The 27-23 result won’t surprise anyone who saw any Viking games earlier this season, although the score was closer than you (or the bookies) might have expected. With so many key players missing in Minnesota’s secondary, the Cowboys were supposed to keep the scoreboard numbers spinning, but the game was close right down to the final drive. It’s that final drive — where the Vikings couldn’t force a stop — that has been the signature of this year’s team.
With yesterday’s loss, the Vikings have now matched the worst start to a season in franchise history (1-7 was also the 1961 team’s opening record) — and will host Washington on Thursday night for an attempt to make it their worst all-time start. Adrian Peterson had his best performance in over a month, rushing for 140 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries. Christian Ponder’s last-gasp Hail Mary fell short, but his stats were respectable: 25 of 37 for 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception (82.7 QB rating) and a rushing TD of his own. Kicker Blair Walsh had his first career missed extra point after Peterson’s TD run, but the single point didn’t make any difference in the final result. It may have influenced the coaching decision to punt rather than attempting a 54-yard field goal later in the game (post-game, Leslie Frazier said that Walsh’s hamstring injury was the actual reason for not trying the long FG).
Over the course of the game, the Vikings lost even more players to injury, with right guard Phil Loadholt suffering a concussion, tight end Kyle Rudolph injuring his ankle on his touchdown reception, nose tackle Letroy Guion had a shoulder injury, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes being injured in a collision with linebacker Chad Greenway. Rhodes attempted to return to the game, but left after just one play.
At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski says this “has become a nightmare sort of season”:
For a minute it looked like the Vikings might pull off a stunning, draft-position-ruining upset over the Cowboys. The Vikings were trailing 20-17 early in the fourth when Adrian Peterson went into full-on beast mode, ripping off a 52-yard run to put Minnesota in scoring range, then hitting paydirt on an absolutely filthy tackler-dragging monster of an effort. By force of Peterson’s will alone the Vikes took a 23-20 lead, then watched their kicker Blair Walsh miss the extra point to keep the Cowboys within a field goal.
But momentum quickly swung back in the Vikings’ favor when on the ensuing Cowboys possession A.J. Jefferson picked off Tony Romo on a sideline pass. The Vikes had a chance to ice the game away there but came up short and elected to punt rather than have Blair Walsh try a 54-yard field goal. Was this the right move? Walsh has hit plenty of 50-plus yarders in his young career, but he’s also had hamstring problems, and he had just missed a PAT wide right. Leslie Frazier did not have faith in his young kicker to boot it through and rather than give the Cowboys good field position he elected to pin them.
In the end it wouldn’t matter. The Cowboys got the ball back with plenty of time and did what you were almost certain they would. Tony Romo worked the ball rather easily down the field against the Vikings’ defense and the Cowboys were finally able to stick it in when Romo hit Dwayne Harris on a 7-yard TD pass. The Vikes got the ball back in decent field position after a short kickoff but were unable to get into position and had to settle for a Christian Ponder final-second hail mary that fell well short.
The Daily Norseman‘s Eric Thompson says the Vikings played their best game of the season yesterday:
I know the headline sounds like it was something from The Onion Sports or Sports Pickle, but it’s sadly true.
When you think about it, Sunday’s game against the Cowboys was the best of both worlds for the two major camps of Vikings fans. On one hand, you have the #TankForTeddy, #MissionMariota, #SuckForTheDuck, and #JohhnyFootballGoesToMinnesota fans that know the season is already lost and don’t want any pesky wins screwing up our 2014 draft position. They were satisfied because the Vikings lost again. On the other hand you have the fans that can’t stand the team laying down and getting blown out every week. They were satisfied because the Vikings actually played pretty well against a division leader on the road.
I get that many Vikings fans that don’t mind the losses since it could eventually lead to a better future for the team: better draft picks, new coaches, an overhaul of a largely inept roster. But you guys realize that we’re only halfway through the season, right? Are you sure that you can endure eight more weeks of this crap? Because I certainly wouldn’t mind a win or two sprinkled in with all the misery.