Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cowboys - Vikings Notes: First Half

> Ah, the joy of a playoff game where I kind of hate both teams. In the immortal words of Bobby Knight, since the game is inevitable, let's relax and enjoy it.

> Fox with the usual overblown coverage as Dallas wins the toss. The short kickoff is ended with violence, and Dallas starts inside their 30. From the gun, QB Tony Romo finds WR Miles Austin for six on an out; looks like Minnesota wants to blitz today. A toss to RB Felix Jones looks good, but the back is stopped before the sticks. On third and inches, Dallas goes for a flip to Austin from a power set, and it gets six around the left side. Good call; notice the absence of RB Marion Barber. Romo takes a hit on first on good coverage, and the incomplete barely gets out of bounds. Romo improvises to Austin to the right, and gains nine. Another short third down is converted, this time to WR Patrick Crayton, who benefited from the defense overplaying TE Jason Witten. Weird and bad Romo improv winds up in sack avoidance and an odd incomplete as Vikings coach Brad Childress lobbies for holding; he may have a point. A second down hand off to Jones is the first very good play by the defense, who meets Jones in the backfield for a loss of four. The third down field goal play is a Dallas disaster, as Romo skitters to the ground on pressure, and fumbles. The Vikings dodge the bullet and will take over in decent field position, and for Dallas haters, that play certainly looked like Bad Old Playoff Romo. For once, no replay challenge.

> The Vikings start with an incomplete to RB Adrian Peterson, who won't shake his bad hands reputation that way. Second down is Peterson to the right for three yards. Third and seven from the gun sees Favre swarmed under by DE DeMarcus Ware, and while Fox head Troy Aikman buries RB Chester Taylor for not picking up the blitz, Taylor was also running free against a linebacker had Favre gotten rid of the ball. In any event, the Viking offense looks very out of sorts, and the punt isn't much better. Advantage, Cowboys.

> Jones with a ton of room on the left side for eight yards. Jones enjoys another big hole for the first, and you are seeing the birth of a second round pick in next year's fantasy drafts. He then de-pantsed CB Cedric Griffin for another first, and the yards from scrimmage are 62 to -6 for the road team. Barber gets a charity carry and four yards. Dallas Fan starting to be heard. Romo fumbles the snap for another disaster, but Dallas recovers the loose ball. On third and nine from the gun, a hot throw from Romo is tipped into the air and collected by Austin, who winds up a yard short of the sticks. Dallas tries a 48 yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, and the ball just leaks left for a miss. Why, it's as if he was a Redskin reject! And if Dallas winds up losing this game, feel free to point the finger for their terrible start right at the QB. Who says this game was distasteful?

> Minnesota with good field position again, improbably. Peterson up the gut for a yard. Favre's first completion of the day is to emerging WR Sidney Rice on a slant, and the wideout stretches for the first; nice play by the skill position players there. Peterson finds a crack in the middle for four, and then Favre wakes up the echoes with an utterly perfect fly route to Rice, where S Gerald Sensabaugh never, ever sees the ball until the WR is celebrating sever points. Wow. You could have taken off the safety's pants and painted his ass shocking pink, and I don't think he'd be any more embarrassed, but CB Terence Newman was also at fault there. Vikings 7, Coboys 0.

> After good kickoff coverage, Romo to Witten gets 14 yards and slows the screaming. Barber trickles down for six on an effective run to the left. From the gun on second, Dallas looks out of sorts, but it winds up in a first down throw to reserve TE Martellus Bennett. A terrible screen winds up in an incomplete as Romo makes a man miss and scares Cowboy Fan silly. A draw to Barber sees the RB run for 15 yards, but none of them forward, and that's the kind of play that Jones would have gotten a lot more out of. A long third down is a big play, and Romo shakes off pressure to convert it to Witten, as the TE powers past the sticks. Jones returns and gets a professional five to the left to end the first quarter. Dallas has controlled the lines and the ball, but they've also made the mistakes, and trail 7-0.

> From the gun, Romo finds Austin on a good curl, and this is Dallas's deepest penetration of the game. Bennett is wide open for a big gain, and that's first and goal from the 9. RB Tashard Choice takes the direct snap and just gets a yard to the middle right. Romo returns on second from the gun and curls into a bad sack and loss of seven. DE Ray Edwards is winning his matchup with RT Marc Colombo, but I have to think the QB could have gotten rid of it. Third down sees Romo air it out of the end zone to no one in particular, as the QB looked skittish on pressure. Suisham connects from 33 yards, and it's 7-3 Vikings. Dallas has moved the ball an awful lot today for three points.

> Dallas gets their usual touchback, and you have to wonder if the league is all going to go for mule kickers to take kickoff returns out of play, the way Dallas has this year.

> Favre on first gets a clean pocket and open space in front of him; he uses it to swing it out to TE Jim Kleinsasser for a first. Peterson gets four as the defenders spend more effort on the ball than the runner. WR Percy Harvin takes a middle run for three yards and pain. From the gun on third, Peterson goes for 19 on a swing pass, and the flag on the play is against the defense. That's a big play not just for the possession and yards, but also for keeping the Dallas offense off the field. A slant to WR Bernard Berrian is uncalled defensive pass interference, and that's a suspicious flag for America's Team. Taylor weaves his way for four yards to the left. A field goal third down sees Favre from the gun to Taylor on a nice screen, and the RB abuses the LB to get past the sticks. Nice play by the old QB, who looks sharper than Romo to date. A very pretty ball with arc gets to Berrian inside the 10, but he can't get both feet down, and it's incomplete. Peterson summons Beast Mode for 11 up the gut as Aikman babbles some nonsense about trying to score from further away when you have the best red zone offense in the league. Good grief. Favre rolls out, buys himself time with a pump and savvy, then hits Rice over the middle for a touchdown. The WR fooled the Dallas defense into thinking he wasn't in a pattern by throwing a cut block at the line, then getting lost in the middle wash. Very impressive drive by the Vikings, and that's the first time since the Saints game that an offense has treated the Cowboy defense like that. The pressure on Romo builds as the Vikings take a 14-3 lead.

> The Cowboys try a wacky throwback on the kickoff, and it loses yards, but a taunting flag is thrown on the coverage unit. While I don't doubt that Words Were Said, I'm also certain that the same words are said on just about every kickoff play, so that's Suspicious Flag #2 for AmeriKKKa's Team.

> Starting Cowboy LT Flozell Adams is out with an injury, and that's big adversity for Dallas, seeing as how it's their first significant injury of the year and all. Not that I'm bitter. DE Jared Allen celebrates Adams' absence by abusing replacement T Doug Free, as Allen knifes in for a running loss, then turns the Purple Tide into an avalanche by taking Romo down for a sack and fumble that's recovered by the Vikings inside the Cowboys red zone. Allen burned Witten badly there. Romo's third turnover of the game makes me wonder if he didn't get the memo about Playoff Monkey being of his back, or how his coach is going to get a new contract.

> Minnesota snaps before a possible challenge (yay!), and Peterson goes up the middle for three. Berrian takes a slant, curls left, and gets out of bounds with an uncalled late hit at the Cowboy 7. Peterson gets nothing on a first down run. A second down pass to Peterson is luckily incomplete, and a near backwards pass. Third and goal isn't snapped in time to avoid the delay flag. Third and goal from the 13 sees Favre to Taylor, who gains seven yards, and the offense there was oddly conservative, with no balls into the end zone despite Rice being white hot. Ryan Longwell makes the chip shot field goal, and it's Vikings 17, Cowboys 3.

> Foxbot Pam Oliver reports that Romo was yelling at his OL on the sidelines, since they are the ones with the ball control issues and all. Barber for three, then Romo escapes pressure to find Witten for a first. Maybe the QB does have an issue with his OL? A draw to Barber goes for a loss as Vikings Fan appreciates the lack of touches for Jones and Choice. Romo finds Witten on a badly designed blitz, and the TE is short of the sticks before the two minute warning. Romo misses Austin as the Cowboys can't take advantage of the defense jumping offsides, and that's another drive with first downs that results in no points. Just a nightmare half for the road team, and my gambling pick. I'm strangely OK with it.

> From their own 8 after a punt with 1:52 left in the half, the Vikings try Peterson up the middle for no gain, then Dallas calls time. Another give to Peterson gets nothing and a Dallas time out, and if you want to question Childress's play calling, feel free. From the gun on third, a draw to Taylor results in 14 yards and a first, and that's a big deal. With the clock running, Favre takes a sack and shows no interest in additional plays. Just like the last drive, it's very conservative and questionable, and the weirdness continues as Favre is incomplete to Rice at the sticks; had they ran it, the half ends. With 27 seconds left on third and 14, clowntime continues with Kleinsasser jumping offsides, then Taylor can't duplicate his draw run for a first. The last Dallas timeout happens with 23 seconds left and forces a punt, which Crayton muffs and recovers. Ye gads, these are two of the best eight teams in the NFL?

> Romo returns with 13 seconds left, needing 30 yards and out of bounds for a field goal try. An incomplete to Crayton doesn't help, and Witten gets 10 and out of bounds with four seconds left. Romo runs for 15 seconds and falls, and that's the half.

Minnesota starts the second half with the ball, a 14 point lead, and the knowledge that they didn't really play all that well, but have a big lead anyway, thanks to turnovers and big plays. Back in a bit.

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