Minnesota Vikings: Five Keys to Victory Against the Cowboys

Dan NelsonCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2010

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 28:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the ball against the Chicago Bears in the first half at Soldier Field on December 28, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys come into their game very evenly matched.

The Cowboys and Vikings both give up around 90 yards per game on the ground and about 220 yards per game in the air.

Both teams get to the quarterback—the Vikings have 48 sacks and the Cowboys have 42.

On offense, both teams have a fairly balanced attack. The Vikings average 120 yards on the ground and 260 through the air, while the Cowboys average 131 on the ground and 268 through the air.

With a game that looks very even on paper, I have five keys to the Vikings getting a victory over the Cowboys.


1. The Offensive Line: Win the battle up front

We all know Adrian Peterson can run. However, if you've watched the Vikings at all this year, you saw a team that has done poorly on the offensive line, especially in the run game.

While many nitpick at Peterson's lack of patience, I point to poor run blocking as a reason for a digression in the running game this year.

Adrian Peterson needs to get the ball in this game. In the Vikings' 12 victories, Peterson averaged 20.6 carries per game. In the Vikings' four losses, Peterson averaged 16.8 carries.

More importantly, Peterson averaged less than four yards per carry in each of the Vikings' losses. If the line can step up after a week of rest and win the battle up front, the Vikings will put themselves in position to win.


2. Contain Miles Austin

Miles Austin has put up 40-yard plays in seven games this season, and the Vikings are suspect to big plays through the air.

The Vikings have given up 26 touchdowns through the air this season while picking off just 11 passes.

Austin is a game-breaker whom the Vikings don't have the personnel to cover. Antoine Winfield has been getting burned one-on-one since returning from a foot injury, and Cedric Griffin is not fast enough to cover Austin.

Due to these circumstances, the Vikings will need to give Austin extra attention, including a lot of double teams and safety help.

However, the safeties have not played very well this year. Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams have been late to a lot of plays. The Vikings need both of them to step up and play a great game on Sunday.

The Cowboys score a lot of their touchdowns on big plays and have suffered in the red zone. If the Vikings can contain Austin and force the Cowboys to go elsewhere with the ball, they put themselves in great position to win.


3. Let Brett Favre do his thing

Sorry Brad Childress, but you have not been here before. Brett Favre has. You need to trust your quarterback on Sunday.

We all saw in Weeks 1-14, and week 17 what Brett Favre can do when he is let loose with the Vikings' weapons. This week should be no different. If Favre feels the need to audible or alter the game plan, he needs to have the freedom to do that.

Favre has just one Super Bowl ring, but that's one more than Brad Childress and one more than every team that has ever dressed in Viking purple.


4. Force Tony Romo to pass

While Dallas has a great rushing attack, the Vikings have a great run defense. With Pat Williams expected to play and Marion Barber nursing a sore knee, the Vikings should be able to contain the Cowboys on the ground.

The Packers and Broncos each showed that it's not impossible to contain the three-headed attack of Tashard Choice, Marion Barber, and Felix Jones.

More importantly, teams like the Packers showed what happens to the Cowboys if you make them air it out, yet contain Miles Austin.

The Green Bay Packers held the Cowboys to just seven points in Week 10. Romo threw the ball 39 times while the Cowboys ran only 14 times.

Although Roy Williams had over 100 yards receiving, Miles Austin had just 20. That game showed what you can do to the Cowboys if you force them to throw.

The New York Giants, who have one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, were also able to defeat the Cowboys by forcing them to pass.


5. Force the Cowboys to kick field goals

The Vikings have had significantly better play from their kicker this year than the Dallas Cowboys. Ryan Longwell has been incredibly reliable on field goal tries, making 26 of 28 attempts.

Nick Folk, however, has been awful this season, making just 18 of 28 field goal attempts. This caused the Cowboys to find an emergency replacement in the slightly more reliable Shaun Suisham.

Suisham has made just 79 percent of his kicks for his career.

If the Vikings can play good defense on their own side of the 50-yard line, they can force the Cowboys to kick (and miss) field goals.

The Cowboys have also been poor in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns on just over 50 percent of their tries. This is one of the main reasons the Cowboys averaged only 22 points per game, despite having such an explosive offense.

If the Minnesota Vikings can play great defense on their own side of the 50, they should move on to the NFC Championship.