Grading the game: Cowboys

The Vikings survived with an NFC win, but things still weren't running all that smoothly, especially for the offense. One aspect of the game did get an A-minus for its efforts.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — Brett Favre passed for only 118 yards — his second-lowest total since joining the Vikings — but did not throw an interception for the first time in a game this season. He also had one touchdown pass. The Vikings offense struggled to muster much of anything in the first half for the second game in a row. Favre, who is battling tendinitis in his throwing elbow, completed six of seven passes in the opening 30 minutes but had only 47 yards. All three of the sacks against Favre came in the first half, although he took several big hits from the blitzing Cowboys. Randy Moss, playing his first regular-season game at the Metrodome as a member of the Vikings since 2004, was the team's leading receiver, but he had only five catches for 55 yards. Percy Harvin added three receptions for 21 yards. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe did not have a catch in a game for the first time this season.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Adrian Peterson produced the best rushing total in his three career games against Dallas, but it still wasn't all that impressive. Peterson finished with a season-low 73 yards on 24 carries, a 3.0-yard average. It didn't help matters that the Vikings started their third center in five games because of a calf injury to John Sullivan. This time it was Jon Cooper, an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma in 2009, who got the start. The Vikings were held to 95 yards on 28 carries, marking the third time this season they have failed to reach 100 yards in a game. At this point, it's not clear who the top backup to Peterson is on this team. Harvin, a wide receiver, had two carries for 18 yards. Rookie Toby Gerhart had one carry and Albert Young got in for only a couple of snaps in a blocking role.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus — The Vikings were victimized by three touchdown passes from Tony Romo, all three being the direct result of Dallas being able to go after veteran cornerback Lito Sheppard. Sheppard was used as the left cornerback in nickel situations with Chris Cook out for at least another week because of a knee injury. Starting right corner Cedric Griffin has been lost for the season because of an ACL injury. That meant in the nickel, the Vikings shifted left corner Antoine Winfield inside and had Sheppard play the outside. Asher Allen started at the right corner. Sheppard was beaten on the second of Roy Williams' two touchdown catches, a 2-yard pass, and on a 31-yard pass in the front corner of the end zone that went to Dez Bryant. Sheppard went up for the ball and appeared to get his hand on it, but Bryant won the battle. The Cowboys also had a 30-yard pass play to tight end Jason Witten. Romo threw for 220 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — After giving up a season-high 155 yards to the Jets on the ground Oct. 11, the Vikings held the Cowboys to 94 yards on 28 carries. Felix Jones led the way with 32 yards on 14 carries, and the Cowboys did not have a run that went for more than 14 yards. This is more along the lines of what's expected from a run defense that has been among the best in the NFL since 2006.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus — This unit is a primary reason the Vikings won this game. Harvin's 95-yard kickoff return to open the second half tied the score and provided the Vikings with a much-needed spark. Chris Kluwe also contributed by placing four of his five punts inside the Dallas 20-yard line. Kluwe's near perfect 53-yarder in the third quarter pinned the Cowboys at their own 4-yard line. That forced Dallas to punt from its own end zone and gave the Vikings a short field on which they were able to score a touchdown to take a 21-14 lead. Kluwe also put the ball at the Dallas 7-yard line late in the fourth quarter to all but end the game. Ryan Longwell's 38-yard field goal with 4:03 left in the fourth quarter provided the winning points.

COACHING: B-minus — The Vikings offense continues to struggle despite featuring Favre, Harvin, Moss and Peterson. At some point, the Vikings are going to have to figure this thing out because their defense is staying on the field far too long, and that's going to mean players will start to wear down. The Vikings did have at least one curious call against the Cowboys. On a third-and-6 from their own 29-yard line with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter, Favre threw what appeared to be an incomplete pass to Greg Lewis that stopped the clock and should have meant the Vikings had to punt. However, Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins was called for pass interference, and the Vikings were able to take the clock down to 13 seconds left.


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