Tarvaris Jackson struggled mightily once again as he completed just 6-of-19 passes (31.6%) for 72 yards and a passer rating of 44.2. Somewhere along the way he suffered an avulsion fracture of the index finger on his right hand. He was off target on some throws, but the bigger problem was that he simply could not find open receivers and showed no rhythm at all as a passer. To his credit he did not force any throws or turn the ball over, although one of his scrambles for positive yardage could have led to a fumble. He did pick up 20 yards rushing on 4 attempts. Once he picked up a first down with his feet, twice he did not. To what degree the injury affected his accuracy is unknown. To what degree his receivers are simply not getting open is also a factor. But the fact still remains that he must become more consistent, more accurate and more decisive as a passer to truly develop into the player the Vikings hope he can become.
Adrian Peterson technically did not start this week. He finished with 12 carries for 63 yards (5.3 avg.), including a 20-yard touchdown run on the team’s opening drive; this despite the Cowboys obviously committing bodies to stopping him. He also caught one pass for 12 yards, but dropped another big-play opportunity in the passing game downfield. The other critical blemish on AP’s performance was a critical fumble in the fourth quarter that essentially put a comeback out of reach. Peterson also had kickoff returns of 27, 19 and 19 yards. Peterson misread his blocking on a couple runs that could have led to bigger gains. It is also noteworthy that the coaches are still a bit uncomfortable with putting him in the backfield on obvious third-down passing situations, especially out of their own endzone. Should he have gotten the ball more? Yes. Were there a lot of additional opportunities? Not very many.
Chester Taylor started and gained 47 yards on 10 carries, with a long run of 16 yards. He also caught 3 passes for 19 yards. Taylor is no Adrian Peterson, but he remains a very good all-around running back.
Tony Richardson started at fullback and had one carry for one yard. He did a nice job as a lead blocker and made multiple key blocks for both Peterson and Taylor.
An extremely unproductive day from the team’s receiving corp, with just 2 catches among the entire group.
Troy Williamson caught one pass for 21 yards (and added another 4 receiving yards on a lateral as the game ended) on a nifty catch-and-run in the fourth quarter. Three other attempts his way were incomplete. T-Will looked very unnatural on his one kickoff return, gaining just 13 yards.
Bobby Wade had one catch for 16 yards. Two-of-three other attempts in his direction were broken up by Dallas defenders. On punt returns, he had one return for 11 yards on a nifty runback. He fair caught another punt and failed to field another that cost the team in field position.
Robert Ferguson’s one catch (a 13-yard third-down conversion) was ruled incomplete on review as Jackson simply led him too far out of bounds with the throw. It was a nice effort by Ferguson, however.
Sidney Rice had just one uncatchable throw his direction on a play that would have been nullified by a penalty, anyway.
Aundrae Allison was active but did not play other than on special teams.
Visanthe Shiancoe had just one pass attempt his direction and that was batted down at the line. There was another possible attempt but Jackson pulled it down seeing the defender cutting underneath Shiancoe. There’s no question Shiancoe is an underutilized receiving target in the team’s offense.
Jim Kleinsasser was very effective, as usual, as a blocker. He did a nice job in the open field on several running plays and also chipped in on pass protection at times.
Garrett Mills was once again inactive.
OLT Bryant McKinnie had another solid performance, holding up well on pass protection, with the exception of one play when it appeared the defender had anticipated the snap count and gotten a nearly impossible jump on him. Otherwise he pretty well kept Chris Canty at bay and also did a respectable job in the running game.
OLG Steve Hutchinson, ORG Anthony Herrera and C Matt Birk all had steady, consistent performances. There were a couple of missed blocks against the run inside that allowed penetration, but in most cases the defensive scheme was a leg up on the play being run.
ORT Ryan Cook had another up-and-down performance. He did a nice job against Marcus Spears, shutting him out in terms of tackles and pass rush pressure, but he was beaten by Greg Ellis badly on one play for a sack. The more discouraging instances were a pre-snap (false start) penalty that contributed to a three-and-out series in the third quarter and his mental lapse that forced the team to burn a timeout to preserve a long field goal attempt because he was not on the field. The other illegal formation penalty called on Cook was not actually his mistake.
Summary – The opening drive showed what this offense is capable of, but a inconsistency kills them – at quarterback, receivers unable to get open, and on pass protection.
LDE Kenechi Udeze had a strong game going against Marc Columbo. He recorded 2 tackles, but picked up a sack (for minus-7) and forced a fumble on the play, leading to a turnover and would-be touchdown if not for a penalty on the return. Interestingly, Udeze’s other official tackle was 14 yards downfield after a Terrell Owens catch. After getting shut out in the sack department last season, Udeze now has 3 through six games.
DT Kevin Williams was dominant early, picking up a 10-yard sack, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery in which he took 84 yards for a touchdown. However, the return was nullified by a holding penalty on the return and Williams might have suffered a heat stroke on the play. He was really gassed and had to leave the field before returning to action in the second half.
NT Pat Williams was solid despite the Cowboys often keeping him off the field by being in passing formations and personnel packages a lot. He recorded 5 tackles on the afternoon.
RDE Ray Edwards was effective, despite going against the much bigger Flozell Adams most of the time. He did not record a tackle, but was disruptive at times and always hustling. He did bat down one pass at the line and he really got his money’s worth on the holding penalty on the Kevin Williams return. Unfortunately, it cost the defense a touchdown. It wasn’t at all intentional. It was just his aggressiveness and he and the “defender” got so tangled up he was unable to not essentially tackle him.
DE Brian Robison picked up another sack, his team-leading fourth of the season, a 7-yard loss in the fourth quarter. His other tackle was 24 yards downfield on a Marion Barber run. The kid is always hustling.
Spencer Johnson, Fred Evans and Jayme Mitchell all got some reps on the defensive line. Johnson was in on a pair of tackles. Evans got some push a couple times but wasn’t much of a factor. Mitchell saw spot duty at right end and did not record any official stats, but he did get upfield on a couple pass rushes.
DE Erasmus James (shoulder) was inactive.
MLB E.J. Henderson led the team with 11 tackles, but none were behind the line of scrimmage this week. In fact, a few too many of them were downfield.
WLB Chad Greenway finished with 8 tackles, including one stuff at the point of attack for no gain on a Julius Jones run. Greenway was active, but didn’t make any impact plays.
SLB Ben Leber was in on 6 tackles and recovered a fumble that he pitched back to his teammate for a touchdown return. All total, the play covered 57 yards, although Leber only carried the ball for the first 10 yards. Leber was the most active behind the line among Viking defenders with 2 tackles-for-losses.
Cedric Griffin had perhaps his strongest performance of the season. He scored the touchdown on Leber’s fumble recovery, despite an unforced fumble of the ball himself as he returned it. Griffin was also very strong on run support and wrapped up nicely with his tackles. He also contributed on special teams, pinning the Cowboys inside their 20 on one kickoff return.
Antoine Winfield recorded 8 tackles and one forced fumble with his tackle on Patrick Crayton that resulted in Griffin’s touchdown return. The Cowboys didn’t do a lot of business in his direction in the passing game.
Marcus McCauley, who has been targeted at times this season, had just one significant completion thrown on him (a 9-yarder to Terrell Owens). Otherwise, he held up well against the pass this week. On run support, he stuffed Barber for no gain at the line of scrimmage on one play. He finished with 5 tackles on the day.
Darren Sharper had 6 tackles, with four of those coming after modest pass receptions.
Tank Williams got his first start with the Vikings in place of the injured and inactive Dwight Smith (hamstring). Williams recorded 5 tackles, including one for no gain against the run, and one pass breakup. There was little, if any, dropoff with Williams in for Smith.
Charles Gordon saw a little duty on defense and picked up an illegal contact penalty that was subsequently declined as Owens gained 22 yards on the play anyway. It was a legitimate, but ticky-tacky call. Gordon also recorded the stop on a Terrence Newman punt return that resulted in an 8-yard loss.
Mike Doss got a few reps on defense and on special teams. He posted one tackle on defense and one on punt coverage.
Ronyell Whitaker played exclusively on special teams and drew a bogus but critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for “getting pushed out of bounds” twice trying to cover a kick. The ruling was that Whitaker did not get back into the field of play soon enough. Bad, bad call.
Summary – This was probably the team’s weakest performance against the run so far this season. At some point, the offense has to sustain drives and the defense needs to get off the field quicker. Most of the shortcomings in the passing game would improve with a stronger pass rush.
Ryan Longwell had his only field goal attempt, a 48-yarder in the third quarter, blocked. The kick was fine; the blocking was not. Snapper Cullen Loeffler was knocked backwards (by Jason Hatcher) much too fast and much too far for any kicker to have gotten that one off. It appeared straight and sure had the protection been there. Longwell’s kickoffs were excellent: 9 yards deep (touchback), 3 yards deep (touchback), and to the Dallas 2-yard line for a just a 17-yard return.
Punter Chris Kluwe had another strong performance. He averaged 46.0 gross, 43.3 net on 7 punts. When allowed to kick for distance, he connected for boots of 59, 46, 42 and 58 yards, with return yardage of just 11 yards net on those four kicks (2.8 avg.). When kicking for accuracy he was 3-for-3 in putting Dallas inside their own 20-yard line (12, 1, 19).
Loeffler also had one high snap on a punt that Kluwe handled nicely and still boomed the ball. The coverage units were solid. Special teams tackles were posted by Griffin, Gordon and Doss.
Summary – It was indeed the blocked field goal the turned the tide of the entire game. A potential 3-point lead became a 7-point deficit on that one play. That was a protection issue, however, not the kicker. Both Longwell and Kluwe have been solid all season. The Vikings still lack continuity in their own return game.