Mark Craig performed a service for Vikings followers in Friday’s Star Tribune by providing the proper sequence to explain the Purple lads’ sixth defeat in seven games on Thursday night:
Brian Robison made what could have been the play for which his career would be remembered late in the third period, with Dallas deep in its territory and holding a 7-6 lead.
The Cowboys’ predicament started when Robison was blowing past Gavin Escobar and the tight end corralled the veteran defensive end to draw a holding penalty.
That put the Cowboys at first-and-20, and then Robison exploded off the left side again and knocked the ball from quarterback Dak Prescott’s right hand a tick before the rookie was going to bring it forward to make a throw.
Robison’s long-time partner from the right side, Everson Griffen, plopped on the ball at the Dallas 19.
At that point, the Cowboys’ previously dynamic offense had been dominated by the Vikings for most of three quarters. As Robison came off the field shouting in fierce celebration, Dallas was a rattled looking bunch.
Again, the Cowboys’ stumbling offense had put itself in position to rely on what had been an extremely flawed defense.
How flawed? A week earlier, in the traditional Thanksgiving game in Dallas, the Redskins had compiled 449 yards passing and 505 total yards vs. the Cowboys ... yet somehow lost 31-26.
As offensively challenged as it has been, this was now the time for the Vikings offense to reach the end zone while in firm possession of the pigskin:
First-and-10 at the Dallas 19, against a vulnerable defense that had been quickly put back on the field by the Prescott fumble.
The Jaguars would have gotten a touchdown here. Heck, the Brownies would have gotten a touchdown here.
The Vikings followed form and wound up kicking a 33-yard field goal, which Kai Forbath bounced in off the inside of the right goal post. That gave the home team a 9-7 lead, which was far too little.
As Craig wrote in the lead of his “On the NFL’’ column: “There was way, way, waaay too much cheering’’ from the customers for the Forbath field goal.
Much later, the Vikings had managed a 17-15 defeat, and their media house men and zealous fans were choosing to blame the failure to call a facemask penalty on a two-point conversion attempt near game’s end.
Dallas’ Cedric Thornton did get his hands on Sam Bradford’s facemask as he stormed the quarterback on that potential game-tying play.
Of course, there’s now also evidence that tackle T.J. Clemmings had a clear false start as he backed up before the snap. If that was called, the Vikings would’ve had the two-false start exacta of Jeremiah Sirles on the right side and Clemmings on the left, and would’ve been trying the two-point conversion from the 12.
Apparently, no one was more upset in the home locker room with the officiating than Robison. The main issue was the Bradford facemask, but Robison also was suggesting missed penalties throughout the game.
He’s a defensive end, so this would ‘ve been a postgame request for more holds to have been called. Every receiver wants interference on all non-catches, and every defensive end wants a hold any time he is contained.
Overall, I would say the Vikings did very well in the area of illegal containment penalties with Thursday’s officiating crew.
On Dallas’ third possession in the first period, Ezekiel Elliott thundered away on a 42-yard run that would have put the Cowboys inside the Vikings 20. It was called back by a holding penalty on right tackle Doug Free.
On the first possession of the second half, Escobar was called for a marginal clipping penalty that quickly killed a drive and led to a punt.
On the second possession, Escobar’s hold against Robison created the first-and-20, which was followed by Robison’s strip sack, which was followed by “waaaay’’ too much cheering for a field goal.
On the next series, Elliott was called for a holding penalty that led to another punt. Adam Thielen fumbled that one and set up the Cowboys’ second touchdown, which I don’t think was the officials’ fault, but with this level of whining, who knows?