What Went Wrong: 5 Takeaways From The Cowboys Loss

Posted Nov 3, 2013

The Vikings traveled to Dallas this past weekend as double-digit underdogs to the high-flying Dallas Cowboys offense, which is led by the dynamic duo of quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys got all they could handle from the Vikings for much of the game and even trailed late in the 4th quarter before Romo ultimately drove his team 90 yards for the game-winning score.

It was another closely-contested, final-minute type of loss for the Vikings, a move the team and its fans have seen far too often this season.

So what went wrong? Here are a few ideas…

Cowboys netted 14-point swing to open 2nd half
With 12:23 to play in the 3rd quarter, the Vikings had a 10-6 lead behind a Blair Walsh field goal in the 1st quarter and then a six-yard Christian Ponder touchdown run, his fourth of the season, in the 2nd quarter. But things changed quickly, and drastically, at that point. Less than one minute of game time later, the Cowboys had surged ahead and were enjoying a 20-10 lead.

Romo and the Cowboys offense opened the 3rd quarter with a six-play, 74 yard drive that culminated in a 26-yard scoring strike from Romo to tight end Jason Witten with 11:43 to play in the quarter. After Cordarrelle Patterson muffed the ensuing kickoff, the Vikings offense setup shop at their own 5. On the first play of the drive, Ponder was sacked by defensive end George Selvie and fumbled in the end zone, with defensive tackle Nick Hayden falling on the fumble for the score.

In the blink of an eye, the Cowboys had turned a four-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

Neither defense nor offense closed when given the chance
Touchdowns by Kyle Rudolph and Adrian Peterson allowed the Vikings to recover from that 14-point swing and take back the lead, and then, with a 23-20 advantage in their favor, the Vikings defense had Romo and Co. trapped in a 3rd and 9 from their own 27 with just 4:35 to play in the game. Cornerback AJ Jefferson stepped in front of a Romo offering that was intended for receiver Terrence Williams, and Jefferson came down with the interception along the Vikings sideline, giving the Vikings offense a chance to ice the game. But ice the game they would not, instead going three-and-out, setting up a 4th and 5 from the Dallas 36. Opting to punt rather than try a long field goal or go for it, the Vikings pinned Dallas at their own 10 thanks to a perfectly executed Jeff Locke punt.

With the offense unable to seal the deal, the Vikings defense came on the field needing to prevent a long drive by the Cowboys to preserve the win. But Romo was too good, completing seven of nine passes and marching the Cowboys 90 yards in nine plays to take a 27-23 lead with just 42 seconds to play in the 4th quarter.

The Vikings prepared all week and battled all game enough to win, but down the stretch they just couldn’t come up with the big play to seal the deal.

Couldn’t capitalize on prime field position
When you’re a struggling team playing on the road against a high-scoring offense, taking advantage of every opportunity is a must. Twice on Sunday in Dallas the Vikings took possession inside Cowboys territory.

The first was following a 26-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels on a fake reverse to Patterson that put the offense on the Dallas 37. The Vikings drove 21 yards on the next six plays and faced a 4th and short, choosing to go for it. But Adrian Peterson was stuffed and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs and squandered excellent field position.

The second opportunity came late in the game following Jefferson’s interception, which placed the Vikings on the Dallas 41 with a chance to drive the ball, take time off the clock and register the winning score. But the Vikings went three-and-out and had to punt away.

Ball security
On three occasions the Vikings mishandled or turned over a possession that wound up costing them. The first two came in combination, with Patterson muffing a kickoff and the ball bouncing out of bounds at the Minnesota 5 as a result. On the first play of that drive, Ponder was sacked and lost possession of the ball in the end zone, resulting in the Hayden touchdown.

Then early in the 4th quarter with the Dallas leading 20-17, the Vikings were in a 3rd and 4 from their own 30. Ponder was pressured up the middle by Everett Brown on his drop back and the result was a pass that floated too high and wide, right into the arms of cornerback Orlando Scandrick.

Injuries continue to mount
The Vikings came into the game banged up, with Chris Cook, Rhett Ellison, Fred Evans and Jamarca Sanford all unable to play due to injury. It got worse during the game, as right tackle Phil Loadholt (concussion), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (knee) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) all left the game due to injury. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion was also hobbled during the game. Making matters worse is the fact that the Vikings have a short week coming up because they host the Washington Redskins at Mall of America Field on Thursday night.