Sunday's night's game between Minnesota and Dallas left a lot to be desired for Cowboys fans. Although it was a good game from a football perspective and competitive until the very end, poor play calling in the Red Zone cost them another victory as the Vikings secured a 28-24 win in Arlington.
Dak Prescott had a strong game with 397 passing yards and only one interception on a Hail Mary to end the game. Prescott seemed to be playing with an abundance of confidence as compared to previous games in which the Cowboys lost. The Vikings' defense was able to stop the Cowboys' run game early and often which forced Prescott to try and beat the Vikings through the air. He performed admirably and almost led the Cowboys to a comeback victory.
Both teams had great offensive performances with tons of crazy circus-like catches. Amari Cooper had two of those crazy catches. One gem was a toe-tapping reception that set up a 23-yead Michael Gallup touchdown two plays later. His other catch was a 12-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up 21-20. Cooper led the game in catches with 11 receptions on 14 targets for 147 yards. Prescott and Cooper have looked in sync since his return from his injury that forced him to miss the Eagles game.
Randell Cobb recaptured some of his old Packers' magic and had his best game as a Cowboy. He had six receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown. Both Prescott and Cobb were on the same page for multiple plays, and it is a good indication that he will be utilized more going forward.
The Cowboys could not get the run game going against Minnesota's stellar defensive line. After three straight 100-yard games, Ezekiel Elliot only rushed for a total of 47 yards on 20 carries. This forced the Cowboys to adjust their game plan and made Prescott prime to beat the Vikings defense. Everything worked in the Vikings favor early on when they scored two quick touchdowns.
Normally it is the Cowboys' offense that gets off to slow starts, but this time it was the defense that couldn't step up in the first quarter. Kirk Cousins was able to torch the Cowboys' secondary for 220 yards and two passing touchdowns to Kyle Rudolph. Even without their Pro Bowl Receiver Adam Thielen, the Vikings receivers feasted on the Cowboys' secondary. The Kubiak offense was on full display as his famous bootleg screens and run blocking schemes left the Cowboys dazed and confused as to how to stop the Vikings.
Dalvin Cook had a field day with the Cowboys' defense, rushing for 97 yards and had seven receptions for 86 yards. Compared to last week, guys like Sean Lee and Demarcus Lawrence had subpar games. Leighton Vander Esh returned from his one game absence, but was practically a no show when it came to stopping the Vikings run game.
Jason Garret and Kellen Moore could be credited for some gutsy play calls on offense Sunday night. The Cowboys even lined up in the Wild Cat formation at one point. The change in offensive strategy worked in the first half, but the play calling regressed when they were insistent on running the ball. This was most apparent in the 4th quarter when the boys were down by four in the red zone. The Cowboys had a first down at the Minnesota 19 but insisted on continuing to force the ball to Elliott when the Vikings had made it clear they could shut him down. After three dismal running plays, Prescott then tried to force a pass to Elliot which was deflected by Vikings Linebacker Eric Kendricks. This pitiful selection of plays ultimately cost the Cowboys the game and put Jason Garret back on the hot seat.
For the Vikings, Kyle Rudolf had a great game. It seemed as though anyone who the Cowboys sent to cover him would be in trouble. He had a total of three red zone scores, two touchdowns and one 2-point conversion. His first touchdown was a great one-handed catch that Sean Lee couldn't do anything about. On his other two scores both Lee and Chidoble Awuzie couldn't cover him. He scored 14 of the Vikings 28 points and was their biggest weapon in the red-zone.
For the third straight game, Jeff Heath left with an injury. I give kudos to his toughness and willingness to come back to the field as soon as possible, but if he is hurt he should not be on the field. When healthy, Heath is a pro bowl safety and could have been an answer for Rudolf. Heath suffered a shoulder injury which caused him to leave the game in the first half. If he is still hurt, the Cowboys should consider resting him a week or two.
The next team the Cowboys will see is the injury-riddled Lions. Although this game may look easy on paper, the Cowboys should never underestimate their opponent again after what happened during the Jets game. The Cowboys are currently tied with the Eagles atop the NFC East. Both team schedules get tough after next week, so expect a grueling race to take place in the NFC East going forward.