Of all the players who felt disconsolate following the Minnesota Vikings’ 17-15 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night, nobody felt worse than the offensive line. They allowed Sam Bradford to get pounded – at one point, knocked out of the game after taking a shot to the ribs. They committed penalties that killed drives from the beginning of the game until the final minute.
Perhaps the most upset was guard Alex Boone. He stood at his locker for several minutes silently fuming and, when he finally did speak, it was just one sentence.
“Offensive line’s got to play better,” Boone said. “I’ve got to play better. It’s (expletive) unacceptable. It won’t happen again.”
The Vikings got into the red zone three times, the last time coming in the final minute. Prior to that, Dallas had hit the red zone twice and scored two touchdowns. The Vikings got there twice, as well as getting to the 21-yard line, and came away with three field goals.
“That’s what made the difference in the game,” guard Brandon Fusco said. “Three field goals? We get nine points instead of 21 points. That’s what made the difference in the game. We’re killing ourselves in the red zone – penalties or you get a big play and then something bad happens right after. We’ve got to fix that and do better.”
Tackle Jeremiah Sirles, who was called for a false start as the Vikings tried to make a two-point conversion that would have sent the game to overtime, felt the same way.
The offense was able to move the ball and, when the defense created a turnover in the red zone, had a very short field to work with. There’s an old adage in football that the team that scores field goals doesn’t usually win and the Vikings were the poster children for that.
“When we get the ball in the red zone, we’ve got to score seven,” Sirles said. “Points are points, but we should have had 21 points. They’re a great team, but we did most of this to ourselves. It’s just frustrating when you let the defense down. They played a hell of a game against a very good offense. It hurts.”
What made the pain more pronounced was that the Vikings felt they had the better team on the field Thursday night. It wasn’t that Dallas displayed dominance over the Vikings and ran them off the field. Far from it.
“It was self-inflicted wounds that did us in,” Sirles said. “When you get beat, you get beat. When you beat yourself, it hurts even more.”
With Minnesota’s record now at 6-6 with a 4-6 conference record, there aren’t many tie-breaker scenarios that would work in their favor. As a result, the reality of their situation is that they will need to likely win all four of their remaining games to have a chance to return to the playoffs.
It won’t be easy, but it’s the situation they’re in.
“We’ve got four games to go and it looks like we’ll have to win every one,” Fusco said. “We don’t have a choice. We have to win out.”
- The Vikings outgained Dallas 318-264, running 69 plays to just 49 for Dallas, resulting in a time of possession edge of 33:17 to 26:43.
- Minnesota held a yardage advantage of 192-108 in the second half.
- The Vikings held the Cowboys to just one of nine converting third downs. Minnesota converted six of 16.
- Both teams were heavily penalized. Dallas had 10 called penalties for 78 yards. The Vikings had eight accepted penalties for 57 yards.
- Dallas got in the red zone twice and scored two touchdowns. The Vikings got in the red zone three times and scored one TD – in the final seconds of the game.
- Dak Prescott attempted just 18 passes, completing 12 of them for just 139 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 108.3. Bradford was just the opposite. He threw 45 passes, completing 32 of them for 247 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 91.6.
- The Vikings had one of their best rushing games of the season in terms of average per carry. The team ran 19 times for 87 yards, led by Jerick McKinnon, who ran nine times for 41 yards. Ezekiel Elliott had 86 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, but his yards were the fewest he has rushed for since Week 2.
- Jason Witten saw his streak of 130 straight games with at least one reception come to an end.
- Stefon Diggs led the Vikings with eight receptions for 59 yards. Adam Thielen added seven for a team-high 86 yards and Kyle Rudolph caught six for 45 yards.
- The two teams combined to have minus-4 punt return yards. Dallas had two returns for 1 yard and the Vikings had three returns for minus-5 yards and a fumble.
- Everson Griffen led the team with eight tackles.
- Danielle Hunter had two sacks, increasing his team-leading total to 9½.
- Thielen had the biggest mistake of the game when he returned a punt and fumbled on his own 8-yard line. Initially, Theilen was ruled down, but the Cowboys challenged the ruling and replay showed the ball came loose before Thielen hit the ground and the Cowboys got the ball on the 8-yard line. On the next play, Prescott threw a short pass to Bryant, who found the pylon for a touchdown and a 14-9 Cowboys lead with 10:22 to play.
- The Vikings didn’t allow Dallas to score in the third quarter. For the season, Minnesota has allowed just 20 points in the third quarter, the fewest points of any team in the NFL.
- In the final minute of the third quarter, the Vikings got the defensive play of the game, as Brian Robison overpowered his man and slapped the ball out of Prescott’s hand directly into the waiting arms of Griffen. The Vikings offense couldn’t take advantage, but it led to a Kai Forbath field goal that gave the Vikings a 9-7 lead with 14:11 to play.
- The Vikings had a 10-play, 49-yard drive in the third quarter that stalled just inside the red zone, but got a field goal to cut the deficit to 7-6 with 2:10 to play in the third quarter.
- Rudolph caught back to back passes in the third quarter – the first tied his single-season high of 53 catches, the second set a new mark with his 54th.
- At halftime, the Vikings honored their Hall of Famers who were in attendance to get the new Hall of Fame rings that previous inductees receive. Those in attendance were Cris Carter, Bud Grant, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Randall McDaniel, Ron Yary, Chris Doleman, Paul Krause and John Randle.
- The Cowboys outgained the Vikings 156-126 in the first half. Dallas had 86 yards passing and 70 rushing, while the Vikings had 101 yards passing and 25 yards rushing.
- Bradford completed 13 of 18 passes for 102 yards and a passer rating of 85.9 in the first half. Rudolph and Diggs each caught four passes – Rudolph gaining 31 yards and Diggs gaining 24. Thielen led the Vikings in receiving yards with 45 on three receptions.
- Prescott completed seven of 10 passes for 89 yards and a passer rating of 97.5 in the first half. Elliott ran 12 times for 39 yards and a touchdown and Bryant led the receivers with two catches for 63 yards.
- The Cowboys outgained the Vikings 99-37 in the second quarter, with 56 of those yards coming on one pass to Bryant.
- In the final minute of the first half, Bradford took a shot to the ribs and had to leave the game. Hill came off the bench to replace him.
- Jeff Locke had a play one rarely sees. He hit a brutal punt that only went 30 yards before taking a backward bounce – ending up being just a 16-yard punt that was knocked out of bounds by Locke himself. Later in the half Locke had a punt that went just 25 yards, part of one of the worst games of his career.
- The Cowboys had a chance to open up a big lead in the second quarter as Bradford was intercepted by linebacker Anthony Hitchens, but the pick was negated by a hands-to-the-face penalty on Orlando Scandrick, allowing the Vikings to dodge a bullet.
- Dallas scored the first touchdown of the game on an eight-play, 84-yard drive that should have ended early. Facing a third-and-13 play from the 13-yard line, Prescott scrambled for 14 yards – diving head first for a first down. Four plays later, a blown coverage led to a 56-yard bomb to Bryant to the 1-yard line. Elliott plunged in from there to give Dallas a 7-3 lead with 5:29 to play in the first half.
- The Vikings got the first turnover of the game on a fumble by Lucky Whitehead. He got drilled by Griffen and fumbled. The loose ball was recovered on the Vikings 34-yard line by Eric Kendricks, keeping Dallas off the scoreboard.
- Bradford completed seven of nine passes for 79 yards in the first quarter. Three of them went to Rudolph for 29 yards and two went to Thielen for 39 yards. McKinnon had two carries for six yards and Matt Asiata had two rushes for four yards.
- Prescott completed three of five passes for just 17 yards in the first quarter. Elliott had six carries for 29 yards.
- The Vikings outgained the Cowboys 89-57 in the first quarter. The Vikings had 79 yards passing and 10 yards rushing, while the Cowboys managed 40 yards rushing and 17 yards passing. The Vikings held the ball for 8:38 of the quarter.
- The Vikings scored the first points of the game late in the first quarter after driving to the Dallas 21-yard line following passes of 17 yards to Rudolph and 16 yards to Thielen. A holding call on Boone negated a first down in the red zone and the Vikings had to settle for a 48-yard Forbath field goal.
- Dallas averted disaster midway through the first quarter. Elliott fumbled a sweep that was poked out by Anthony Barr. While it appeared the Vikings recovered, on review it was ruled that Elliott had possession when he was down, denying the Vikings the ball on the Dallas 14-yard line.
- The Vikings’ first drive of the game had a chance for a huge play as Bradford completed a 31-yard bomb to Patterson, who was hand-fighting downfield. To the dismay of the crowd, Patterson was called for offensive pass interference, which helped kill the drive.
- Dallas had won the last meeting in 2013 by a score 27-23. But, Minnesota had won seven of last nine meetings prior to Thursday night
- Before their win Thursday, Dallas hadn’t won a game in Minnesota since 1995.
- Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne was inactive and was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Anthony Brown.
- Among the Vikings inactives were defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, center Joe Berger and punt returner Marcus Sherels.
- Nick Easton and made his first career start filling in for Berger.
- Thursday was the 30th career meeting between the Vikings and Cowboys. Dallas leads the series 16-14.
- Yary sounded the Gjallarhorn prior to the start of the game.
- The paid attendance was 66,860, a U.S. Bank Stadium record.