The Cowboys have won 11 straight games — they’re red hot — and some could infer that Dallas is taking on the air of invincibility en route to home-field advantage in the playoffs.
But that’s not the story that the Cowboys’ 17-15 win over the Vikings told Thursday night.
No, in fact, the Vikings gave the rest of the NFL a blueprint to beat the Cowboys.
Not every team can execute at the necessary level to beat Dallas — the Vikings came close but weren’t able to pull it off themselves— but Minnesota’s performance should be closely studied by the Seahawks, Redskins, and even teams like the Buccaneers and Eagles, because it should be highly useful down the stretch and in the NFC playoffs.
The Vikings had a formula to win on both the offensive and defensive ends Thursday, but they were able to execute only on the latter.
But make no mistake, the Vikings’ exposed some major problems with the Cowboys.
The biggest: Dallas’ lack of a viable pass rush.
The Vikings’ offensive line is battered and broken. They’re beyond signing guys off the street at this point — those guys are getting injured too. One of the NFL’s best front fives has turned into one of the league’s worst — if not the worst — in the span of a few weeks thanks to a horrific stretch of luck.
But the Cowboys sacked Sam Bradford only three times Thursday night, and far more often than in recent weeks, they allowed the quarterback to throw with a clean pocket.Minnesota’s running backs and receivers did little to help capitalize on those newfound opportunities — and Bradford did miss a handful of throws — but for a more capable team, the opportunity to score 30-plus points against the Cowboys’ defense was there.
Even when the Cowboys rushed five, they weren’t guaranteed to get pressure on the Vikings’ quarterback — most teams in recent weeks have been able to find themselves in Bradford’s lap within a few beats with only three- or four-man rushes.
This was not a magical turnaround by the Vikings’ offensive line — they still folded under marginal pressure at times Thursday — this was the byproduct of a limp Dallas pass rush.
It was most obvious in the final 2:09 of the game, when Bradford, down 17-9, was able to work with a clean pocket or elude half-pressure with his feet on a roll-out (a concept Minnesota should have used earlier) to complete six straight passes, setting up a potential game-tying touchdown. (Minnesota score but failed to convert the two-point try.)
The Cowboys didn’t do a thing to stop Bradford from driving down the field in those final two minutes. More capable offenses and quarterbacks had to notice what tempo did to the Cowboys defense Thursday. They have to be salivating.
SOURCE: Dieter Kurtenbach