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Ten thoughts on the Cowboys loss to the Vikings on Sunday night

It was a close game, but missed opportunities did the Cowboys in .

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The winning streak is over. And with it goes an opportunity to show the world that this Dallas Cowboys team can beat a good football team. Both these squads are evenly matched, but the Minnesota Vikings made more plays and they were able to leave Texas with a 28-24 victory over the Cowboys. It was frustrating early, exciting in the middle, and then disappointing late.

Here are ten thoughts on the Cowboys loss to the Vikings on Monday night.

1. Another slow start

The Cowboys kept with their pattern of starting the game slow. They did that thing again where they drive past midfield, but then sputter and come away with no points. They started off with a missed Brett Maher field goal, and followed it with a couple punts.

Minnesota, on the other hand, came out firing. Their first two drives resulted in two quick touchdowns. Aided by some shoddy tackling attempts on screen plays, the Vikings moved the ball with ease, and just like that tight end Kyle Rudolph had two touchdown catches.

The Cowboys started the game with three possessions where they crossed midfield, but came up empty. On their next three possessions, they scored 21 points. If they could just skip that first part, their chances of winning football games would improve significantly.

2. Getting screened out

The Cowboys defense looked like they had a good plan to defend Dalvin Cook and the Vikings running attack in the beginning. Despite rolling down the field on their first two drives of the game, Cook only had 14 yards on six carries for a 2.3 average.

But the Vikings star running back was able to do damage on screen passes that allowed him to juke defenders when he got in space. On their first two possessions, Cook caught three passes for 69 yards. It also didn’t help any that the Cowboys handed them some bonus yardage with a couple personal foul penalties.

3. Dak on the run

I don’t know what kind of weird hip exercises he does during pre-game warmup, but if it helps Dak Prescott throw on the run like he did in this game, have at it.

The Cowboys got themselves back in the game with two-straight second quarter drives thanks to some nice throws from Prescott. On multiple occasions Dak rolled out and fired the ball right where it needed to be for the completion. It didn’t matter if he was rolling left or right, Prescott was on the money.

Dak finished three yards short of 400 yard with 8.6 yards per attempt. He stepped up and made some great plays to give the team a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for.

4. Amari Cooper is so fantastic

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a ridiculous run of toe-dragging catches than what Amari Cooper put on display Sunday night. The savvy receiver has such a great sense of his surroundings that he was able to get his feet in bounds not once, not twice, but three times to come up with big catches. At times, it looked like Dak had nowhere to go with the ball as he threw the ball too far outside of the receivers catch radius... or so we thought. Cooper managed to reach out and come away with the catches.

5. Cobb’s not so bad himself

As it turns out, Randall Cobb can make the highlight reel if his plays aren’t called back by penalties. The veteran wide receiver had his best game as a Cowboy as he had six catches for 107 yards, including a phenomenal touchdown catch.

6. Nowhere to run

Many were hyping the matchup between the league’s current leading rusher and the guy who has taken down the title in two of the last three years. On this day, it was Dalvin Cook that had the better day. The Vikings running back finished with 26 carries for 97 yards, but also added another 86 yards receiving.

Things weren’t so easy for Ezekiel Elliott. Every time he ran the ball, it felt like it was a waste of a down. The Vikings defense was dialed in on him and many times met him at the line of scrimmage. Zeke finished the game with just 47 yards on 20 carries for a very inefficient 2.4 yards per attempt. In the battle of the running game, the Vikings were clearly the victors.

7. Ran themselves into the ground

The Cowboys had a shot to win the game after they got the ball on their own six-yard line with just under five minutes left to play in the game. The offense flew down the field thanks to their passing attack, putting them in great position to win the game. After a Cooper reception gave the team a 2nd-and-2 on the Vikings 11-yard line with a minute and a half left, things were looking pretty good. Unfortunately, the Cowboys stubbornly tried to run again and ended up going backwards.

The Cowboys went from having a golden opportunity to win the game to turning the ball over on downs, essentially ending the game.

What makes it even worse is that the Cowboys stubbornness to run, even when it wasn’t working, cost them the game. The offense had a 2nd-and-2 on the Vikings 11-yard line with a minute in a half left. The first run - I don’t blame them. Using up some clock was important and it’s hard not believing this front can’t push out a little bit of yards, but after that failed - why keep doing it? They lost yards on the third-down play put them in a bad spot.

8. Missed opportunities

When replay overturned a Vikings touchdown at the one-foot line, it didn’t seem like it mattered all that much. They were still very likely to punch it in. But then three plays later when Minnesota was facing a fourth down play, it looked like it could’ve ended up being big turn of events. Unfortunately, Cook took the pitch to the outside and ran it into the end zone. The defense was so close to making a huge stop there.

Speaking of huge stops, that’s exactly what the Vikings did when linebacker Anthony Barr was able to catch Randall Cobb from behind to create a first and goal at the six-yard line. After going almost nowhere on their next three plays, the Cowboys offense had to settle for a field goal. That ended up proving costly.

9. Fair catch?

UPDATE: Jason Garrett now says they did not tell Austin to fair catch the ball in that situation.

It was a complete gaffe for the coaching staff to have Tavon Austin call a fair catch on the last punt from the Vikings. The logic behind it makes sense in most situations when they’re dealing with a kick that has a lot of air under it and the coverage is there. Clearly, you want to save as much time as you can, but this wasn’t one of those instances.

In this case, there was too much daylight in front of Austin and he essentially is gifted a free timeout when the clock stops on a change of possession.

If Austin returns this punt, he’s likely to get to the Vikings 30-yard line, if not more. The Cowboys offense would’ve still had time for two shots at the end zone with a much better chance to win the game. The coaches took the ball out of his hands instead of letting him make a judgment.

10. This one’s on the coaches

Should they have gone for it on fourth down when they were trailing 28-21 instead of settling for a field goal? Who knows.

Did they take the ball out of a hot Dak Prescott late in the game? It sure seems like it.

And were they in a hurry or chewing clock late in the quarter? Your guess is as good as mine.

Honestly, there are many things that happened late in the game that pulled the rug out from underneath them in this game and that falls squarely on the coaching staff. Does that mean Jerry Jones needs to make a change this week? Absolutely not, but the criticism if warranted. The Cowboys conservative nature at times means this teams gets caught up in close games, and so far they are 0-3 in games decided by four points or less. Just stay aggressive! They wear that look well, so why not keep at it?

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