Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
ARLINGTON, TEXAS -- The Vikings suffered their fourth consecutive loss as the Dallas Cowboys scored a touchdown with 35 seconds left for a 27-23 victory.
Tomy Romo threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris to cap a nine-play, 90-yard drive for the comeback.
Christian Ponder's desperation throw on the final play of the game fell short of the end zone.
It was the third time the Vikings have given up a game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
Backup cornerback A.J. Jefferson intercepted a Romo pass on third down with 4:29 remaining as the Vikings held a 23-20 lead. Jefferson entered the game on that drive after rookie Xavier Rhodes injured his leg.
Jefferson jumped in front of Terrance Williams along the Vikings sideline and intercepted Romo's pass.
The Vikings faced a fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 11 with less than six minutes remaining. Adrian Peterson went up the middle and carried three Dallas defenders into the end zone for a touchdown. Blair Walsh missed the extra point as the Vikings took a 23-20 lead.
The Vikings led 10-6 at halftime, but gave up two quick touchdowns in the second half to fall behind 20-10. The first came on a 26-yard touchdown catch by Jason Witten.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cordarrelle Patterson fumbled the ball out of bounds at the 5-yard line. On the first offensive play, Christian Ponder was hit in the end zone by George Selvie and fumbled. Dallas' Nick Hayden recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Vikings, however, answered with a 77-yard scoring drive, capped by Kyle Rudolph's 31-yard touchdown catch.
ARLINGTON, TEXAS -- Matt Cassel will serve as the Vikings backup quarterback today, not Josh Freeman.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier declined to announce his backup on Friday after officially naming Christian Ponder the starter for today's game against the Cowboys.
But Freeman's name is on the inactive list. That pretty follows the quarterback rotation that the Vikings used in practice this week during individual drills: Ponder, Cassel and Freeman.
The other inactives are cornerback Chris Cook, safety Jamarca Sanford, nose tackle Fred Evans, offensive guard Jeff Baca, running back Matt Asiata and tight end Rhett Ellison.
As the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s game with the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, we asked Jean-Jacques Taylor, who works for ESPNDallas.com and spent 11 seasons covering the Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006, five questions on the matchup. Here’s what he had to say…
Q: You were in Detroit on Sunday when the Cowboys lost to the Lions despite having a plus-four turnover differential … what caused the Cowboys’ collapse Sunday?
Taylor: Basically they couldn’t run the ball to close the game down at the end. They had the ball twice with three minutes and couldn’t run it out and put up enough time. The whole game changed when they had the holding call on third down when they tried to run out the clock (before Dan Bailey’s 44-yard field goal to give the Cowboys a 30-24 lead with 1:02 left). That’s because you had a young guy (running back Phillip Tanner) who was supposed to go up the middle and take whatever was there and fall down. He bounced it outside, got a holding call that stopped the clock. Without the holding call, Detroit gets the ball down six at their 20 with about 30 seconds left, and they’re going 80 yards in 30 seconds.
Q: Running back DeMarco Murray has practiced the past two weeks. Will he play Sunday?
Taylor: It’s too early to say. I would expect him to, but he only thought he was going to play last week and he didn’t. (Murray sprained his MCL in his left knee against the Redskins on Oct. 13 and did not play against the Lions).
Q: Is Murray’s absence the biggest issue with the run game?
Taylor: They’re just not a good running team. They haven’t been a good running team all year. It’s not surprising that they couldn’t close it out. They’re not a team that runs the ball very much, they’re not a team that runs it well. Since Murray’s been out, they’ve had two runs of 10 yards or more in 48 carries. Murray has 11 in 91 (carries) by himself. He makes a difference, but they’re not a good running team however you slice it or dice it.
Q: The Cowboys are pretty thin on the defensive line. How have they held up against the run and bring pressure?
Taylor: They’re an awful defense, and we all know this so it’s not a big deal. They’re an awful defense because the injuries have compromised them. All they can give you are turnovers and red zone defense. When you’re looking at the Cowboys defense, you have to ignore the yards because they’re going to give up a ton of yards. But they got 19 turnovers, they only had 16 all of last year. When they can hold you to field goals inside the red zone, they’ve done their job. They play really hard, and they’ll play as hard as anyone in the league. That compensates for some of their flaws. And against a bad offense like Minnesota, they’ll have some success because they’ll out-effort the Vikings. But when they play a good team, and a good offense and a good quarterback, they’re at that team’s mercy. But luckily for them, Minnesota’s got a bad quarterback and a bad offense. So they’ll probably do a good job this week.
Q: Aren’t turnovers and a “bend, but don’t break” defense what head coach Jason Garrett wanted?
Taylor: Nobody wants to be the first team in the NFL to give up four 400-yard passers, and nobody wants to be on pace to give up 6,000 yards. But injuries have compromised them. It’s not an excuse, it’s just what it is. When you’ve got your two starting players with the game on the line last week on the final drive were a couple of undrafted free agents -- one from Grand Valley State (defensive back Brandon Carr) and one from South Carolina State (defensive back Jakar Hamilton) -- I don’t think that was the plan going into the season.
Taylor’s prediction: Cowboys 23, Vikings 13
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil will play Monday night against the New York Giants after being listed as questionable because of back tightness.
Kalil missed two days of practice last week after experiencing some tightness in his back. He told reporters on Saturday that he had made progress and was optimistic he would be able to play.
The most notable inactive was Matt Cassel, who went from starting quarterback the previous two games to No. 3 on the depth chart this week, behind Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder.
The other inactives for the Vikings are cornerback A.J. Jefferson, wide receiver Rodney Smith, linebacker Gerald Hodges, offensive guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackle Chase Baker and defensive end Justin Trattou.
For the Giants, running back Brandon Jacobs is inactive because of a hamstring injury. The Giants' second-leading rusher, David Wilson, also is out because of a neck injury. That leaves veteran Peyton Hillis, who signed with the Giants this past week.
NEW YORK -- The Vikings and New York Giants are a combined 1-10, but Josh Freeman's debut brings an element of intrigue to this Monday Night Football matchup.
As I wrote about for Sunday, Freeman has endured a hectic few weeks as he attempts to resurrect his career.
The Vikings have condensed the playbook for Freeman so that he can learn the offense on the fly. Freeman already had a pretty good grasp of the pass concepts of this system from his college days, but the biggest challenge, he said, is learning new terminology.
“In football, you only have 11 guys and there’s only so much you can do," he said. "But just being able to go into the huddle with confidence and call the play, look over the line of scrimmage with confidence, know what I’m keying off of, understanding the fronts, protections, just kind of bringing it all in for one play. I think that this coaching staff obviously had a plan, a plan as far as, ‘Alright, this is what we’re going to do. We want you to just forget all the other stuff and focus on this exact thing,’ and it’s been really, really good."
Freeman said he's also leaned on his teammates for help. For instance, his wide receivers have let him know how they run certain routes.
"It’s different people stepping up," he said. "It’s the guys on the O-line, Sully (John Sullivan), the wide receivers, talking with Greg (Jennings), talking with Jerome (Simpson). Those guys have a lot of input and insight. Talking to Adrian (Peterson) about different run themes, and talking just with my teammates getting a feel for how they like to do things around here, different scenarios, guys’ strengths, weaknesses because, to be honest, with only one week of practice with guys, it’s hard to really develop the kind of chemistry you’d like to have midway through a season.
"To compensate for that, guys have kind of taken it on themselves to really spend time with me. Kyle Rudolph, a guy that’s an unbelievable tight end, talking with him about his route likes and dislikes and finding ways to get him the ball. Last but not least is the quarterback room. Matt (Cassel) and Christian (Ponder) are constantly giving me advice, telling me about nuances within the offense that could pay dividends in the long stretch."
Kickoff is set for 7:40 p.m. central time.
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