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Cowboys News & Notes: Can They Find Relief Against The Vikings?

After the Cowboys crushing loss to the Lions, they'll be looking for an outlet for their anger. Will the Vikings play the punching bag?

Adam M. Bettcher

The Cowboys are still reeling from the Lions game, but they need to get ready for another NFC North team in the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings are having a very bad year, they're 1-6 and can't find a quarterback they can stick with. This week it looks like the Cowboys will get Christian Ponder.

Christian Ponder started the first three games, then he got hurt and in entered Matt Cassel, who made two starts before the Vikings signed Josh Freeman and started him immediately in a 23-7 loss to the Giants. Then back came Ponder, who passed for 145 yards in a loss to the Packers. In the end, the 1-6 Vikings are left looking for a lot of answered offensively, beginning with the quarterback spot.


Regardless of who is playing QB, the one real threat from the Vikings is All-World running back Adrian Peterson.

But it doesn’t matter who’s taking the snaps — whether it’s Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman or Matt Cassel. The only Viking with the ball in his hands who matters is Adrian Peterson. Peterson ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing this season with 571 yards and six touchdowns. But since their bye on the fifth weekend of the season, the Vikings have de-emphasized the NFL rushing champion. Peterson hasn’t carried the ball more than 13 times in any of the last three games, all losses. He hasn’t gained 100 yards in any of those games and has scored only one touchdown in that stretch. The Vikings need to get Peterson rolling to become competitive again, and this weekend would be the ideal time to start. Peterson returns home to Texas to face the NFL’s worst defense.


The Cowboys defense is bad, but so is the Vikings defense. One area they have struggled with is third-down defense. If they can't get the Cowboys off the field on that down, then just maybe we'll see a revival of the Dallas offense.

There isn’t a worse team in the NFC at preventing third-down conversions than the Vikings. Offenses have converted an eye-opening 51 percent of their third-downs against the Vikings.

"We’re so bad right now on third down on defense," Frazier said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

There are several reasons why the Vikings are off to a 1-6 start, but the defensive struggles at critical parts of the game is certainly a factor. The Packers completed 13 of 18 third-down chances Sunday, and it won’t get any easier for the Vikings as they will face seven of the top 11 highest-scoring teams in the final nine weeks.


While Adrian Peterson is the Vikings main threat, the Cowboys can't sleep on special teams. Dallas has a major threat with Dwayne Harris, and the Vikings have one in Cordarrelle Patterson.

Last game: Patterson had two catches for 26 yards and returned five kickoffs for 228 yards, including a 109-yard touchdown, tying the longest return in NFL history, in the Vikings’ 44-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Who has to stop him? The Vikings rank first in the NFL in average drive start after a kickoff with a 26.1-yard average, but the Cowboys defensively are second in drive start as the kicking team averages opponents starting on the 20.0-yard line. Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey is tied for second in the NFL with 34 touchbacks on 48 kickoffs. The Vikings had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown two weeks ago against the New York Giants as Marcus Sherels scored the team’s only points in that loss.

Patterson leads the league in kickoff return yards.


Bryan Broaddus offers up a scouting report on new defensive end Everette Brown, who took the spot of Jason Vega on the 53-man roster.

Doesn’t always play strong. I thought his biggest problem was getting rid of blockers more quickly in the running game. He’s much better playing off tight ends and fullbacks than he is tackles. Does not play with enough strength to go toe-to-toe with a tackle and expect to be productive – he needs to beat them quickly before they get their hands on him.

Best work is as a pass rusher -- had some really nice edge rushes against the Jets, showed a burst getting around the tackle and slapping the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. He can cause some problems when he is near or around the quarterback.


The Cowboys have been playing some pretty weak defenses over the last few weeks, yet Tony Romo and the offense have struggled. The big questions everyone is asking is what is wrong on that side of the ball.

Since throwing for 506 yards and five touchdowns against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 6, the Cowboys’ passing game has sputtered even when facing lower-ranked defenses like that of the Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. The Minnesota Vikings bring the 29th-ranked pass defense to AT&T Stadium, which you would think would be a good thing for the Cowboys. Not so fast. Brian Waters is out with a triceps injury and possibly done for the season, which puts Mackenzy Bernadeau back in the starting lineup. The protection the last two games has not been the strongest and the Vikings, at least in name, have solid pass-rushers. But those names have accounted for only 14 sacks this season.

Some theories: The absence of DeMarco Murray. Bill Callahan calling bad games. Romo getting gun-shy after taking some big hits. Take your pick but the Cowboys needs to get it figured out.


If you want to re-live the pain of last Sunday, Doug Farrar breaks down the Cowboys non-coverage of Calvin Johnson.

After the debacle against Megatron, cornerback Brandon Carr — who was left on the hook for most of Johnson’s productivity — tried to explain what happened. Carr was portrayed as the goat in this game, but he’s been one of the NFL’s better cover cornerbacks over the last few seasons — with the Cowboys and with the Kansas City Chiefs before that. The extent to which Kiffin’s schemes put Carr in solo coverage on Johnson on several plays, and helplessly waiting for coverage assistance on others, should tell you where the blame should really go. The best coaches put their players in the best positions to succeed, and though Kiffin has been a great coordinator for a very long time, one has to wonder what’s going on right now.

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