For at least a decade, despite the increased passing numbers throughout the NFL, members of the Minnesota Vikings defense have proclaimed a unified mantra. As Pat Williams would put it, they want to "smash the run."
Back when Williams was the biggest brick in the Williams Wall and headlined a nearly impenetrable defensive line, that approach worked well. Now, however, offenses are finding it too easy to pass against the Vikings and almost giving up on the run. After all, they have the 29th-ranked pass defense and 29th-ranked defense overall, so the approach makes sense.
The average team so far this year rushes about 27 times per game and attempts about 36 passes in a NFL game.
The Dallas Cowboys, like they did with their stadium, just took it to another level in a 27-23 win against the Vikings.
The Cowboys ran 63 plays from scrimmage against the Vikings: 54 pass plays (including three sacks) and nine runs. According to the Elias Sport Bureau, that was the highest pass-to-run ratio (6.0 to 1) in a victory in NFL history. The previous high was a 5.9-to-1 ratio by the Denver Broncos in a 23-20 win over the Bills in 1962.
Defensive end Brian Robison believes the Cowboys are simply a passing team and they might not have done anything special against the Vikings.
"I think really if you look at their whole season, they've done a lot of things in their passing game that has allowed them to win ballgames," Robison said. "Their record really should be better than what it is if you really look at their games that they've had. A lot of that is because of their passing game, because of the things Tony Romo can do as far as escaping pressure."
But a 6-to-1 ratio of pass to run is unprecedented in the NFL. The league average is to attempt a pass 59.1 percent of the offensive snaps this season. Not surprisingly, it's a little higher against the Vikings – 61.2 percent. But the Cowboys attempted to pass an incredible 85.7 percent of their offensive plays.
"I don't know if that's something we'll keep seeing. Bottom line is we haven't really played defense the way we need to in any area yet," Robison said. "Sunday was the first time that I thought we had really stepped up as a defense and played very well (until the last drive). Hopefully we can do it again this Thursday night and end up on the right side."
The Vikings gave up 350 yards of total offense to the Cowboys, the second-fewest of the season (the New York Giants had 257), but before Romo's game-winning drive they had given up only 260 yards.
"Yards sometimes does indicate how you're playing; sometimes it doesn't. I think we played some good football that game," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "I think that's the way you look at it. You wish you could have made one more stop. Just fell one short and now we've just got to try, this is an explosive offense that we're going to play (against Washington) and we got to play a better game than we played last week."
Romo needed that final drive to set the NFL record for pass-to-run ratio. He passed all nine of the final plays and completed seven of those passes (one of the incompletions was a drop and the other was a throwaway). They continued to go to the pass despite having a season-high 10 dropped passes, according to the Dallas Morning News.
"I know we're struggling in the pass game, but you never know what teams are going to do," said CB A.J. Jefferson, who thought they had the game won when he intercepted a Romo pass with 4½ minutes to play. "They're always going to do something different depending on what we've got going on. We've just got to buckle down and see what they're doing and eliminate the run first of all and then take away the pass when it's there."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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