The Dallas Cowboys came into Sunday’s Divisional Round Playoff game as one of the hottest teams in the NFL with one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
In their 2 previous games heading into Sunday’s contest, Dallas had scored 58 points against the Philadelphia Eagles. And in their last 4 games, the Cowboys averaged 433.0 yards and 24.8 points per contest.
With a confident and in-rhythm QB – Tony Romo – playing behind a massive offensive line and with a talented group of pass-catchers, Dallas was poised to continue their hot streak against the Vikings and setup a rematch with the New Orleans Saints, the very team they beat back on December 19 to begin their 4-game winning streak.
But then something happened. And that something was the Vikings defense, a unit that put on a stunning performance in holding the explosive Cowboys to just 3 points and only 248 net yards of offense. With the Vikings offense matching the excellence of the defense, Sunday’s game turned into a lopsided affair – a 34-3 Vikings victory.
“We knew it was going to be a battle all four quarters, and for the most part it was,” LB Ben Leber said immediately after the game. “I never imagined it would be this lopsided. You have to give a lot of credit to their offense. They came in a high-powered offense, explosive. We thought it was going to be a big-time dogfight, and we did a good job holding them to three points.
So what was the key to the Vikings defensive dominance? There were probably a number of factors, beginning with the Vikings ability to pressure Romo. The Cowboys QB was sacked 6 times and hurried or hit on many more occasions.
Another reason, though, was the Vikings ability to limit Dallas’ explosive plays. The Vikings definition of an explosive play is a run of 12+yards and a pass of 16+ yards. The Cowboys, one of the NFL’s most explosive teams over the past month, had just 3 explosive plays on Sunday (2 passes, 1 run).
Key in the defense’s ability to limit Dallas explosiveness was sound coverage and technique, as well as solid tackling.
“You obviously never want to have guys get behind the coverage and make big plays,” Leber explained, “but secondly, we did a good job of keeping everything in front of us. We did a good job of tackling and not having many explosive plays against us. The game plan worked, and we executed pretty well.”
Leber makes a good point. Players on the field did their job by executing the scheme and making plays. But there’s a reason coaches put in so much time during the week.
“That’s a credit to (defensive coordinator) Leslie Frazier and the whole defensive coaching staff,” Vikings CB Benny Sapp said. “They came in this week and were real tough on us. They knew Dallas was a big-play team. We wanted to erase that off the field today, and that’s what we did.”
Tags: Ben Leber, Benny Sapp, Leslie Frazier
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