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Vikings Defense Loses Momentum Against Cowboys Offense

MINNEAPOLIS — There weren't many words to describe the Vikings thrilling comeback victory in overtime last week at Buffalo. There were fewer to depict Sunday's game against the Cowboys.

A stalemate in the first quarter quickly went south for Minnesota's defense, as Dallas scored 37 unanswered points the rest of the way en route to a 40-3 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"Nobody expected it," Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "There were so many things that happened; this is something that you have to watch the film, [and] it's all probably not going to look good. We've got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time."

Overall, the Cowboys racked up 458 total yards of offense, including 307 through the air. Dallas also recorded 23 first downs and converted 12 of its 17 third downs.

View game action photos of the Vikings vs. Cowboys in the Week 11 matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said the Cowboys physicality, especially in the ground game, helped turn the tempo in their favor.

"I think they got the run game going. I think they got timely third down conversions. I think that some of those runs, where they turned maybe a 3- or 4-yard gain into 7 or 8 by just running hard and physical. The physicality with which they played on the line of scrimmage," O'Connell said. "Then I thought Dak [Prescott] made some big time plays… We've got to find a way to get a little more pressure, try to tighten up on the back end. It's really a little bit of everything tonight."

The Cowboys started with excellent field position after recovering a Kirk Cousins fumble on the Minnesota 27-yard line, but the Vikings defense stood their ground and held Dallas to a 27-yard field goal by Brett Maher with 10:22 left in the first quarter.

It didn't improve much from there.

After a 25-yard field goal from Vikings kicker Greg Joseph on the ensuing drive tied things up at 3-3, the Cowboys quickly turned to the ground game. Dallas running back Tony Pollard used consecutive gains of 18 and 20 yards before Ezekiel Elliott scored from a yard out to make it 10-3 with 1:26 left in the first quarter.

It was the second and third quarters, though, where Dallas took complete control.

The Cowboys quickly marched down on their first possession of the second quarter, with Pollard, Elliott and Prescott combining for 34 yards on the ground to move into Minnesota territory.

The Vikings would force Dallas into a 53-yard field goal by Maher, but the Cowboys got the ball back near midfield after a Minnesota three-and-out. Dallas marched to the Vikings 30 before Prescott connected with Pollard for a 30-yard score to push the Cowboys lead to 20-3 with 1:43 left in the first half.

Dallas wasn't done there in the first half, however.

A Vikings punt pinned the Cowboys at their own 14-yard line with 31 seconds left, but Prescott led Dallas downfield and found wide receiver CeeDee Lamb for a 27-yard catch with five seconds remaining.

Maher then booted a 60-yard field goal as time expired to make it a 20-point halftime lead for Dallas.

The Cowboys got the ball to start the second half and wasted little time. On third-and-14 from the Dallas 32-yard line, Prescott hit Pollard in stride down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown to extend the Cowboys advantage to 30-3 with 12:32 left in the third quarter.

"I feel responsible for that first drive," said Hicks, who was defending Pollard on the play. "We were third-and-14. I need to be better on that third down and hopefully not give them that type of momentum to continue."

Dallas' next possession of the quarter didn't take much time either, as it moved 41 yards on just five plays to create a 1-yard touchdown run by Elliott.


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Minnesota's defense would hold the Cowboys to just a field goal the rest of the way, but the damage was already done, as Pollard and third-string running back Malik Davis helped run down the clock.

The Vikings have a quick turnaround, as Minnesota (8-2) hosts New England (6-4) on Thanksgiving at 7:20 p.m. (CT).

O'Connell said it will be a tough challenge, but a call he believes his team can answer.

"As the head coach of a team that experiences a game like this, it's ultimately on me to make sure that we go back and fix the things we can, control what we can control. But ultimately, this is a challenge," O'Connell said. "This is going to be an unbelievable challenge for our team. Four days from now, we'll be right back here, like I said, against a good football team. I'm willing to put everything we got into this game on a short week. And I trust our guys and what we've built here to respond the right way."

View pregame photos of Vikings players ahead of their Week 11 matchup vs. the Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Hicks said O'Connell's postgame message was similar to how it's been all season: continue to remain a team.

"Whether we win or lose, it's about us sticking together and being us," Hicks said. "[O'Connell's] preaching the same thing that he's preached since day one, and that's what matters, is what's in this locker room and our belief and our ability to go back to work. Win, lose or draw, we'll continue to press forward. One week at a time, that's the mindset."