This one was inexcusable.

Inexcusable for Mike Zimmer. For his defense. For his offense. Inexcusable for the whole darn operation.

The Vikings embarrassed themselves in a prime-time undoing Sunday night that cranks the heat up on Zimmer's job status by a considerable degree.

Will Zygi and Mark Wilf show patience in this regime after suffering through that debacle, a 20-16 loss to a Dallas Cowboys team that had a backup quarterback with a soap opera name and flimsy résumé rip their hearts out?

"If you're not frustrated," receiver Adam Thielen said, "there's something wrong with you."

Something's wrong, all right.

The tombstone from the Halloween fright show will read thusly: Kirk Cousins got outplayed by Cooper Rush. Not Dak Prescott. Cooper Rush.

Rush managed crunch time like a cool customer while Cousins looked panicky all game. The Vikings offense scored only 16 points against a mediocre defense and needed help from the officials and two senseless personal foul penalties by the Cowboys late just to get to 16.

The Vikings offense performed like strangers meeting at a party. There was no flow. No urgency. No creativity. No aggressiveness after the opening drive.

Here's an existential question for Zimmer and offense coordinator Klint Kubiak: Is it possible to script plays for an entire game?

Their offensive formula never changes. Start fast, look ultra-aggressive, then become painstakingly conservative.

Didn't the coaching staff conduct a deep-dive self-scout during the bye week to identify their bad tendencies on offense?

Forget tendencies. Everything about the offense looked discombobulated. Play calls, execution, Cousins, receivers, offensive line, Dalvin Cook. All of it.

Cousins targeted Justin Jefferson only three times all game. Three. On what planet is that smart football?

Cousins reverted to old habits with his reliance on checkdowns. The offensive line reverted to old habits by not blocking anyone.

The Vikings finished 1-for-13 on third down, a losing formula against any defense. The main culprit was a conservative approach. Cousins kept throwing short of the first-down marker. Over and over and over.

It was a checkdown party at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings entered the game averaging only 24.5 points per game, which is woefully inadequate when considering their talent at skill positions and Cousins' performance through six games.

The game plan and execution against Dallas can best be described as disjointed. Kubiak's opening-drive script was a beauty again, but then it was same old, same old after that.

Picture a person dipping a toe into a pool and then pulling back fast. Brrrr, that's cold.

That was the Vikings offense. They tried being aggressive in the first half — with mixed results — but it was as if Zimmer grew uneasy with that approach.

They should keep their foot on the accelerator but for whatever reason — Zimmer, Cousins, Kubiak? — they downshift into a conservative trudge.

Cousins missed a few deep shots early and then inexplicably they stopped taking them.

Zimmer rolled the dice on a fourth-and-1 from his own 44 late in the first half. Cousins faked a handoff to Cook, rolled right and hit Thielen for a 32-yard completion before the two-minute warning. Perfection.

But then back into the shell they went. Cousins threw two dump-off passes that did nothing, and the Vikings settled for a field goal.

The NFL's parity is too entrenched to operate this way. Even bad teams will strike if you leave the door open.

The Vikings had a chance to add points in the final minute of the first half when they got the ball at their own 15 with 37 seconds left and one timeout.

But after a 13-yard run by Cousins, confusion led to chaos. Wide receivers didn't know where to line up. Rather than call timeout, Cousins tried getting guys in the right spots, which burned valuable time. With only one second left, Cousins took a knee.

Fans booed as the Vikings made their way to the locker room.

It was well-deserved.

The second half was even worse and ended in fitting fashion, with Cousins slinging a desperation pass out of bounds as time expired.