Vikings vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from Minnesota's 27-24 Loss to Dallas
At least the Minnesota Vikings made the game a lot closer than most people expected. A double-digit underdog to Dallas, the Vikings actually had the lead with less than five minutes remaining before losing, 27-24, to the Cowboys.
This was definitely a game the Vikings could have won. For most of the game, Christian Ponder played well, completing 25 of 37 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown.
It was the second time this season Adrian Peterson rushed for 140 yards. The first resulted in the Vikings' only win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4. This time, it was not enough, as the Cowboys scored the winning touchdown with less than a minute left in the game.
While there were some things for the Vikings to cheer about, in the end, it was another loss.
Here are some takeaways from the Vikings' seventh loss on the season.
Passer Rating Really Doesn't Mean Anything
In the quarterback carousel that the Minnesota Vikings continue to spin, it was Christian Ponder's turn to see what he could do.
Even though his passer rating was higher last week against the Green Bay Packers, Ponder seemed to play much better against the Cowboys.
|Packers Week 8||14||21||145||0||0||86.4|
|Cowboys Week 9||25||37||236||1||1||82.7|
With a quick-rhythm offense to open the game, he seemed to gain confidence as the Vikings were able to move on the Cowboys defense.
Unfortunately, in Ponder-like fashion, he underthrew Greg Jennings early in the fourth quarter, resulting in his sixth interception of the season.
On the last play of the game, with the Vikings on the Cowboys' 47-yard line, Ponder's lack of arm strength was, again, obvious. His desperation heave fell about five yards short of the end zone.
The Defensive Secondary Missing Three Starters—No One Noticed
The Minnesota Vikings were without three of the four defensive backs who opened the season as starters against the Cowboys—and it was really difficult to see any difference.
The Cowboys came into the game with the eighth-ranked passing offense, according to StatMilk. They have averaged 261 yards per game. According to NFL.com, against the Vikings, they finished with 314 net passing yards.
While it's more than the 288 yards they usually give up, it wasn't that bad, as Tony Romo needed to throw 51 passes in order to come up with a last-minute win.
The defense was without safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford as well as cornerback Chris Cook. They opened the game with Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo at safety and Marcus Sherels and Josh Robinson at cornerback.
In some ways, the secondary played better than usual. When the top backup, rookie Xavier Rhodes, went down in the fourth quarter, his backup, A.J. Jefferson, came up with the first interception of the season for a cornerback.
Tony Romo finished 34-of-51 for 2,337 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. His passer rating was 90.1—the third-lowest for on the season for opposing quarterbacks.
Once Again, the Vikings' Best Weapon Is Adrian Peterson
Good things happen when the Minnesota Vikings give Adrian Peterson the ball—unfortunately, a win was not one of them this week.
After averaging only 12 carriers per game the past three weeks, Peterson only rushed for 150 yards in those games.
Against the Cowboys, he finished with 140 yards on 25 carries. His 52-yard run in the fourth quarter was the longest play from scrimmage in the game.
On that same drive, Peterson scored on a 4th-and-inches from the 11-yard line. He was not to be denied on that play, as he dragged several defenders into the end zone.
Even though the Vikings lost, it still solidifies that there is no reason not to give Peterson the ball. He does better with more carries and has the ability to make the big play from anywhere on the field.
Cordarrelle Patterson Is Human After All
Coming into the game against the Cowboys, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson was leading the NFL with 39.1 yards per kickoff return. He had already scored two touchdowns this season and was helping to erase the void left behind by Percy Harvin—at least on kick returns.
Sunday, he had four returns for 105 yards. He also had his first muffed kickoff of the season. It came after the Cowboys had scored to open the second half and took a 13-10 lead. He mishandled the ball deep in Vikings' territory, and the ball rolled out of bounds at the 5-yard line.
It was a critical mistake in the game.
On the very next play, the Cowboys stripped Christian Ponder of the ball in the end zone and recovered it for a touchdown. With less than five minutes gone in the second half, the Cowboys turned a four-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead.
The Vikings Offense Showed Some Creativity—for a Little While
The Minnesota Vikings opened the game with a no-huddle offense. It might seem to be the opposite thing to do. The Vikings are last in the NFL in time of possession and going with a quick-tempo offense might contribute to even shorter drives.
It helped Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense get into a rhythm. Over their first two drives, Ponder completed seven of 11 passes to five different receivers for 59 yards.
It caught the Cowboys off guard, and the Vikings were able to move down the field. When they slowed things down and started to huddle, the offense also slowed down.
Perhaps because, when the Vikings are in the no-huddle offense, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has less influence on the specific play-calling.
The Injury Bug Keeps Hitting the Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings had three players leave the game with injuries against the Cowboys. In his postgame press conference, head coach Leslie Frazier indicated that right tackle Phil Loadholt suffered a concussion. He did not elaborate on injuries to Kyle Rudolph and Xavier Rhodes.
Rudolph left the game after scoring on a 31-yard pass from Christian Ponder late in the third quarter, and Rhodes left the game in the fourth quarter.
With a short week to prepare for the Washington Redskins on Thursday, these injuries could leave the team thin in several positions when the Vikings play Thursday night.
The Vikings Defense Lacks Killer Instinct
As pointed out on the previous slide, the loss of three starters in the defensive backfield didn't seem to make a difference—unfortunately.
For the third time this season, the defense was unable to come up with a stop to secure the win. Tony Romo hit Dwayne Harris for a seven-yard touchdown with less than a minute to play.
The Cowboys drove 90 yards in nine plays in only 2:09 to score the winning touchdown.
The next week, against the Cleveland Browns, Brian Hoyer hit Jordan Cameron on a seven-yard touchdown, completing the comeback with an 11-play, 55-yard drive in 2:30.
Leslie Frazier Started to Coach Like His Job Depends on It
I really would like to see Leslie Frazier succeed. He seems like a decent guy—and, perhaps, that is the problem.
As far as nice guys go, he must be one of the nicest, as the Vikings fall to 1-7 on the season.
What I just don't understand is, if he is a players' coach, why does it seem like his players are not playing that hard for him. If they were, I would expect to see some better results.
Against the Cowboys, Frazier took a some chances on fourth down, going for it three times. He was 2-of-3 in the game, with one resulting in a touchdown.
The Vikings failed on a 4th-and-1 on the Cowboys' 16-yard line early in the second quarter. With the score tied, 3-3, instead of kicking a field goal, Frazier decided to go for it. Unfortunately, Peterson was stopped short, and the Cowboys scored a field goal on their next drive.
The second time also came deep in Cowboys' territory. With 5:49 left in the game and facing a 4th-and-1 on the 11-yard line, Frazier, again, decided to go for it. This time, Adrian Peterson took the ball into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
I like the fact that Frazier is being aggressive. There will be people who question these moves, along with forgoing the long field goal at the end of the game and punting the ball instead. In the end, it didn't matter, as three points would still not have been enough to win the game.