The worst of the preseason is over. In fact, all of the preseason is over, and only the major roster cutdown on Saturday stands between the Vikings and earnest preparation for Packers week. But before they get there, we rehash the preseason finale with more than 30 notes that help tell the story of the game.
The hard part is over. Now it's simply a matter of sitting and waiting for the phone calls to come. The Vikings have until Saturday to decide who stays and who goes, but they got a good chance to see all of their reserves Thursday night at Dallas in a 16-10 loss.
No starter from offense or defense played, but the Vikings saw the return of Brian Robison
, who played almost the entire game despite stifling heat and humidity. Players like linebackers Erin Henderson
and David Herron
did their best to avoid having their name scratched off the roster with one stroke of a delete key. Players like Benny Sapp
, Darius Reynaud
and Martin Nance
put their best foot forward in hopes of hooking on at their respective positions.
For most fans, this game was likely a pretty boring game. But for the Vikings and the NFL's other 31 teams, this week was as important as any since the draft. The review process begins in earnest immediately, as the Vikings look to pare down their own roster, as well as look at potential cut casualties for other teams. The team has been gearing up toward the season opener at Green Bay almost since the schedule came out. Now they are just 11 days away from that being a reality.
Until then, the hard decisions will need to be made and almost a third of the players that made the trip to Dallas will be gone by Sunday. It's a cruel business, but a necessary part of the game that, thankfully for most fans, is finally over and the regular season is right around the corner.
The Cowboys dominated most of the relevant stats in the game. They out-gained the Vikings 307-245, had 19 first downs to 12 for Minnesota and ran 70 offensive plays to just 58 for the Vikings.
Neither team was overly effective on third downs. The Vikings converted just four of 14 chances, while the Cowboys made good on just four of 15 third-down attempts.
The Vikings had their best rushing night of the preseason. After averaging just 72 yards a game a 2.6-yard rushing average, the team ran 23 times for 100 yards – averaging 4.3 yards a carry.
The Cowboys had only two penalties in the game and both came in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had six penalties, with two of them coming late. The game didn't have a penalty until the second quarter – quite a feat considering all the starters were on the sideline.
For the four games of preseason, the Vikings were outscored 77-60, but that was only part of the story. The Vikings outscored their opponents 37-6 in the second quarter, but were outscored 71-23 in the other three quarters – 31-14 in the first quarter, 17-9 in the third quarter and 20-0 in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings showed how seriously they took the game with their starting lineup. On offense, they had John David Booty at QB, Maurice Hicks and Naufahu Tahi in the backfield, Martin Nance and Aundrae Allison at wide receiver, Braden Jones at tight end and the O-line consisted of, from left to right, Artis Hicks, Tim Mattran, John Sullivan, Brian Daniels and Marcus Johnson.
The same was true defensively. The team started Otis Grigsby, Ellis Wyms, Fred Evans and Robison on the line, Vinny Ciurciu, David Herron and Erin Henderson at linebacker, Marcus McCauley and Benny Sapp at cornerback and Dee McCann and Michael Boulware at safety.
Richard Bartel may need to put an ice bag on his shoulder. He threw 41 passes in the game, completing 28 of them for 233 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Neither Vikings QB did much to establish himself. Booty got the start and completed 8 of 15 passes for 93 yards and an interception. Brooks Bollinger completed just 6 of 18 passes for 62 yards.
Bollinger did little to bolster his case the make the 53-man roster. During the preseason, he completed 14 of 35 passes for 133 yards with no TDs and one interception. Booty finished the preseason with the most pass attempts, completing 22 of 41 passes for 203 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Tarvaris Jackson finished the preseason completing 15 of 22 passes for 200 yards with two TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of 127.1.
Albert Young had his best outing of the preseason, rushing 14 times for 68 yards. He led all Vikings for the preseason, rushing 39 times for 127 yards. Maurice Hicks, who had eight carries for 25 yards and the Vikings' only TD Thursday, finished second with 27 carries for 74 yards.
In the preseason, Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor combined to rush 34 times for 96 yards and one TD.
Ten different Vikings caught passes Thursday, led by Martin Nance with two catches for 31 yards and Hicks with two for 26. The Cowboys had 14 different players catch passes, with 10 of them catching two or more.
For the preseason, Aundrae Allison led the team in receptions with nine and Nance led the team in receiving yardage with 144.
Chris Kluwe continued to have a strong preseason, booming punts of 52 and 58 yards when he had room and pinning the Cowboys inside the 20-yard line three times.
The Vikings got almost nothing out of their punt return game. Jaymar Johnson had three returns for a combined 21 yards and Allison and Charles Gordon had one return each for no yards.
Benny Sapp showed he wants to stay, leading all tacklers with nine (eight solo). No other Viking had more than four tackles.
The Vikings appeared to get a little tired of Bartel's constant passing. In the final quarter, the Vikings defense decided to come with pressure blitz packages and not only sacked Bartel twice, but knocked him down a half-dozen times.
Michael Boulware, on the fence as to whether he can make a roster spot, left the game in the fourth with what appeared to be a wrist injury.
Tim Mattran got a rude welcome to playing left tackle and one series may have been his eventual undoing. In the span of three plays, he got scorched by Cowboys DE Tearrius George. On the first of the plays, George got a sack on Bollinger. On the next two, he blew past Mattran and hit Bollinger from behind, forcing both passes to wobble incomplete.
There was an official Todd Lowber sighting on the field – Lowber is the former Viking with blazing speed but raw football discipline. There were 14 different Cowboys who caught passes, but Lowber wasn't one of them.
Albert Young had the play of the night with a 32-yard run that set up the Vikings' only points of the second half. What made the run so impressive was that it was strung out near the sideline, but Young never gave up – escaping three arm-tackle attempts to break the long run.
At halftime, the Cowboys had held the ball for 18:34 of the game's first 30 minutes, outgaining the Vikings 212 to 130 yards. Bartel had the hot hand going early, completing 17 of 23 first-half passes for 143 yards.
Maurice Hicks was banged up in the second quarter and went to the locker room early. There was no word as to the severity of the injury.
Allison did one of the cardinal sins of a punt returner, taking a punt on his own 3-yard line and stepping out of bounds. He caught an earful from his coaches on the sidelines for that move.
Although Allison was expected to be the team's primary kickoff returner, he didn't return a single kickoff during the preseason.
Bobby Wade was one of the few veterans who saw playing time and he had a couple of uncharacteristic drops on passes that, while not perfect, could have and likely should have been caught.
TE Garrett Mills saw his first action of the preseason and his only reception was a key third-down catch in the red zone that set up the Vikings' only touchdown.
The Cowboys built a huge early advantage, holding the ball for 10:07 of the first quarter and outgaining the Vikings 145-61.
Sapp got off to a great start. On the first four plays of the game, he made the tackle and on the fifth play, he batted away a pass.
Ryan Longwell did all the kicking for the Vikings Thursday and boomed a pair of kickoffs into the end zone.
Eight Vikings players are natives of Texas, so it is sure that there were plenty of free tickets handed out to friends and family.
Barring a rematch during the playoffs, Thursday was the last time the Vikings will play in Texas Stadium. The Cowboys move into their new facility next year.