As is typical of NFL pre-season action, the Minnesota Vikings showed some reasons for optimism on Saturday night when they hosted the Dallas Cowboys. They also showed a few reasons for concern, and the result was a 23-17 loss to the Cowboys in the first event held at the Metrodome since the roof collapsed back on December 12.
For the better part of the first half, the Vikings controlled the line of scrimmage against Dallas' first-string. Adrian Peterson looked. . .well, like Adrian Peterson, putting up 81 yards on 14 carries. Peterson's running directly set up the Vikings' first touchdown, as Donovan McNabb executed a perfect play-action fake to Peterson and hit a streaking Bernard Berrian for a 49-yard touchdown pass to give Minnesota an early 7-0 lead. The Cowboys would come back in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns, one coming off of the return of a blocked Ryan Longwell field goal attempt. Longwell connected on a field goal before the end of the first half, and the Cowboys were able to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room.
The Vikings got a pretty good scare late in the first quarter of play. Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo hit tight end Jason Witten on a pass in the right flat, and cornerback Antoine Winfield came up and put a textbook tackle on Witten to hold him to a very short gain. However, Winfield remained down after the play was over, and it appeared as though one of the players the Vikings could most ill-afford to lose had injured his left shoulder. Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing more than a stinger, as Winfield was shown laughing with teammates on the sidelines shortly after the incident, allowing defensive coordinator Fred Pagac and the rest of Vikings nation to breathe a little bit easier.
Not everything was great for the Vikings. . .McNabb had a pass intercepted by Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh on a deflection in the second quarter, and the Vikings did allow Romo to complete 75% of his passes. Overall, however, the Vikings fared well against the Cowboys. Bill Musgrave's new offense had a great deal of success, with McNabb completing nine passes to his wide receivers, including the long touchdown to Berrian.
The Vikings' final pre-season game will happen on Thursday night at the Metrodome, as they will play host to the Houston Texans. None of the starters will see any really significant action, and word is circulating that rookie Christian Ponder, who saw very little time in the game against Dallas, could start the game on Thursday night. From there, it will be on to San Diego and the start of the 2011 NFL regular season.