A week ago, the Minnesota Vikings were riding high following an improbable victory against the Buffalo Bills. Despite being sizable road underdogs, they emerged victorious when Josh Allen fumbled a routine snap. Then, a week later, they got embarrassed at home in a noteworthy loss. What happened?
There has been talk about the level of reality the Minnesota Vikings have behind them all season long. Despite coming into Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys with an 8-1 record, Kevin O’Connell’s team was as high as a 2.5-point underdog, according to online bookmaker Bovada. Clearly, Vegas was reading the tea leaves, and despite the betting public being confident in Minnesota, things couldn’t have gone more wrong.
Just 19 offensive snaps into the game, Minnesota lost their star left tackle Christian Darrisaw. With his second concussion in as many weeks, Kirk Cousins would be without Darrisaw protecting his blindside. Apart from the fact that Dallas got out to an early lead, it was clear that Minnesota simply couldn’t get out of their own way either.
Throughout the game, Cousins was constantly under pressure. Dallas had him running for his life more often than not, and they brought him down a whopping seven times. Star pass rusher Micah Parsons sacked Cousins twice on his own, and Dallas also forced the Minnesota signal caller to fumble for a turnover.
The 105 yards Cousins generated through the air were the sixth-lowest of his career, and no wide receiver contributed more than Justin Jefferson’s 33 yards. By the time the game clock hit zeroes, backup Nick Mullens had taken over, and the bulk of the starting lineup was licking their wounds on the sideline.
To call this anything but a learning experience for Minnesota would be crediting what happened more than it deserved. O’Connell is a rookie coach that continued to make mistakes along those lines. Despite the injuries and ineffectiveness, the gameplan remained largely unchanged, and Dallas continued to pin their ears back. O’Connell put Cousins in positions for little success, and Dalvin Cook was all but schemed out of the game due to the score.
It would be silly to call the Cowboys a juggernaut, but the Vikings did little to make them look anything but. In a vacuum, this game could go down as a turning point in Minnesota’s season. It either gives them a launching point to correct mistakes and come out with more decisive victories going forward, or it highlights an inability to beat playoff teams they will undoubtedly meet in January.
At any rate, considering the outcomes, it’s hard to think of many points in Vikings history where week-to-week outcomes were so drastically different. It happened during the playoffs following the Minneapolis Miracle, and it’s taken place at other times throughout history, but this is a pair of results that the Vikings want to put behind them and find something of a more consistent middle ground.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.