1:00 PM ET, November 3, 2013
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Sunday's meeting in Dallas appears to favor the Cowboys, who have compensated with one of the league's highest-scoring offenses. In contrast, Minnesota didn't even decide until Friday that Christian Ponder would be under center trying to improve an ineffective attack.
Neither team has had much success stopping opponents, with Dallas' 422.5 yards allowed per game ranking last and Minnesota 30th at 401.6. Both teams failed to provide reason for encouragement with their worst defensive performances of the season last Sunday.
Dallas (4-4) surrendered 623 yards in a 31-30 loss at Detroit -- the 11th-highest total in NFL history -- including the second-highest single-game receiving yardage total to Calvin Johnson (329). The Cowboys gave up a six-play, 80-yard drive in 50 seconds, capped by Matthew Stafford's winning one-yard touchdown run with 12 seconds left.
A number of injures in the secondary didn't help. Starting safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were out, though Church is expected to play Sunday while Wilcox remains out. Cornerback Morris Claiborne, however, will miss this game and possibly one more due to a hamstring injury suffered against the Lions.
The Cowboys have some fine-tuning to do on offense, too, with Tony Romo completing less than 50 percent of his passes for the first time since 2009 last week. However, he threw for three touchdowns as Dallas scored at least 30 for the fifth time this season.
Frustration from the defense's late collapse seemed to spill over to the rest of the team, with receiver Dez Bryant finding himself in a shouting match with various teammates and coaches on the sideline shortly after Stafford's decisive score. Coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones have since downplayed the significance of Bryant's outburst.
"When you put your guts out there for three hours, collectively, sometimes it's hard to swallow those kinds of defeats," Garrett said. "What we need to do as a football team is learn from what just happened and find a way, in all three phases, to win this kind of game, and do what we need to do to win the game."
The Vikings (1-6) are in considerably more dire straits, matching their loss total of last year with a 44-31 defeat to Green Bay last week. Minnesota gave up a season-high 182 rushing yards and every Packers possession ended with points except for their last drive, which concluded in the victory formation.
Opponents are converting a league-high 51.0 percent of the time on third downs against the Vikings after Green Bay went 13 for 18.
"You've got to look at how we're doing it, what we're doing schematically, and also the people that you're asking to do certain things," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Can they get it done? Do we need to be doing something different based on the people that we're asking to execute the defense?"
Frazier will at least have the services of one of the league's best defensive ends with Jared Allen staying put after speculation that he would be moved prior to the trade deadline Tuesday.
Frazier announced Friday that he would go with Ponder over Josh Freeman as his starting quarterback. Ponder was 14 of 21 for 145 yards against Green Bay with Freeman sidelined due to a concussion, though it appears Freeman would be able to play Sunday.
"I don't know if there's any one thing I can point to and say why it's Christian and Josh in this determination," Frazier said earlier in the week. He now says Ponder gives the team the best chance to win.
Ponder may want to target Greg Jennings, who has caught 24 passes for 327 yards and two TDs in four career games against Dallas.
An abysmal passing game that ranks 30th with a 69.6 rating has limited opportunities for Adrian Peterson, who has 150 yards on just 36 carries over his last three games. Opponents have been able to key on the star running back with little fear of being beaten deep.
The Cowboys hope to get their own running game going with the expected return of DeMarco Murray, who has missed two contests with a sprained left knee. Murray, who had run for scores in three of his last four games, faces a Vikings team that has allowed nine rushing TDs -- second most in the NFC.
Dallas is 11-0 all-time when Murray gets 18 or more carries.
Minnesota holds an 11-10 series edge while winning five of six, the most recent of which was a 24-21 home victory Oct. 17, 2010.
Romo is 1-1 in two starts against the Vikings, completing 77.5 percent of his passes for 497 yards, four TDs and two picks.
The Cowboys placed guard Brian Waters on injured reserve Saturday after the six-time Pro Bowler suffered a triceps injury last week.
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|Avg Points Allowed||31.5||23.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Minnesota leads 3-2|
|Oct 17, 2010||MIN 24, DAL 21|
|Jan 17, 2010||MIN 34, DAL 3|
|Oct 21, 2007||MIN 14, @DAL 24|
|Sep 12, 2004||MIN 35, DAL 17|
- Despite DeMarco Murray's return, the Cowboys dropped back to pass (including sacks and scrambles) on 87 percent of their plays Sunday, the highest rate in the NFL this season. - Sunday was just the sixth time since the start of 2006 that a team won when dropping back to pass at least 80% of the time (5-90 entering this week). - The Cowboys ran 20 plays out of empty formations Sunday (no skill players in the backfield), their most in a game this season.
Tony Romo targeted Dez Bryant 11 times Sunday, his third-most targets in a game this season. Romo was 6-of-11 targeting Bryant, including two dropped passes. Sunday was Bryant's first multi-drop game of the season. It also marks the third straight game he and Romo failed to complete at least 60.0% of their attempts, something they had done in five straight games beforehand.
It's not often you see a team with 10 rushing attempts or fewer win a football game. Dallas had just 9 yesterday but won, joining only the 2007 Patriots and 2005 Colts as teams to win a game with 10 rushes or fewer since the merger in 1970.[+]
10 or Fewer Rush Att - Won Game Since 1970
Adrian Peterson gained 93 yards on 11 rushes when facing at least eight in the box Sunday, including a go-ahead touchdown with 5:40 remaining in the 4th quarter. The 8.5 yards per rush against such defenses was Peterson's best this season.
All eyes will be on Dez Bryant this weekend after his name has been all over the headlines recently. On the field he's been excellent, and Dallas has relied on him to keep drives going. No one has more receptions for 1st downs this season than Bryant. His 37 catches for 1st downs are one more than who else but Calvin Johnson.[+]
The Cowboys are the 38th team in the Super Bowl era to run the ball fewer than 10 times in a game. They are just the 2nd team to win such a game over that span.[+]
Fewer Than 10 Rushes in Game - Super Bowl Era (Since 1966)
Christian Ponder's rushing touchdown in the 2nd quarter was his fourth rushing touchdown this season and third touchdown scramble, both of which lead all NFL quarterbacks.
Tony Romo was 6-of-7 for 56 yards and the game-winning touchdown when facing four or fewer pass rushers on the Cowboys' final drive. Romo was only pressured once on the last drive (sacked or under duress) after being pressured on 36 percent of dropbacks against standard rushes on his first nine drives.[+]
Tony Romo Facing 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers - Sunday vs Vikings
ESPN Stats & Information