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.
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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.