Shot Down in 'Big D,' 24-14

The Vikings lost a one-touchdown halftime lead when the Cowboys dominated the third quarter on their way to a 24-14 win. For the Vikings, it was far too little production from their quarterback and a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown, among other things, that doomed their Dallas hopes.

The Minnesota Vikings had a one-touchdown lead at halftime on the team that many consider to be the best in the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys, but the last 30 minutes of football showed why the Cowboys are now 6-1 and the Vikings are 2-4.

Despite being dominated in most statistical categories through the first half, the Vikings held a 14-7 lead at intermission thanks to Adrian Peterson and a fumble return for a touchdown, but the Cowboys quickly turned their one-touchdown deficit into a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter on their way to a the 10-point win over Minnesota.

The final statistics showed the stark contrast between the lead gunslingers on each team – Tony Romo was 31-for-39 for 277 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 104.8 passer rating. Tarvaris Jackson misfired often, was a miserable 6 of 19 for 72 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and a 44.2 pass rating. The Cowboys nearly doubled the Vikings' total net yards, Minnesota ending with 196 and Dallas with 381.

Jackson and the Vikings' passing offense had their second straight game of completing less than 50 percent of the throws, and this time Peterson wasn't the Purple savior that glossed over all of the Vikings' offensive indiscretions. Peterson and Chester Taylor continued to split carries – Peterson rushing only 12 times for 63 yards (5.3-yard average) and a touchdown and Taylor carrying 10 times for 47 yards.

But it was clearly a defective passing game that kept the Vikings from controlling the ball more, as Taylor was the only Viking to catch more than one pass, which meant an opportunistic defense that recovered two fumbles and returned one for a touchdown wasn't rewarded for spending 36 minutes and 35 seconds of the 60-minute contest out of the field.

The defense performed decently and created scoring chances, but it was the Cowboys' blocked field goal and ensuing 68-yard return for a touchdown that gave them a 21-14 lead late in the third quarter. In fact, after a 20-yard touchdown run on Minnesota's opening drive, the offense didn't produce a single point for the remaining 45 minutes and 43 seconds.

The Cowboys opened the game with methodical precision on their first drive. On the initial third down, Romo found Patrick Crayton when linebacker Ben Leber got caught in traffic. On the next third down, a fake pass to Owens in the right flat and then a pass to Julius Jones in the left flat picked up just enough yardage. Three plays later, on third-and-2, Owens found a seam in the zone for a 24-yard reception. Finally, on their last third down of the drive, Antoine Winfield and Darren Sharper both ran to tight end Anthony Fasano in the flat, leaving Owens wide open in the middle of end zone for a 5-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead, using up more than half of the first quarter with the 14-play drive.

The Vikings and their running game responded in kind. Taylor and Peterson each had 12-yard gains on a run and pass in the middle of the field, respectively, to start the game, moving the ball across midfield. When Jackson had a 6-yard scramble on third-and-7, the Vikings elected to go for the first down from the 36-yard line and Peterson delivered the tough yard with a run up the gut. Three plays later, Peterson presented another first down with a 6-yard run up the middle on third-and-1. After an incompletion, he came through with a 20-yard touchdown run with key blocks from Jim Kleinsasser, Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson to tie the game with 43 seconds left in the opening period.

The Minnesota defense started Dallas' next drive with a 10-yard sack from Kevin Williams, but passes of 11 yards to Jason Witten and 10 yards to Owens allowed the Cowboys to pick up a first down, the first of two chain-movers on Dallas' second drive that brought them to midfield before punting and pinning the Vikings at the 1-yard line.

When the Vikings didn't pick up a first down, they punted back to Dallas, which was set up with great field position on its own 44-yard line. An 11-yard pass to Owens, an 11-yard run by Barber and a 12-yard completion to Witten brought three first downs on consecutive plays. But once inside the 10-yard line, the Vikings stiffened and Kenechi Udeze forced a fumble on a sack. Kevin Williams recovered and lumbered 84 yards for a touchdown. However, a holding call during the return negated Williams' exhausting run and the Vikings were forced back to their own 21-yard line and a punt four plays later.

With 3:23 left in the first half, the Cowboys started riding their offense again on the hot hand of Romo, who completed four consecutive passes to four different receivers for a combined 39 yards, but when Winfield knocked the ball out of Patrick Crayton's hands on the fourth reception, Leber recovered, ran for 10 yards and lateraled to Cedric Griffin. Griffin ran for 15 yards before he fumbled without being touched, but he picked it up and continued his trot into the end zone 27 yards later for a 14-7 lead with 1:39 left in the half.

The Cowboys took their final possession of the half and moved the ball from their 19-yard line to Minnesota's 32-yard line with a hurry-up offense and two timeouts. Witten accounted for three receptions for 26 yards on the drive, and Owens added an 18-yard reception. But once the Cowboys reached Nick Folk's field goal range, Marcus McCauley and Ben Leber stopped Marion Barber in bounds on consecutive plays for a net of minus-1 yard, and that lost yardage proved vital when Folk pulled a 50-yard attempt wide left to keep the Vikings ahead 14-7 at the half.

The second half opened with three consecutive three-and-out drives, but Minnesota was on the losing end of the field position, and punting out of the shadow of their own end zone, Ronyell Whitaker added to the Cowboys' position when he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct by not getting back in bounds as a gunner on punt coverage.

Barber became a featured part of the ensuing drive, sandwiching a 22-yard reception by Owens with four rushes, including a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 6:55 to play in the third quarter.

The Vikings finally put together a decent offensive drive when Bobby Wade gained 16 yards on a reception, Jackson scrambled for 12 yards and Peterson picked up 15 with a run on consecutive plays. But it got ugly in a hurry, as a rush for no gain was followed by two incompletions, and then Pat Watkins returned a block field goal 67 yards for a touchdown to erase a seven-point halftime deficit and turn it into a 21-14 lead 12:08 into the second half.

Minnesota picked up two first downs with runs of 12 yards by Peterson and 16 by Taylor, but when they went to the air they failed again and had to settle for pinning the Cowboys on the 12-yard line. Dallas picked up one first down and punted back to the Vikings, but on the first play from scrimmage, Peterson fumbled and Brady James recovered to set up the Cowboys on the Minnesota 18-yard line.

Romo survived a third-down sack by Brian Robison and recovered his own fumble, a fortunate turn that allowed Folk to convert a 35-yard field goal to stretch the Dallas lead to 10 points, 24-14, with 10:34 to play.

The Vikings responded with a 21-yard completion to Troy Williamson, but that was followed by a 1-yard loss for Taylor, a sack of Jackson and an incompletion, forcing a punt from near midfield that pinned the Cowboys at their own 1-yard line.

While the Cowboys couldn't gain a first down, neither did the Vikings on their next possession, as Jackson took another sack – this one on third down – and wasted starting position at the Dallas 45-yard line to bring on the punt team once again.

This time, Barber milked the clock with nine consecutive runs that picked up 64 yards, two first downs and eventually left the Vikings with too little time to make a difference but enough opportunities for the Cowboys to get one final sack on the indecisive Jackson.

The offensive ineptitude after the first drive of the game – especially in the passing game – left a decent defensive performance all for naught as the Vikings fell to 2-4 and worsened their position in a conference waiting for a team to emerge – maybe the one that just beat Minnesota to advance to 6-1.

Viking Update Top Stories