Saying the Cowboys play down to their competition is like saying Switzerland is a landlocked country, or that Antarctica is cold: it’s an immutable fact that is proven daily.
The Dallas Cowboys took another chance to play down to their competition when they fell down 20-23 to the 1-6 Minnesota Vikings. And this is after Tony Romo threw a fourth quarter interception with 4:29 left in the game. Dallas was en route to a 4-5 record until their roasted defense, roasted from last week in Detroit and this week in the newspapers, stepped up to the occasion and forced a critical 3-and-out. After trying to draw the Cowboys offsides on 4th and 5, Vikins punter Jeff Locke punted away the football with Cowboys returner Dwayne Harris calling for a fair catch at his own 10 yard line.
Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris (17) dives for the game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels (35) at AT
Rarely does Romo get a chance to redeem a late 4th quarter interception in the same game. The eleven-year quarterback out of Eastern Illinois threw a pass to best friend, tight end Jason Witten, for 11 yards and infinitesimal breathing room. Minnesota gave up the underneath routes to melt clock, but the Cowboys took the advantage to melt yards. After Dwayne Harris took a 6-yard pass, Cole Beasley produced an 18-yard catch and dash on 2nd and 4. After an incompletion to rookie wideout Terrance Williams, Tony Romo found Dez Bryant, who had lost his cool earlier in the second half, who galloped 34 yards to the Minnesota 21 yard line. At the very minimum, Dallas could kick a field goal, a safe option given Dan Bailey was 2/2 on the day.
Good teams don’t go for what’s safe; they go for the win. Cole Beasley’s nine-yard grab and Jason Witten’s five-yard scamper, which had all the form of a dump truck barreling down a freeway with no brakes, gave Dallas a first and goal from Minnesota’s 7. On first down, Romo escaped pressure and scrambled left to throw it out of bounds.
2nd and goal.
Romo took the snap from shotgun and threw a slant to Dwayne Harris for a seven-yard touchdown. Dan Bailey’s extra point made it 27-23 Cowboys.
Dallas and Minnesota fans learned the importance of extra points on this day. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed an extra point that would have given his team 24 points and needing only a field goal to tie. Now, needing a touchdown with 29 seconds left, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had to drive 58 yards for a 2-6 record.
After a first down incompletion, Cowboys defensive end Everett Brown, signed this week, rushed ponder and caught him from behind for a strip-sack. There is a third, vital part to that process: the recovery. Minnesota got the ball back for a 3rd and 17. Tight end John Carlson caught the ball and immediately went down for a 12-yard gain. On 4th and 5, the Vikings converted with a six-yard pass from Ponder to Carlson. Now, they had one shot left from the Dallas 47 with 4 seconds left.
Hail Mary again?
It is a subject for theology class as to why the Virgin Mary didn’t pass along Ponder’s prayer to Jesus, or carry it so it wouldn’t fall three yards short of the end zone. It was now a fact the Cowboys were 5-4 instead of media and fan prognostication.
Tony Romo finished the game 34/51 for 337 yards, 2 touchdown, and 1 interception. Jason Witten led all receivers with 8 receptions for 102 yards and 1 touchdown. Cole Beasley had 6 receptions for 68 yards, and Dez Bryant had 6 catches for 64 yards. DeMarco Murray, returning from a two-game absence, had 6 receptions for 19 yards. He had more receptions than he did carries: 4 carries for 31 yards.
The Dallas Cowboys ran the ball only 9 times today. Yes, it needed its own paragraph.
George Selvie got strip-sack of his own early in the third quarter, and Nick “Goldencock” Hayden recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Orlando Scandrick came up with an interception, making 2013 his first multi-pick year of his six-year career.
Christian Ponder went 25/37 for 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Adrian Peterson became the first 100-yard rusher against the Cowboys this season with a 140-yard performance on 25 carries. His lone touchdown was a herculean effort, carrying three Dallas Cowboys five yards into the end zone. Wide receiver Greg Jennings had 6 catches for 56 yards.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen didn’t sack Romo, but cohorts defensive end Everson Griffen got a sack and defensive end Brian Robinson got two.
Dallas got onto the scoreboard earlier with a 41-yard field goal. The Vikings matched it a 23-yard field goal to end first quarter scoring.
In the second quarter, Dallas added a 44-yard field goal to make it 6-3, and then Christian Ponder score a 6-yard touchdown run to make it 10-6 Vikings.
Dallas began the second half with possession, and cashed in with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten. 10 seconds later, George Selvie strip-sacked Christian Ponder and Nick Hayden recovered the fumble for a touchdown to make it 20-10 Cowboys. Vikings tight end caught a 31-yard touchdown pass on the immediate drive to cut the deficit 20-17 Cowboys.
Adrian Peterson scored an eleven-yard touchdown, but Blair Walsh’s missed extra point made it 23-20 Vikings. Romo’s touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris in the final minute made it 27-23 Cowboys, the game’s final score.
Washington defeated San Diego 30-24 in overtime to take a 3-5 stand in the division. The Giants are on a bye, while the Eagles are presently dominating the Raiders 14-3 in Oakland, looking to go 4-5.
Dallas’ upcoming opponent, the New Orleans Saints, fell 20-26 to the New York Jets, but will remain very formidable in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Sunday night. Can the Cowboys play up to their competition? Find out next week.