Vikings can climb to .500 with win over visiting Cowboys
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins finally snapped his 0-for-9 drought in Monday night games by leading his team to victory last week.
Now, the veteran quarterback will try to collect another win — this time on a late Sunday afternoon — when the Vikings (4-5) host the Dallas Cowboys (2-7) in Minneapolis.
Minnesota is looking to win its fourth game in a row and climb back to .500 after an ugly 1-5 start. Running back Dalvin Cook has fueled the resurgence, but Cousins showed last week that he can headline the offense with a passing attack that includes top wide receiver Adam Thielen.
It all adds up to a challenge for the Cowboys’ defense as they aim to slow down Cook, who leads the NFL entering Week 11 with 954 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, as well as Thielen, who is tied for the league lead with nine receiving touchdowns.
Cousins has been good but not great, compiling a 98.1 passer rating on the season while throwing for 2,147 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
While the Vikings come back on short rest following their Monday night win over Chicago, the Cowboys are coming off a bye and have not played since a 24-19 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 8.
Dallas quarterback Garrett Gilbert made his starting debut in that game and finished 21 of 38 for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Gilbert could give way to veteran Andy Dalton this week, provided Dalton is cleared to play from concussion and COVID-19 protocols after missing two games.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Dalton maintained his conditioning despite being away.
“I think it’s something that he’s really hit over the (bye) weekend,” McCarthy said. “I mean, stating the obvious, Andy is a pro. He’s in tune with where he needs to be, but it was great to have him out there (during practice). He’s off to a good start.”
Dalton is 0-2 as a starter this season and has passed for 452 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Ezekiel Elliott (572 yards, five TDs) leads the rushing attack, and Tony Pollard (206 yards, one TD) also could receive a decent chunk of playing time in the backfield.
Amari Cooper leads the Cowboys with 59 catches for 655 yards to go along with two scores, but part of the spotlight Sunday could be on rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb as he takes aim at a franchise record that has stood for 55 years.
Lamb has 44 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns on the season, and he needs three catches this weekend to break “Bullet” Bob Hayes’ rookie record of 46 catches in 1965. Hayes also holds the rookie records for yards (1,003) and touchdowns (12), and Lamb is on pace for 1,058 yards, further emphasizing one bright spot during a dismal season for Dallas.
Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer is hoping to see continued improvement from his defense.
“They’re starting to mature a little bit, and obviously they’re getting a little bit of confidence now,” Zimmer said. “I think it’s been three games here, the last three games, where the other team has had the ball with a chance to win the game and we’ve been able to put the fire out. The more times you do that, the more times you believe that you can do it.”
Vikings guard Ezra Cleveland (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. The rookie has started the past four games. Tight end Irv Smith, Jr. (groin), defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa (ankle), center Garrett Bradbury (shoulder) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (concussion) were limited.
For the Cowboys, center Tyler Biadasz (hamstring) and defensive end Randy Gregory (illness) did not participate while guard Zack Martin (calf) was limited.
–Field Level Media