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5 Takeaways: Vikings Have Horrific Halloween Ending in Loss to Cowboys

The Vikings suffered more tricks than treats on Sunday night's Halloween showdown with the Cowboys.

And the final result was like watching a horror show as Minnesota coughed up a late lead on Sunday Night Football.

The Vikings fell 20-16, and are now 3-4 on the season. Minnesota was trying to get over .500 for the first time this season, and for the first time since the end of the 2019 season.

This one had its share of scares as the Vikings certainly didn't wow anyone in front of a national television audience.

Up 16-13 in the final minutes, the Vikings defense allowed a 75-yard touchdown drive as the Cowboys took the lead.

Amari Cooper, who ended the drive with a 5-yard touchdown catch, started it with back-to-back catches for 51 combined yards.

But the killer came when Dallas faced third-and-16 at the Vikings 25-yard line. The Vikings had just called a timeout the play before, and were whistled for a 5-yard, delay of game when they tried to call one again.

And on third-and-11, Minnesota allowed running back Ezekiel Elliott to rumble for 15 yards on a catch-and-run. The play included missed tackles from multiple Viking defenders, and the five yards from the previous penalty loomed large.

The Cowboys, which improved to 6-1, got the road win without star quarterback Dak Prescott, too.

Cooper Rush made his first NFL start, throwing for 325 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Here are four other takeaways from Minnesota's Week 8 loss:

1. Xavier Woods gets his revenge

Xavier Woods spent the first four seasons of his career with the Cowboys, who took him in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

But the safety was a free agent this offseason, and Woods said earlier this week that he never really expected to stay with the Cowboys.

"I guess they didn't want me back, to be blatant," Woods said Thursday.

The Vikings are happy Woods was in Purple for this one, Woods had a monster game for Minnesota with a pair of takeaways against his former team.

Woods picked off Rush early in the second quarter on a pass that was initially deflected by Harrison Smith.

The safety then delivered the boom early in the fourth quarter, crushing Rush on a sack and jarring the ball loose. Anthony Barr recovered the fumble for the Vikings, although the offense was forced to punt it away despite starting at Minnesota's own 48-yard line.

2. Struggles on 3rd down

Third downs were a sight for sore eyes most of the night for the Vikings on both sides on the ball.

Defensively, Minnesota entered the game with the league's No. 1 defense on that down, as opponents had converted just 29.17 percent of the time.

But the Cowboys found success against the Vikings by converting on seven of 14 third-down tries, good for a clip of 50 percent.

No conversion was more costly for the Vikings than on the opening drive of the third quarter, when Dallas converted a third-and-8 by scoring on a 73-yard touchdown pass. The score was the first touchdown pass of Rush's career.

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings offense floundered on third down against the Cowboys.

Minnesota moved the chains just once in the first half in six tries, and it came on the first try when Tyler Conklin made a leaping reception for 31 yards.

But the Vikings then went cold, as they couldn't convert on ensuing dozen attempts on third downs.

Overall, Minnesota was 1-for-13 on the crucial down.

3. The streak continues

The Vikings offense kept up their opening-drive hot streak Sunday night, as Minnesota scored on its opening possession for the sixth consecutive game.

The Vikings lost the toss and were on offense to start the game, as Cousins and Co. marched 75 yards for a touchdown.

Cousins found Thielen for a 20-yard score down the left seam as the wide receiver wiggled his way into the end zone for his sixth touchdown of the season.

Here is Minnesota's opening-drive scores over the past six games:

Week 2: K.J. Osborn TD in Arizona

Week 3: Tyler Conklin TD vs. Seattle

Week 4: Justin Jefferson TD vs. Cleveland

Week 5: Greg Joseph FG vs. Detroit

Week 6: Greg Joseph FG in Carolina

Week 8: Thielen TD vs. Dallas

4. Griffen leads Vikings DE group

The Vikings suffered a big loss Sunday, as Danielle Hunter left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half.

Griffen led a group that featured youngsters D.J. Wonnum and Kenny Willekes, and recorded a sack against the team he played roughly half the season for in 2020.

Willekes, a seventh-round pick in 2020, made his NFL debut.