The Cowboys entered today after a week of national backlash against their star player, and local grumblings about their coaches abilities. They did little to quell either meme, but with the game on the line, drove 90 yards for a score and defeated the lowly Vikings, 27-23.
Tony Romo overcame a late interception to complete 7-of-9 passes for 90 yards and the game-winning touchdown. It was Romo's 20th career game-winning drive and first of the season. He has also completed a touchdown pass in 22 straight game, the second-longest streak in the NFL (P.Manning-31).
Romo now sports a 22-4 career record for the month of November.
By all accounts this was not a pretty game for the Cowboys. There were drops from every target, misfires by the quarterback, missed tackle after missed tackle by the defense. Dallas was supposed to come out and dominate the 1-6 Vikings but instead found themselves in a battle until the final gun. In a close game, Dallas simply refused to utilize the run, as Tony Romo ended up throwing 51 times, completing 33 of them. His final stat line would be for 337 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The interception appeared to put the Cowboys out of their misery. A poorly thrown pass to a receiver Terrance Williams who ran a poor route was picked off by AJ Jefferson with a little more than five minutes remaining. It was the first interception by the Vikes secondary in 2013.
Dez Bryant was having a forgettable game until the Cowboys got their act together, down by three points after the Vikings sure-footed kicker missed an extra point and left the lead at 3. After punt exchanges, Dallas took over with just over two minutes remaining from their 10 yard line.
Big completions to Jason Witten, who had a 100 yard game and a touchdown and Cole Beasley led to Tony Romo finding Dez going across the middle for a huge 34 yard gain. It overcame a bad game by Dez that included two costly drops as well as an unsportsmanlike penalty.
Dallas was able to move down inside the 10 when Romo found little-used Dwayne Harris on an in route for the go ahead score with only 35 seconds remaining. The Vikings were unable to move down the field and a last-minute hail mary fell woefully short.
Going back to Witten, he had his best game of the season, including back-to-back 26 yard completions on the opening drive of the third quarter; the latter being a touchdown that put them ahead 13-10. After a muffed kickoff pinned the Vikings at their five, the Cowboys were able to get a defensive touchdown for the fourth time on the season.
The Cowboys improved to 5-4 on the season, 5-1 against the NFC, but this is by no means a game to brag over. The coaching staff continued to play Ernie Sims ahead of Bruce Carter, and nearly lost the game because of it. Sims was putrid in his tackling on the game, including a QB scramble where Christian Ponder faked him out of his jock for a late-second quarter touchdown. That gave Minnesota a 10-6 halftime lead.
Bad tackling would also be the theme of the other two Vikings touchdowns. On a seam route to TE Kyle Rudolph, Jeff Heath and Barry Church would combine for the hit, but allow Rudolph to get free and past a waving Brandon Carr for a score to close a 10 point lead to three. The Vikings would take the lead late after Heath attempted to tackle Adrian Peterson on fourth and one but lifting him up in the air. His teammates rallied trying to strip, but Peterson forced his way back to the ground and forward for another five yards for the score.
Blame however can't be placed on the Cowboys no name defensive line. George Selvie forced a strip sack of Christian Ponder early in the third quarter and it was recovered by Nick Hayden for a touchdown that pushed Dallas ahead by 10.
Selvie, Jarius Wynn and Everette Brown all had tremendous days for Rod Marinelli's rushmen unit, who lost Jason Hatcher to a shoulder injury in the second half. The strip sack was one of two turnovers forced by the Cowboys; the second an interception by Orlando Scandrick when Brown created pressure in the face of Ponder.
On the flip side of the line, the Cowboys clearly missed Brian Waters. The protection for Romo was non-existent, and he was sacked on back-to-back jailbreaks earlier in the game. The pressure and early backfield stops thwarted a lot of what Dallas wanted to do against a defense that hasn't stopped many opponents over the course of the season. We opined on whether there would be a trickle-down effect on players such as Doug Free and Travis Frederick with the loss of Waters and injection of Mack Bernadeau in the lineup. Wonder no more.
Regardless, the Cowboys now have a week to prepare for the New Orleans Saints, who suffered a 26-20 loss to the New York Jets today. On to the next one.