Minnesota 34, Dallas 3: A Sickening End to a Great Year

After a season with ups and downs in terms of my own predictions, I guessed that the Cowboys would win their playoff game against the Vikings in overtime. One hero in this fantasy scenario: kicker Shaun Suisham.

Okay, then.  Suisham ensured that the Cowboys will look for a new kicker by missing two field goals, including one that would have given the Cowboys a 3-0 lead with six minutes left in the first quarter. Granted, that would not have helped the final score, but Dallas lost momentum as a result of that play, and the Vikings took a 7-0 lead less than two minutes later.

The other would-be hero in a Dallas win would have been Tony Romo. Instead, Romo spent much of the day running for his life. Marc Columbo had no answer for left defensive end Ray Edwards. But just as soon as one started wishing that Doug Free would come in the game, it happened—except that Free had to replace left tackle Flozell Adams, who went down with a calf injury. Free looked like an inexperienced player getting owned by a veteran (Jarad Allen), which is exactly what happened.

Romo fumbled three times and lost two. The second lost fumble occurred two plays after the Cowboys had given up a second Brett-Favre-to-Syndey-Rice touchdown that imcreased the Minnesota lead to 14-3. When Allen stripped Romo of the ball and Ben Leber recovered, the Vikings had the ball at the Dallas 20.

The defense managed to hold the Vikings to a field goal. And though the secondary is going to be subject to criticism for its failure to stop Rice most of the game, the defense at least left a glimmer of hope that the Cowboys could make a game of it. Between the 3:49 mark of the second quarter and the 14:26 mark of the fourth quarter, the Vikings didn’t score.

The problem was that the Dallas offense could barely move an inch during that time (or afterward, for that matter).  The only serious Dallas drive in the second half took place early in the third quarter. Three runs generated 34 yards and moved the ball to the Minnesota 23. Then Jason Garrett called a pitch to an ineffective Marion Barber, who could not get around Edwards, and Barber lost seven yards. Dallas could not make up for the loss, and Suisham missed a 49-yarder that would have cut the Minnesota lead to 17-6.

The fourth quarter wasn’t worth watching for the Cowboys. Favre hit Rice one more time to increase the Viking lead to 27-3. With two minutes left, Minnesota chose to run the score up when Favre hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on an 11-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-4 play.

Jason Witten (10 rec., 98 yds.) and Felix Jones (14 att., 69 yds.) had respectable games, but the Cowboys could not maintain drives. Miles Austin only managed four receptions for 34 yards.

As for Williams,  a guy named Kevin Williams showed up on the stat sheet. So did a safety named Madieu Williams. That receiver named Roy Williams? He was targeted one time and did not manage a catch.

* * *

The Cowboy bashing has already begun, with plenty of folks calling for Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett to get fired. Frankly, though, if you told me in August that this team would find a way to win five straight near the end of the year and win a playoff game, I would have taken it in a heartbeat even if I also knew that the Cowboys would tank their final game. Moreover, even if Dallas had won today (which I honestly believed would happen), New Orleans would be the last place I would want this team to play. Dallas certainly pulled out a big win there in December, but it’s hard to forget that the Saints nearly erased a 24-3 Dallas lead before DeMarcus Ware saved the day.

So anyway, four years of blogging have ended in “The Botch” against Seattle in 2006, “The Stutter” against the Giants in 2007, “An Ignominious End” in a loss to Eagles in 2008, and the loss today. I know others are angry about this loss, but at the least, there are plenty of reasons to believe that this team started to turn a corner this year and will continue that trend next year.

  • matt

    Awesome website. Great year for the Boys. Romo is evolving. It takes time.

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  • Mike Little

    A few thoughts.The Vikings are the better team.The Cowboys,to get to the next level must look at their offensive line.They did an admirable job to get to this point in the season,but have to address Romo’s blind side protection.Still,Minnesota just beat us plain,and simple.The ebb,and flow the previous four games just couldn’t get established.The offense hurt our defense,as much as the Vikings did themselves.Jason Garrett returned to mid-season form.Confusing,questionable,playcalling.Pitching to Marion Barber to run outside?Are you kidding?Was Felix getting a hot dog,or what?What happen to the pass pattern called the slant?It just had that old stale gameplan feel we’ve seen before.My own perspective on this kind of loss.Better to get whipped like this Cowboys.It exposes our needs more clearly for the off-season.Dallas has talent to win,but need a little more.Jerry,your season just started, being you are the GM,and all.Two sobering season ending thoughts.We’re not Detroit,and we’re not Oakland.It’s still good to be a Cowboy fan.

  • Mr. Mulligan

    I think this game showed that Romo’s been masking serious deficiencies of this offensive line, for the last three years. They are big, but play small and slow.

  • I’m not sure that Garrett knows how to play the hot hand. When the running game gets going with one back, we frequently see that back leave the game as a new package comes in. In today’s game, that meant that Marion Barber got the chance to kill drives. In other situations, the Cowboys have had success running the ball north and south, but Garrett throws in some wrinkle that loses yards. That happened on a wildcat play against the Eagles. On top of that, the Cowboys have put together a big, physical offensive line, but the offense itself isn’t a power offense.

    I know the offense produced yards, but I can’t help but think that failing to play to the team’s strengths hurt the team take advantage of scoring opportunities. It did today.

  • Mr. Mulligan

    This offense puts up a lot of yards, without putting up points. It happened all year. It happened today.

  • mike

    There was more meaning to that late Minnesota touchdown pass than what the Minnesota players and coaching staff will admit. Despite not having won a Super Bowl in 14 years, having appeared in the playoffs 7 times in the last 13 years, and taking 13 years to finally win one playoff game before once again getting humiliated in post season play, Jerry Jones and his fan base continue to have the impudence to ostentatiously proclaim themselves as “Americas Team?!” Perhaps that is why many teams in the league show no mercy in running up the score against such an overprideful organization. Can’t blame ’em.

  • I’m imagining a very cheesy NFL Films narration (except that John Facenda is dead, God rest his soul): A pensive, reflective Brad Childress stood on the sideline, his team leading 27-3 against the overprideful Dallas Cowboys. Childress says to himself, “Self, how can Jerry Jones and his fan base continue to have the impudence to ostentatiously proclaim themselves as ‘Americas Team?’ A score here shall cure us!”

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  • Mike Little

    Hey Brad,when you are the winningest NFL franchise for the last 50 YEARS that includes 20 straight winning seasons,8 SUPER BOWLS,5 rings, a plethora of division championships,playoff appearances,and last but not least,the leauge leader in merchandise sales across the world,then you may call yourself AMERICAS TEAM.Until then,may the Saints come marching in.Say what you will,but Wade,Coach Landry,Barry Switzer,not even Jimmy would have done that.Classless,I just became a Saints fan for 1 game,or 2.

  • emmitt22

    You said it Matt!
    Keep up the great work on this site, now lets get back to the 50 seasons series!

  • #1 cowboy hater

    Great day in dallas the pretenders showed what there made of again.lol The scam that Jerry jones has been selling all along got EXSPOSED !!!!!! When are all you cowboy lovers gonna realize as long as hes the gm they will not be serious contenders.ALSO THIS MAY BE kARMA FOR JONESY Stealing all those poor peoples property in Arlington to make himself richer.