all of the penalties (5 for 35 yards), as there were plenty that were questionable calls. But that is for another day—the Vikings won a big game.
Mike Zimmer wasn’t going to hold anything back when it came to trying to beat his old team in Dallas. He went on fourth down at the goal line, was aggressive all over the field and pumped his fist and hugged Rudy when his defense put away the win. Good on ya, Zim. You and the team needed this one. Should his aggressiveness be ending? Not on your life.