So much for the hot team theory. The Vikings messed up the Cowboys and will face the Saints in the NFC Title Game. Let’s look back before looking forward…
1. Everyone was saying this game would be all about the pass rush, and everyone was right. The final tallies: Cowboys, 7 QB hits, 3 sacks; Vikings, 10 QB hits, 6 sacks. But it wasn’t just the number of times the Vikings hit Tony Romo, it was when they hit him, and what happened after they hit him. In the first half, hits on Romo resulted in two lost fumbles, and one of Ray Edwards‘ three sacks blew up a potential touchdown scoring opportunity. The harassment continued in the second half, when Jimmy Kennedy jumped in Romo’s way, forcing him to double-clutch and ultimately throw a pick to Ben Leber. By the end of the third, Romo looked like he wished he’d chosen another profession. Possibly golf. Possibly forklift-driving.
2. The Cowboys did get pressure on Brett Favre, a lot of pressure actually, but the difference between Favre and Romo was, Favre handled much of the pressure and made plays. There were guys all over him on his first and second TD passes to Sidney Rice, but in the first one he hung in just long enough to get the ball off, and on the second he used a pump fake to get his guy in the air. Romo was able to make a couple of plays scrambling, but by and large, he was running for his life rather than running to make something happen. Favre showed composure and command; Romo showed that he’s still not a quarterback you can count on when it’s all on the line.
3. I didn’t think the Cowboys did a very good job with their playcalling and overall game situation decision-making yesterday. They should’ve gone with the run more early, and not put so much of the burden on Tony Romo on the road against that pass rush. And when they did throw, they should’ve made more effort to go deep instead of dinking and dunking (hard, I know, when your quarterback doesn’t have much time). And I’m pretty certain it was a mistake for Wade Phillips to try that long field goal with Shaun Suisham, considering the way they were moving the ball at that point. I know you expect a professional kicker to be able to hit that one indoors, but, it’s Shaun Suisham. By the way, if watching Suisham kick doesn’t make you appreciate Ryan Longwell, nothing will.
4. The bewilderment expressed by the Dallas defensive backs on the two long Sidney Rice touchdowns was priceless. They thought they had Sidney covered, and then, whoops, they didn’t. Sidney, like Randy Moss before him, has that great way of keeping his arms down so the DB can’t tell the ball is coming. It doesn’t even matter that Rice lacks breakaway speed. As long as the ball as thrown in the right spot, he will get it. Favre normally throws the ball in the right spot.
5. My “What’s Wrong With Adrian Peterson” pet theory of the day: He’s been coached so much not to dance behind the line that now he hits the line too fast. He’s being too decisive. On the good side, he carried the ball 26 times and did not fumble. And I still think Sidney Rice owes Adrian a big debt of gratitude for taking up so much defensive attention. Sidney is almost never double-covered.
6. I liked the way Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell (and Favre, cause he’s the co-offensive coordinator as we know) tried to get Percy Harvin involved in the game in creative ways. In the end, Harvin only had one catch for one yard, but he did carry it 3 times for 23. He got no shots at returning kicks because the Dallas guy always puts it through the end zone. My “if you would’ve said this I would’ve called you crazy” line for the day is: If you would’ve said the Vikings could beat the Cowboys with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe being minor factors at least statistically, I would’ve said you were crazy or at least on something.
7. Breaking down the great debate over whether to let Ryan Longwell kick a 53-yard field goal or have Chris Kluwe try a coffin corner punt: My initial thought was, good move having Kluwe punt, because you’re ahead and you’re playing such good defense, you will likely force the Cowboys to punt, and then you will get the ball back with a fresh set of downs not far back from where you were when you punted yourself. Then I thought, well I don’t know, cause you’re asking Kluwe to do something pretty hard, namely hit a perfect punt and pin them deep; and in the final analysis, which is a surer bet: Kluwe executing that punt perfectly or Longwell making the field goal? Kluwe ended up executing perfectly, which was nice for him, but of course it didn’t work out quite right because there was a running-into-the-kicker penalty that gave the Cowboys a second punt that ended up costing the Vikings field position. I think now maybe I would’ve tried the field goal, but I don’t know. Ask me again in five minutes.
8. I have no problem personally with what the Vikings did, going for the touchdown to Shiancoe with the game on ice. From an entertainment point-of-view, it was fun seeing the Cowboys get their faces rubbed in it, and it was hilarious watching Keith Brooking bark at Jared Allen and Brett Favre along the sideline, like they cared what that damn-fool had to say at that point. However, I now sort of wish they hadn’t done it, because it took the focus off what a good game they played and put it on that one play, which in the grand scheme was irrelevant. The post-game should’ve been all about how the Vikings kicked the Cowboys’ tails, but instead it’s about how the Cowboys got done wrong, and when people start having sympathy for the Cowboys…that’s just not good.
9. I think my favorite Brett Favre throw of the day wasn’t even one of the touchdowns but was that one roll out to the right where he hit Sidney Rice for the first down. Who says the old man can’t move?
10. For those who say the Vikings will never beat the Saints in the Superdome…need I remind you of a certain game back in early 1999 when the Vikings were the heavy favorite at home and some crazy stuff went down that cost them a trip to the Super Bowl? Never say never.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Dallas Cowboys, Darrell Bevell, Jared Allen, Jimmy Kennedy, Keith Brooking, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Percy Harvin, Randy Moss, Ray Edwards, Ryan Longwell, Tony Romo, Visanthe Shiancoe, Wade Phillips