When the Minnesota Vikings won their fifth consecutive game to start the 2016-17 season, they seemed destined to finish above .500 and make the playoffs as the NFC North champions for the second consecutive year.
Lead by the ‘Purple Reign’ defense, swallowing up two NFL MVP’s and a two-time Super Bowl MVP, and the newly acquired Sam Bradford leading the offense with a quick efficient passing game, all signs were pointing in the right direction.
Four straight losses later the Vikings’ world seemed to come crashing down around them. The offensive line could not block a high school junior varsity defense, whether it was a bull rush pushing the tackles back, or a straight speed rush running around the line, teams were able to get to Bradford with ease, not allowing the early MVP candidate to have any time to drop back and find his targets.
Then a date with the Arizona Cardinals seemed to right the ship, star corner Xavier Rhodes picked off Cardinals’ quarterback Carson Palmer in the end zone and returned it 100 yards, and then Pro Bowl kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff back to the house and the Vikings squeaked one out to get back to their winning ways, one game behind the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North.
Dropping a heart breaker to Detroit for the second time in a month and a date with the Dallas Cowboys, owners of the NFL’s best record, was staring the Vikings right in the face. To make matters worse, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer required emergency eye surgery the night before the game and was unable to coach his seemingly desperate squad.
Once kickoff commenced, the Vikings defense was their dominant selves, holding Rookie of the Year favorite Ezekiel Elliot to just 86 yards on 20 rushing attempts.
An offensive pass interference call on Patterson that negated a 31-yard completion left the crowd less than pleased when the replay showed Patterson seemingly innocent of any wrong doing. The questionable officiating continued all game and left quite the bad taste in Vikings fan’s mouths as they left the stadium Thursday evening.
The Vikings were able to muster a field goal on their second possession to give them an early 3-0 lead that would hold up for most of the first half.
The Vikings defense continue to hold the Cowboys rookies in check, but with the second quarter ticking down Dez Bryant found himself wide open on a fly route between Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes, and Bryant came up with a tough catch on the over throw by rookie Dak Prescott and was brought down just before the goal line at the one yard line.
Que the NFL’s most dominant offensive line and Elliot punched the ball in the end zone to give the Cowboys a 7-3 lead after Dan Bailey’s extra point attempt was good.
With under a minute left in the half and Bradford attempting to get the Vikings back on the scoreboard, the signal caller was hit and would walk into the locker room under his own power handing over the reins to career backup Shaun Hill for the last two offensive plays before the Vikings would punt.
Halftime score would be in the Cowboys’ favor, 7-3.
A fourth quarter field goal would give the Vikings a brief 9-7 lead, but this is where things really would get interesting.
Dallas would be forced to punt, with the Vikings normal punt returner hurt, Adam Thielen and Patterson were splitting duties all game, this time it was Thielen back to return the punt.
Thielen would return the ball backwards for negative three yards and after a Dallas challenge, it was ruled that Thielen fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Dallas on the eight-yard line.
On the ensuing play Bryant caught the quick screen by Prescott and powered himself into the endzone where Dallas would regain the lead, and would not look back.
After taking a sack on first and 10 on the next Vikings next possession, Bradford had Charles Johnson open down the right sideline, but Johnson dropped the slightly overthrown ball and the Vikings once again needed to punt.
Dallas would add a field goal to go up by eight points.
Minnesota would get one last chance, fielding a punt with 2:09 left in the fourth quarter.
Bradford got the Vikings deep in Dallas territory, and with 30 seconds left, found running back Jerick McKinnon from three yards out for the touchdown, 17-15 Dallas.
A false start on the two-point attempt meant that Minnesota needed to get seven yards to tie the game and force overtime. Bradford would attempt to hit tight end Kyle Rudolph in the endzone, but was hit in the head as he threw.
No call from the referee.
The crowd at US Bank Stadium would go absolutely berserk as replays showed Bradford getting hit in the head and face mask.
That was seemingly the last chance for the Vikings as the ensuing onside kick would be no good. Prescott would kneel to end the game and that was all she wrote.
With the loss the Minnesota Vikings dropped to 6-6, falling to .500 for the first time this year. The remaining schedule remains favorable, but in order to win the division, the Vikings will need a little help from the Bears, Giants, Cowboys, and Packers to beat the Lions for the Vikings to repeat as division champs.