Last season, the NFC Divisional round game between the Vikings and Cowboys resulted in a convincing 34-3 victory in favor of the Vikings. But this isn’t last season anymore.
Both the Vikings and Cowboys enter Sunday’s matchup at 1-3. Many critics have labeled the matchup as a “playoff” game – meaning that whoever loses will likely miss the playoffs. The entitlement of a “playoff” game comes from good reason since there have been only a handful of teams in NFL history to reach the playoffs after starting the regular season 1-4.
The last team to make the playoffs after a 1-4 start was the Green Bay Packers in 2004, as then Packers QB Brett Favre led his team to a 9-2 record throughout the remaining regular season, claiming the NFC North. And if you’re well versed in Vikings history, you’ll know that the Vikings ended the Packers season in the NFC Wild Card playoff game that year.
The fact of the matter is that the so-called “playoff” game on Sunday may indicate post-season aspirations and will certainly boast a playoff atmosphere at Mall of America Field.
“We really need our crowd to be energetic and loud, even louder, maybe, than the (2009) NFC playoff game,” assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier acknowledged during his weekly press conference on Thursday. “That would be outstanding. Looking forward to it, should be a great game for our fans.”
Frazier might get his wish once the Vikings defense takes the field versus Cowboys QB Tony Romo and Co. In regard to the noise factor, Romo described Mall of America Field as a “tough” or “difficult place to play” on 3 different occasions during his press conference on Wednesday.
Although the crowd noise may be a factor come Sunday, the Cowboys offense has shown consistency in moving the chains, averaging 421.5 YPG of total offense – ranked 2nd in the league. A great portion of that yardage is a result of the Dallas aerial attack (326.2 YPG). The Cowboys passing game includes a heavy use of 5- and 7-step drops by Romo to allow the receiver’s routes to progress. This aspect of the Cowboys offense has the Vikings defense eager to get after the QB with more time to pursue.
“Any time you face a quarterback that does like to sit back and take a little bit more time to throw you are going to have an advantage as a defense as opposed to a guy who likes to get the ball out,” Vikings LB Ben Leber told a group of reporters on Thursday. “Hopefully that does work out for us in that respect, but we’ll see what happens.”
The Dallas passing game may be the staple of its offense, but the Vikings defense is aware that they cannot sleep on the ground game. The Vikings gave up 155 rushing yards against the NY Jets on Monday night and are now handed the task of stopping a tandem of RBs possessing different skill sets, including a supportive RB3 – Marion Barber and Felix Jones supported by Tashard Choice.
“They got two good backs back there with Jones and Barber,” Vikings LB E.J. Henderson said. “I think they do a lot of similar things but also Jones is a little more explosive. We’ll see how it works out. We definitely got to have our eye on them to be able to stop the run.”
Tags: Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, CJ Siewert | 131 Comments »