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Cooper Rush’s first miracle hangs over Cowboys’ return to Minnesota

If Dallas drops a second-straight game, last year’s win over the Vikings will definitely get brought up.

Dallas Cowboys v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings tangle again this Sunday after playing each other just a year ago. Their 2021 matchup was one of the signature moments of Dallas’ previous season, a stunning win with QB Cooper Rush in his first NFL start. While many circumstances have changed since then, the Cowboys are now up against that memory in this next meeting.

Dallas wasn’t supposed to win a year ago when they met the Vikings. Dak Prescott was out with a calf strain and Minnesota was the home team coming off their bye week. But Cooper Rush shocked the world with 325 passing yards and two touchdowns, the second coming on the game-winning drive with a pass to WR Amari Cooper.

Rush’s legend kept growing in 2022. Prescott missed Weeks 2-6 with a hand injury suffered in the season opener, allowing Cooper to get back on the field and win his next four starts. He finally took his first loss against the Eagles and Dak returned the following week, but Rush’s 5-1 record as a starting QB still puts a smile on Cowboys fans’ faces.

Prescott’s return, while improving the firepower at quarterback overall, has come with some turbulence as well. He’s had some inconsistency with accuracy and decision-making, but thankfully not enough to cost Dallas games against the Lions and Bears. A lack of offensive cohesion definitely contributed to last week’s loss in Green Bay, however, and raised concerns about what the Cowboys will do against Minnesota this Sunday and in other tough upcoming games.

The 2022 Vikings are rolling, currently 8-1 and winning games with clutch performances and comebacks. While last week’s victory over the Buffalo Bills was quite fluky, there’s no denying that Minnesota will be a tougher team this year than the one Cooper Rush faced last season. That squad was 3-3 when Dallas came to town and 8-9 at the end of the year; a middling team from start to finish.

Also keep in mind that last year’s Vikings were still being coached by Mike Zimmer, who was fired after the season and replaced by Kevin O’Connell.

The Cowboys are a different squad as well. While last week was far from their best work, Dallas’ defense has been touted as one of the league’s best throughout the year. But the offense, which led the NFL in 2021, is still working its way back after Prescott’s injury, offensive line issues, and failing to find an adequate replacement for Amari Cooper in the passing game.

Remember, those 2021 Cowboys finished 12-5 and with the league’s top offense. The three-headed WR monster of Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup made life much easier for their teammates and Kellen Moore than what we’re seeing so far this year.

We say all this to make the point that comparing this year’s Cowboys-Vikings is full of variables and pitfalls. The upset Dallas pulled off in 2021 has no logical relevance to what happens now.

But of course, if the Cowboys go lay another egg this week, none of that logic is going to matter.

A second-straight loss will be bad enough. If it comes against a team that Cooper Rush beat a year ago in the same venue, you just know stones are going to be thrown at Dak Prescott plenty in the aftermath.

Had Rush just been a one-hit wonder, his big day in 2021 wouldn’t feel like part of the narrative now. But his four-game run this year, giving Dallas the majority of their six wins so far this season, keeps that fire going. And with Prescott only 2-2 so far in his 2022 starts, the comparisons to Rush will keep coming until he gets the numbers back on his side.

Even Micah Parsons’ admitted that the defense let Dak and the offense down in Green Bay. But wins are a QB stat, unfair as that may be, and that’s the business these guys have chosen. The old cliché about who makes “the big bucks” certainly applies to the $40-million-and-above crowd.

So no, Dak Prescott shouldn’t be thinking about Cooper Rush, 2021, or anything beyond the team he’s about to see this Sunday. But after last week’s letdown and with the Vikings on a momentous pace, this one sets up as one as a critical moment for the Cowboys’ entire season. It’s already heavy, and the memory of Dallas’ last trip to Minnesota adds some additional weight.

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