Conventional wisdom would have anyone thinking the Vikings would be at least a touchdown favorite against Dallas this weekend. Heck, they’ve had a bye week and have earned a division playoff at home. These things coupled with their undefeated record at home SHOULD make them an easy pick to win. However, none of the usual advantages seem to be factoring into picking a favorite for Sunday’s game.
Vegas is only giving the Vikings a 2.5 point advantage, and most of the media are picking the Cowboys to win. Dallas has momentum right now, and everything is going their way. They’re on a hot streak, with Tony Romo playing at a top-notch level. Backing Romo is a powerful offensive line that is blocking effectively to give him plenty of time to throw the ball. And Romo is relying on skilled players like Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Tashard Choice is another back who is making things happen out of their backfield, especially on screen plays.
Tight end Jason Witten is their No. 1 receiver and has created problems for the linebackers. He loves to run the play pass crease pattern. Their No. 1 long ball receiver is Miles Austin, who wreaks havoc downfield. Their other receiver, if you remember, Roy E. Williams (who came from Detroit) has been playing outstanding lately. Yes, he had a slump, but he’s back on.
The Cowboys’ wide receiver most similar to Percy Harvin is Patrick Crayton. The timing and tempo of their offense has beaten New Orleans once and Philly twice, so right there proves they are definitely on a roll. They finished second in the NFL in total yardage: sixth in passing and seventh in rushing.
Looking at their defense, in points allowed this season, they finished second. They only allowed 90 yards per game rushing, bringing them in fourth and in passing, they were 20th. Their defense plays a 3-4. Their two linebackers, Anthony Spencer and Keith Brooking, are their team leaders emotionally and lead the team in tackling. DeMarcus Ware leads the Cowboys in sacks, with 11. He has five forced fumbles, so watch him to create some big plays. The linebackers are the heart and soul of the Cowboys’ defense.
In their secondary, Mike Jenkins leads the team with five interceptions coming out of the right corner. Cornerback Terence Newman also has three interceptions, but out of all the d-backs, he leads them in tackles. Patrick Crayton is their explosive punt returner, who has already returned two for touchdowns this year.
Back in 1975, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Vikings, who were rated No. 1 in defense in every major category, on a Hail Mary pass with seven seconds left in the game. There have been a few other playoff games where Dallas came out on top as well. Dallas has been a problem for the Vikings. The other sore spot was the Herschel Walker trade. The Vikings got a big first game from Herschel, and Dallas got two Super Bowls with the draft choices they made!
If the Vikings read this, here is how I feel they can pull off a win: As an athlete, when people say you can’t do something or you’re not good enough to accomplish something, the attitude of the athlete changes and it becomes a challenge to prove the naysayers wrong. We have a great team, a talented team. Offensively we haven’t had a quarterback with as much experience as Brett and one who has won a Super Bowl. If you look at the last eight home games that we have won, we played like a team that’s in control.
The scouting report the Vikings have received should be studied and reviewed. The Vikings need to know the players in front of them. That scouting report gives the stats of the opponent and what they are capable of doing. They don’t belong left in the locker or sitting on the table at home. I can’t emphasize enough the significance of watching films, also. It not only gives players a visual of the other team, but it should make them want to get out there and play. The players should memorize the formation and the plays from the formation. When I played, I would put myself in the position of mentally stopping each play I watched. When you are in between practicing and working as a team, the players should get off their feet and rest as much as they can. The socializing and nightlife can be put on hold for four weeks.
There are plays that I can tell you right now the Cowboys will run against us. One is a delay draw and pass play that will confuse our linebackers and secondary. It holds the linebacker from dropping back in a pass position, and they can get huge passing yardage to the tight end and wide receiver. The second part of that is the same formation, but they actually run the ball. They hand it off as a draw play. We were taught that when it’s a run, the offensive lineman will come at you quicker, and when it’s a pass the linemen sit back on their heels. Once again, when they sit back on their heels it’s a pass. When they come at you, it’s a run. I recognized right away that those two plays helped Dallas create big plays the other night against Philadelphia.
In order for the Vikings to play our game, we have to come out and set the tempo. This is our home! Players have to be mentally and emotionally ready to play the game on Sunday. There are only eight teams remaining with a chance to win the Super Bowl. We are one of the eight!
Our O-line needs to give Brett time to make the passes. I believe Adrian Peterson hasn’t been 100 percent and needs to have a big game on Sunday. Our offense is second in the NFL in scoring, so if can continue with our average, we’ll generate points.
Defense wins championships. So Jared, Winfield, the Williams brothers, Edwards, Greenway, Brinkley, Leber, Griffin, Johnson and the rest of you, it’s time to emphasize your best skills. Everybody will be watching and taking note.
There are a lot of players that don’t get to this point in their careers. I’ve had the opportunity to be there but never won a Super Bowl. As I look back over the years, knowing the Vikings have never won a Super Bowl, it will probably always bother me and haunt me that we didn’t succeed when we had the opportunity. If I had the chance to do it again, I would sacrifice whatever it would take to be a champion. So, to the Vikings players: You’re in a position where they say you can’t do it. I say you can, but you have to pay the price to prepare yourself to win.