Chris Canty swatted a potential go-ahead kick by Minnesota and Pat Watkins returned it 68 yards for a go-ahead touchdown for Dallas, sending the Cowboys past the Vikings 24-14 Sunday in a game they dominated but nearly gave away.
Dallas bounced back from a lopsided home loss to New England and guaranteed itself at least two more weeks atop the NFC because of an upcoming bye. During the time off, the Cowboys can savor being 6-1 for the first time since 1995 (their last Super Bowl season) and having beaten the Vikings for the first since 1996.
Minnesota (2-4) lost for the third time in four games. Rookie Adrian Peterson followed his record-setting, 224-yard performance last week with only 63 this time.
Vikings coach Brad Childress may have done the most to slow the NFL rushing leader, giving him only eight carries after the opening drive, during which Peterson ran four times for 27 yards, including a nifty 20-yarder for a touchdown.
His final carry was a fumble near his end zone early in the fourth quarter. Dallas recovered at the 22 and wound up kicking a field goal for a 10-point lead that stood up.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was 31-of-39 for 277 yards, with a touchdown and a fumble. He had 231 yards passing at halftime, but was slowed by what appeared to be a hamstring injury sustained while chasing a Minnesota fumble return for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
Romo went 9-of-10 on the game-opening drive, marching Dallas 80 yards for a touchdown. Using a new no-huddle look, he converted four straight third downs on the series, including the capper, a 5-yard TD toss to Terrell Owens. It was the first time the league's second-highest scoring offense reached the end zone in the first quarter all season; it was their first points in the first period since Week 2.
Dallas continued to click, but couldn't turn it into points. So like their last win, a wild one in Buffalo, the Cowboys had to overcome their own mistakes more than anything their opponent did.
Consider this: At halftime, Dallas led Minnesota 250-76 in yards, 43-18 in plays and 16-5 in first downs
-- yet trailed 14-7.
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The Cowboys wasted all four of their second-quarter drives in unique ways: Marion Barber running for a first down, then losing it by cutting back in hopes of more yards; lost fumbles by Romo and receiver Patrick Crayton; and rookie Nick Folk shanking a field goal for the first time all season.
Kevin Williams, a 311-pound defensive tackle, returned Romo's fumble 84 yards for a touchdown but it was called back for a penalty. The Vikings got a touchdown on Crayton's fumble, even though the return featured a lateral and a fumble, then had to withstand a review to make sure Crayton really caught it before losing the ball.
In other words, it was a weird game.
Minnesota marched 69 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive, then had a total of 15 yards over its next five possession
-- four three-and-outs and a kneel-down at the half. Yet the Vikes were leading anyway.
Dallas tied it at 14 on a 1-yard run by Barber, the first rushing TD against Minnesota all season. The Vikings answered with a drive that led to Ryan Longwell going for a 48-yard field goal. But instead of Minnesota going up 17-14, the Cowboys came away leading 21-14. Their only other points came on a 45-yard field goal by Nick Folk with 10:34 left.
Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was 6-of-19 for 72 yards. Chester Taylor, who continues to start ahead of Peterson, ran 10 times for 47 yards.
Barber had 96 yards on 19 carries and Julius Jones went for 28 on nine as the Cowboys became the first team to run for more than 100 yards against the Vikings.
Owens caught seven passes for 103 yards and a TD. Jason Witten caught a career-high 10 passes for 86 yards.
by Jaime Aron]
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