Vikings coach Brad Childress gave some of the credit to the national media and also some local and Dallas media for his team's great performance in a 34-3 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.
The Cowboys, after beating the Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the regular season and in their first playoff game by a combined score of 58-14, were being hailed by some as one of the best teams in the league. Some media members didn't believe the Vikings had a chance to win and advance to play the Saints in New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game.
"We grew a little bit weary of hearing that hype all week long about the Dallas Cowboys [being] the hottest team in the playoffs," Childress said. "... I mean, our guys had it like right up to here by about Tuesday. So all I asked them to do is just choke it back, guys, choke it back. We'll do our talking on the field. They did a great job with that."
The statistics of the game demonstrated that the big names on the Cowboys roster -- those who had big games in the two victories over the Eagles and a 24-17 victory at New Orleans that was the Saints' first loss after 13 wins -- were pretty well shut down by the Vikings.
Wide receiver Miles Austin had a breakout season and made the Pro Bowl. But on Sunday, Austin caught four passes for 34 yards.
Cowboys running back Felix Jones, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry in the two victories against the Eagles, rushed 14 times for 69 yards (a 4.9 average). Marion Barber III had rushed eight times for 14 yards, a 1.8 average.
Quarterback Tony Romo, who had been hailed as the next Brett Favre, had a 66.1 passer rating, compared with Favre's 134.4.
Defensively, the Cowboys had only three sacks (the Vikings had six). The Vikings' offensive line did a great job blocking defensive linemen Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff and linebackers DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Keith Brooking, who had given the Eagles fits.
Childress credited defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and the defensive coaches with coming up with a great game plan.
Childress said he was happy for defensive end Ray Edwards, who had three sacks, because "he's really grown into a fine football player there opposite Jared [Allen]. Jared gets all the notoriety, but Ray is pretty good in his own right."
Childress thought the Vikings played about as well as they could Sunday. "They hit those folks in the nose down there," he said.
For his critics, who have said the Vikings under Childress never had won a playoff game before Sunday, he had a message.
"I'm part of this football team and I'm just excited for the coaches, the players, the owners," Childress said. "[The victory] goes on the left-hand side because I'm the guy that has the tally by my name. So we get one more in the left-hand side and won a playoff game, so you can cross that off your list."
Childress said he would give the players Monday and Tuesday off before starting to prepare for the Saints and the NFC Championship Game on Wednesday.Missed last year
Edwards missed last year's 26-14 playoff loss to the Eagles because of a broken fibula.
"It's definitely something that I missed," Edwards said, "and I definitely enjoyed this day. ... We got after them pretty good today. They're a great team, not taking anything away from them, but I think we just had their number today."
He missed some plays late in the game Sunday because of a knee injury but came back into the game. Along with his three sacks, Edwards had five tackles, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams was another player who felt media criticism gave the team extra incentive against the Cowboys.
"We skidded a little bit going into the end of the season," Williams said. "So all we heard was Dallas. I'm sure all this week we're going to hear New Orleans. All that matters is this team here and what we think, and that's how we've got to take it next week when we go down to New Orleans.
"It was a great effort. I mean, we heard it all week, but we had to go out and do what we do. We did lead the league in sacks, and I think we put on a nice show today, coverage and rush."Offensive line's view
The Vikings' defensive effort drew praise from the offense.
"Our defense, I think, played their butts off," Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson said. "I don't know if I've seen them play against that caliber of offense with that much intensity, and it was fun watching them from the sidelines."
Hutchinson said a lot of people were saying, "We didn't really get 'challenged' this year, especially at home -- but we were able to play a team that probably had the most momentum in the league coming into this game and were able to beat them pretty soundly.
"I think it was an impressive win nonetheless, but it doesn't mean anything anymore. We're on the road and we're going to be in the exact situation [Dallas was] in next week when we go on the road to a place just as loud as this and we're the visitors."
Hutchinson played a great game despite a shoulder injury.
"I'm not going to talk about injuries," he said, "but you know, my arm is still connected, so it's pretty good."
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie said he and rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt went into the game hearing about how good Dallas' pass rush was.
"I admit they have a great pass rush, but at the same time we felt like we were the underdogs and we had to put some stuff together to come out here and be successful.
"We did a great job protecting him [Favre], and that enabled him to get the ball down to Sidney [Rice] a couple times and put us in a position to win the game."Sullivan holds his own
Cowboys nose tackle Ratliff is a Pro Bowler, and there was concern he would have a big day against Vikings center John Sullivan, a second-year player and first-year starter.
"He got me a couple of times, but you always have your good and bad plays in the game," Sullivan said. "He's an All-Pro for a reason, I'll put it that way. I'm just happy we won the game. That's how I judge my performance.
"You know they have a great defensive front, but you know we don't feel that we're a bunch of slouches. We go out and work hard every single week and try to execute the game plan the coaches put together for us. So we feel that every week, if we're able to do that and protect Brett and open up holes for Adrian [Peterson], we're going to win the game."
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org