Grading the game: Cowboys

While there are still areas for improvement, the Vikings put together a very good all-around game in their first playoff win in the Brad Childress era. The grades reflect the effort and success.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — Brett Favre closed out a phenomenal first season at the Metrodome by throwing for 234 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions against the Cowboys. Three of Favre's touchdown tosses went to his favorite receiving target, Sidney Rice. Favre's brilliance at home included a 9-0 record with 25 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. You read that right: two picks. The Favre-Rice combination has turned into one of the best in the NFL, and the duo's success continued Sunday as Rice caught six passes for 141 yards to go along with his three TDs. Favre was sacked three times, but for the most part the offensive line did a nice job against rushing linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. They had one sack apiece.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus — Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson went an eighth consecutive game without a 100-yard rushing performance, but that doesn't mean the running game was a failure. Peterson finished with 63 yards on 26 carries as the Vikings established that they weren't going to abandon the ground game just because it wasn't always working. Minnesota attempted 33 runs and 24 passes, thus making it clear to the Cowboys that they couldn't just pin their ears back and send a rush at Favre every time. Peterson's longest run went for 11 yards. Chester Taylor and Percy Harvin both had 14-yard gains, and the Vikings used Harvin out of the backfield at times in another attempt to confuse the Cowboys' defense.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus — There were plenty who wondered how the Vikings were going to be able to contain quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten. That, however, didn't end up being an issue. The Vikings sacked Romo six times (three by Ray Edwards), and he lost two fumbles and had an interception. Witten finished with a team-leading 10 catches for 98 yards, but Austin was held to four receptions for 34 yards. The Cowboys moved the ball on their first three possessions, but their mistakes began to give the Vikings confidence and they seemed to feed off of that. Dallas also had an issue when left tackle Flozell Adams left in the third quarter because of an injury and was replaced by an overmatched Doug Free. Dallas had to commit double teams to Vikings right end Jared Allen after that, opening up opportunities for other members of the line.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Cowboys had very limited success on the ground, gaining 41 yards in the first half and 51 in the second. Felix Jones had a team-leading 69 yards on 14 carries, but Marion Barber had only 14 yards on eight (a 1.8-yard average). Once again, running up the middle against the Vikings' defensive tackle tandem of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams proved fruitless, and the Vikings actually did a nice job of getting outside contain against Jones on several occasions.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus — The Vikings' coverage units played about as well as they had all season, giving up an average of 15.4 yards on seven kickoff returns and not allowing any yards on punt returns. Punter Chris Kluwe was very good, putting one ball inside the 20-yard line and averaging 45.6 yards gross and 41.6 yards net on five boots. The Vikings also did not get much from their return game, but one reason was because Dallas kickoff specialist David Buehler blasted both of his kickoffs deep into the end zone.

COACHING: A-minus — Brad Childress and Co. deserve credit for coming up with a great game plan during the two weeks that they had to get ready for Dallas. The Vikings appeared to be one step ahead of the Cowboys at every turn and put together one of their most complete performances of the season against a team that had won four in a row entering the game. The offensive play-calling was such that the Cowboys could not count on the run or the pass, putting quarterback Brett Favre in a good position to pick Dallas apart. He did exactly that.



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