Christian Ponder played an efficient first half, but it didn't take long and an ill-timed turnover resulted in a Cowboys touchdown and a 20-10 lead. Plus, get more than two dozen notes to help tell the tale of the game.
Another week. Another loss. Another debate about the state of the Vikings quarterback position.
From the time he was drafted by the Vikings and became the starter seven games into his NFL career, the book on Christian Ponder
has remained essentially the same – if he doesn't commit turnovers, the Vikings win. When he does, the Vikings lose.
Sunday was the career of Ponder in microcosm. For the most part, he was efficient with his passes, completing 25 of 37 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown, but he also committed two turnovers – a fumble in the third quarter in the end zone that was recovered by Dallas for a touchdown and an interception.
"There are some plays that you need to do a little better on for sure," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's just got to make some good decisions in key situations. He did some good things, but he'll tell you he can do better."
Ponder made plays with his arm and his legs. Most of his passes were short completions that moved the chains, but, once again, it was his mistakes in the pocket that have been the staple of his NFL career to date. At times, it seemed as though Ponder was unaware of the pressure around him. He was sacked twice and fumbled on both of them – the second coming in the waning seconds that he recovered, but took a 7-yard loss and forced the Vikings to burn a timeout.
When the team got across midfield for a final Hail Mary play, Ponder was given the protection to allow him to wind up and throw one into the end zone, but the ball came up five yards short because he didn't have the arm strength to consistently launch a ball 55 yards into the end zone.
The Vikings offense did enough to win the game – minus the turnovers. But for the third time this season with the lead and the ball with less than five minutes to play, the Vikings needed Ponder to be more than a game manager. They needed him to make the plays to salt the game away. He didn't and the result was the same: another disheartening Vikings loss.
The injuries just keep on coming for the Vikings. At the end of the first half, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt suffered a concussion that took him out of the game. He was replaced by J'Marcus Webb, who gave up the pressure when Ponder fumbled in the end zone early in the third quarter.
When he caught a 31-yard touchdown pass, tight end Kyle Rudolph suffered a left foot injury and didn't return to the game.
Xavier Rhodes went down with a knee injury as well as taking a helmet-to-helmet "friendly fire" hit from Chad Greenway.
With the Vikings facing a short week of preparation for Washington Thursday, there have to be some doubts as to whether any of the three will be able to return in the short turnaround time. Loadholt is the least likely to return, but Rudolph reportedly had his foot in a walking boot leaving the locker room but said X-rays were negative.
Lost in the defeat was a big day from Adrian Peterson, who ran 25 times for 140 yards and a touchdown. Peterson purchased more than 80 tickets for family and friends and ran with a lot of fire, including an 11-yard touchdown that was highlight-film material as he dragged defenders with him into the end zone after being stood up on the 5-yard line.
In the previous three games combined, Peterson had just 36 rushing attempts.
Peterson scored a touchdown in the 58th game of his career. That ties him for third in team history with Bill Brown. Peterson trails only Cris Carter (79) and Randy Moss (62).
With his touchdown, Peterson moved past Hall of Famer Jim Brown for most rushing touchdowns in his first seven seasons with 83. He trails only LaDainian Tomlinson (115), Emmitt Smith (108) and Shaun Alexander (96).
The Vikings held a big yardage advantage prior to Dallas driving 90 yards in the final 2½ minutes. They finished the game with a 393-350 yardage edge.
Dallas converted just 5 of 14 third-down opportunities, which was one of the better showing by the Vikings defense that has been routinely burned on third down.
The Cowboys were as one-dimensional as any team the Vikings have played in years. Of their 63 offensive plays Sunday, only eight of them were designed running plays and accounted for just 28 yards.
Chad Greenway registered his 1,000th career tackle Sunday, joining Vikings legends Scott Studwell, Matt Blair, Jeff Siemon and Ed McDaniel as the only players in franchise history to accomplish that feat.
The Vikings also held a rare time-of-possession edge, holding the ball for 31:27 of the 60 minutes.
Ponder completed passes to nine different receivers, led by Greg Jennings who had six catches for 56 yards.
Jason Witten caught eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, becoming the seventh player to have more than 100 yards receiving against the Vikings this season.
The Vikings did a decent job of limiting Dez Bryant, who had five catches for just 30 yards prior to making the back-breaking 34-yard reception in the game's final drive.
Jared Allen appeared to have a hand in two sacks Sunday, but wasn't credited with a sack on either play. Brian Robison got two sacks and Everson Griffen got one.
Because the Cowboys were passing so much, it showed up in the tackle numbers. Marcus Sherels led the team with eight tackles, followed by Rhodes (six) and Andrew Sendejo (five). Leading tacklers Erin Henderson and Greenway finished with four tackles each.
Blair Walsh missed the first extra point of his career Sunday and it couldn't have come at a worse time with the Vikings looking to take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. He had made his first 57 extra points of his career.
The Cowboys scored 27 points in the game and 14 of them came in a 10-second span of the third quarter.
Dallas ran just 5 of 28 plays in the first half and 4 of 35 plays in the second half, with one of those being a scramble by Romo.
Peterson had more carries at halftime (14) than he had in any of the previous three games.
Ponder has accounted for seven touchdowns in his four games – three passing and four rushing.
The Vikings went for a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter from the Dallas 16-yard line. The play was stuffed and kept the Vikings from taking a 6-3 lead that would become more important as the game went on.
Josh Freeman was the inactive No. 3 quarterback Sunday.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.