The Vikings gave up a 12-yard run to Ezekiel Elliott to start the game, then forced the Cowboys off the field after a false start, a tackle of Elliott for no gain and an incompletion in which Danielle Hunter knocked Dak Prescott down.
The Vikings converted one third down after a false start on T.J. Clemmings with a 23-yard strike to Adam Thielen, but on the next play Cordarrelle Patterson was called for pass interference after another deep strike. They couldn’t overcome that penalty and punted it away to Dallas.
However, on the second play of the drive Elliott was stripped of the ball but, after it was initially awarded to the Vikings, the ruling on the field was reversed after Elliott clearly recovered. But it took only one more play and the Vikings got the ball back when forcing and a three-and-out.
Sam Bradford opened with back-to-back completions to Kyle Rudolph for 17 yards and Adam Thielen for 16 yards to the Cowboys 30-yard line. However, the third offensive penalty in two drives – a hold on Alex Boone – ended up bringing on Kai Forbath for a 48-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
After nearly getting a turnover in the first quarter, the Vikings got one to start the second quarter when Everson Griffen knocked the ball loose from Lucky Whitehead and Eric Kendricks recovered. While Bradford picked up one first down with a pass to Stefon Diggs, the pressure kept altering Bradford’s ability to step into his passes and eventually forced a punt.
The defense was generally playing well, but a couple big plays killed them. On third-and-13 with the Cowboys backed up on their 13-yard line, Prescott escaped contain and ran 14 yards for a first down. And, after moving the chains one more time, an apparent miscommunication between Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith let Dez Bryant get behind them for a 56-yard catch to the 1-yard line. Elliott scored on the next play and the Cowboys had a 7-6 lead with 5:29 to play in the half.
The Vikings moved the ensuing possession to midfield, thanks mainly to three straight penalties on Dallas – one of which averted an interception – but a 17-yard punt by Jeff Locke set up a big opportunity for the Cowboys, taking over on their own 32-yard line with 3:15 to play in the half. The Vikings held and had one final shot in the first half, but a big hit to Bradford took him out of the game and Minnesota punted away to end the half after a Danielle Hunter sack.
STATS: The Vikings held Elliott to 39 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Prescott to 7 of 10 passing for 89 yards, 56 of those coming on his pass to Bryant. Bradford finished completing 13 of 18 passes for 102 yards before walking to the halftime locker room under his own power. Rudolph and Diggs had four catches for 31 and 24 yards respectively, and Thielen had three catches for 45 yards.
When Bradford had time to pass, he was successful, starting the second half with a 25-yard pass to Charles Johnson. When Bradford didn’t have time, he was either hit or scrambled. The latter was true on the first third down of the half, as he scrambled for 10 yards and a first down. The Vikings moved into Dallas territory, but two incompletions and a mishandled snap forced a punt to the Dallas 9-yard line.
The defense continued its strong play and the offense continued to move the chains but failing to get into the end zone. Bradford moved the offense near midfield with a 10-yard pass to Diggs and across midfield with a 6-yard pass to Rudolph. Getting into the red zone, however, seemed to be a formula to stall. After setting a career high with 54 catches on the season, Rudolph had a pass in the end zone go through his hands as leaped for the ball and the Vikings settled for a 36-yard field goal and a one-point deficit, 7-6, with 2:10 left in the third quarter.
On the Cowboys’ next possession, Brain Robison beat his blocker around the edge and swatted the ball out of Prescott’s hand. With Everson Griffen recovering, the Vikings ended the third quarter in position for a score.
The Vikings couldn’t take full advantage of the great field position, settling for a 33-yard Forbath field goal to take a 9-7 lead with 14:11 to play.
The defense forced another punt, but when Thielen was stripped of the ball before his knee was down, the Cowboys had the ball on the 8-yard line and quickly took care of the Vikings’ lead with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant for a 14-9 lead with 10:22 to play.
When the Vikings could manage only one first down, Jeff Locke unloaded his third bad punt of the game, this one only 33 yards to the Dallas 46-yard line. Elliott got loose for 30 yards on the first play of the drive and just like that the Cowboys were in scoring position. The defense tightened up from there and forced a 39-yard Dan Bailey field goal, keeping Minnesota within one score, trailing 17-9 with 4:15 to play.
The Vikings got a stop and one more chance on offense. Starting on their own 35-yard line, Bradford hit Thielen for 18 yards and got to the doorstep of the red zone with a 15-yard pass to Diggs. Two more short passes and a Dallas penalty set up second-and-1 on the 3-yard line and Bradford found McKinnon for the touchdown and needed a two-point conversion to complete the comeback and tie the game. Instead, after a false start, Bradford’s pass sailed high and the officials missed a blow to Bradford’s helmet to keep the Vikings down by two, 17-15, with 25 seconds to play.
When Dallas recovered the onside kick, the game was over, dropping the Vikings to 6-6 on the season.