Grading the Game: Cowboys

The Vikings failed in the passing game and weren't outstanding in any one area, giving them pretty average grades in a loss to the team with the best record in the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys. We dish out the grades from that effort.

PASSING OFFENSE: F — Not much needs to be said here. Tarvaris Jackson completed 6 of 19 passes for 72 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. His longest pass was a 21-yarder to Troy Williamson, and his passer rating was 44.2. Williamson and Bobby Wade had the only two receptions among receivers and tight ends; running backs Chester Taylor (three) and Adrian Peterson (one) had the other catches. It was an anemic day for a passing game that has to at least present a threat of going deep to help open up the run game. The Cowboys were able to stack the box and didn't have to worry about biting on play action because of the Vikings' shortcomings.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — This certainly wasn't a repeat of a week earlier when Peterson set a Vikings single-game record by running for 224 of the team's 311 yards against the Bears. Against Dallas, Peterson rushed for 63 yards on 12 carries (5.3 average) and Taylor went for 47 yards on 10 carries (4.7 average). There will be questions again about how Peterson was used and if he got enough playing time. The seventh overall pick got off to a strong start, going 20 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, but he had a key fumble in the fourth quarter that enabled the Cowboys to get a final field goal in their 24-14 victory. That also seemed to earn Peterson some time on the bench. The play on which he fumbled was his only carry of the fourth quarter. It was his second lost fumble of the year. The Vikings finished with 131 yards on the ground, including 20 by Jackson on four scrambles.

PASS DEFENSE: C — QB Tony Romo threw a 5-yard scoring strike to Terrell Owens on Dallas' opening drive, and it appeared as it might be a very long day for this unit. But while Romo finished with 277 pass yards and completed 31 of 39 passes — Dallas ran no-huddle and spread out Minnesota for portions of the game — the Vikings did not give up another score through the air. This doesn't mean a pass defense ranked last in the NFL entering the game looked as if it had turned itself around. Dallas standout TE Jason Witten had 10 receptions for 86 yards as Romo continually was able to hit on short passes. MLB E.J. Henderson is becoming an easy target for teams with quality pass-catching tight ends. Marcus McCauley, who plays the left corner in the nickel when Antoine Winfield slides into the slot, continues to struggle. He was replaced by Charles Gordon for one series in the third quarter, but that didn't work out too well. With Gordon in the game, Owens beat the young corner for a 22-yard reception to put the ball at the Vikings 3-yard line. Gordon also was called for illegal contact on the play, but Dallas declined the penalty. Marion Barber scored the first rushing touchdown of the season against the Vikings two plays later.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — The Cowboys not only scored the first rushing touchdown of the season against the Vikings, but they also became the first team to run for more than 100 yards. Dallas accumulated 128 yards on 29 carries as a team. Barber led the way with 96 yards on 19 carries for a 5.1 average. It was clear the Vikings' big defensive linemen were tiring in the 88-degree heat and humidity. Pro Bowl DT Kevin Williams had to leave the game for a period in the first half after he returned a ball about 80 yards for a touchdown that ended up being negated by a penalty called on teammate Ray Edwards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus — Ryan Longwell was the hero a week ago when his career-long 55-yard field goal beat Chicago as time expired. Longwell was involved in another key play on Sunday in Dallas, but this time it was one he would like to forget. With the score tied 14-14 in the third quarter, Longwell attempted a 48-yard field goal that was blocked by Chris Canty and returned 68 yards for a touchdown by Patrick Watkins. Canty was able to block the attempt because he completely overpowered long snapper Cullen Loeffler to gain penetration through the line. Chris Kluwe put three of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line and averaged 46 yards gross and 43.3 yards net. The Vikings were hurt on a third-quarter punt when Ronyell Whitaker was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after he went out of bounds and then came back into play. That gave the Cowboys excellent field position and set up the tying touchdown. There was no impact from four kickoff returns and one punt return.

COACHING: D — Brad Childress has made it clear since the offseason that he is going to sink or swim with Jackson as his quarterback, and right now the head coach is drowning. Jackson has decent games — honestly, those are the ones in which you barely notice him — but right now he doesn't have the ability to make a consistent impact. Childress melted down on Jackson on the sideline early at Dallas, and that didn't help matters. It's not as if Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger are going to be the answer at this point. With the Vikings having a pretty good defense and a potentially explosive run game, there is no reason the team should be in this position. Childress deserves more of the blame than Jackson.

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