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.
A disappointing loss for the Vikings given the way they battled. I don’t know if anyone expected the defense to hold up as well as it did against Dallas, so give those guys some credit. Offensively, it was an up-and-down day. Adrian Peterson had a nice game and Christian Ponder actually held his own for much of the day, completing a lot of short, easy passes and making some plays with his feet. But Ponder also committed a couple of critical turnovers, fumbling in the end zone for one Cowboys score and throwing a bad INT off his back foot later in the half.
It was a microcosm sort of performance for Christian Ponder, a summation of all that is good and bad about his play. At times he looked capable, making good reads, and at other times he just looked lost. The Vikes performed well in the hurry-up offense but were unable to sustain that approach throughout the game for whatever reason.
Fans may have been expecting a blow out but it didn’t happen. The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot, the Vikings made some plays, and the game remained close right down to the wire. In the end the Vikings just didn’t make enough plays. They were once again unable to stop an opponent in the two minute drill. The pass rush they were able to bring against Tony Romo evaporated as the game progressed. Injuries played a part too, with Kyle Rudolph, Xavier Rhodes and Letroy Guion all leaving during the course of the game.
The Vikes fall to 1-7, their worst start since 1961. Even getting back to .500 now looks like an impossibility. And this demoralized team has to turn right around and play Washington on Thursday night. 2013 has become a nightmare sort of season.