Kris Boyd must be an awful poker player.

How do we know this?

Well, the young Vikings cornerback drew what amounted to a royal flush early in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium.

And how did he disguise his excitement over the impending windfall that was coming his way?

He choked. He flinched. He freaked. He geeked. He did everything but scream, “HEY! YOU KNOW THAT FAKE PUNT WE WORKED ON ALL WEEK! IT’S OPEN!! WIDE OPEN!!! PEOPLE WON’T BE RIPPING SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR MARWAN MAALOUF AFTER THEY GET A LOAD OF WHAT WE’RE ABOUT TO DO!!!”

In football jargon, Boyd didn’t come to a set position for the one stinking second required.

Instead, he jitterbugged around at the right gunner position. He threw an arm in the air to get punter Britton Colquitt to notice that the Cowboys didn’t have anyone directly across from him. Then, as the ball was being snapped, he was moving a few steps to his right, ruining what could have been the play everyone talked about if the Vikings had won and raised their record to 5-5.

Instead, the Vikings lost 31-28. And one of the more disappointing moments was the penalty that negated Colquitt’s 23-yard strike to Boyd on fourth-and-10.

One of the other more disappointing moments came one snap later when Boyd committed another special teams penalty — a block in the back — to give Dallas the ball at its 48-yard line.

“Both of those penalties were on Kris Boyd,” Zimmer said. “He didn’t get set for a second. And then he shoved a guy in the back. You can’t do that.”

The Vikings led 7-6 when an Eric Kendricks interception handed them the ball at their 17-yard line.

The ensuing drive stalled at the Vikings 44. But this was the time for the Vikings to attempt a rare fake punt. A fake punt that would be a nice skin on the wall for Maalouf, whose special teams have come under heavy fire from the fans to the head coach himself.

Last Monday, ESPN cameras caught Zimmer giving Maalouf an earful after an kicking mistake led to Chicago’s Cordarrelle Patterson returning the second-half kickoff 104 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Vikings held on and won that game. Afterward, Zimmer was asked if all the recent special teams blunders were causing him to age.

“Yes,” he said without elaborating.

Boyd’s first penalty Sunday prevented the offense from trotting back onto the field at the Dallas 33. His second penalty led to the defense giving up a 52-yard touchdown drive to give Dallas a 13-7 lead.

The lead changed hands six times Sunday. So Boyd’s early blunders didn’t lose the game. But they sure could have changed the moment decidedly in the Vikings’ favor early on.

“I really felt like we were going to win the ballgame throughout the whole course of the game, even as bad as we started off offensively,” Zimmer said. “Unfortunately, [Cowboys quarterback Andy] Dalton made some plays, he scrambled on third down a couple times where we had good spots, good pressure on him early in the game. At the end of the game, we couldn’t come up with the fourth-down play to win the game.

“And,” Zimmer added, “We weren’t good in the red zone, either.”

Unfortunately for Boyd, he played a part in that last shortcoming as well.

Two plays after Jeff Gladney gave up a tightly contested 10-yard pass to Amari Cooper on fourth-and-6, the Cowboys faced first-and-goal from the 4. They trailed 28-24 with 1:50 left.

Dalton fired a quick slant to tight end Dalton Schultz. Boyd, playing cornerback, was right there.

He was in position. He got his hands on the ball.

He should have ended the game right there. It should have been his first career interception and atonement for the fake punt fiasco.

But this time he literally dropped the ball. Dallas scored two plays later.

 

Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: mcraig@startribune.com