MINNEAPOLIS — A week after an exhilarating comeback win in Buffalo, the Vikings suffered their worst regular-season home loss since 1963, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 40-3 Sunday.
The Vikings’ seven-game win streak ended in a subdued U.S. Bank Stadium, with backup quarterback Nick Mullens throwing passes to the Vikings’ reserves.
Kirk Cousins, sacked a career-high seven times, watched the final minutes from the bench; his streak of 39 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest active run in the NFL, ended as the Vikings removed their quarterback with 10:04 to play.
There was nothing left to be salvaged from the shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys that ranked by many measures as one of the worst defeats in team history. It was the second most-lopsided home loss in team history (behind only a 56-14 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963) and the sixth-largest defeat the Vikings have absorbed anywhere.
The Cowboys outgained the Vikings 458-183, went 12 for 17 on third down and punted twice. They posted six of their seven sacks with only four pass rushers and held the Vikings to one third-down conversion on 11 attempts.
The Vikings entered the game as the first 8-1 team since 1976 to be an underdog at home while starting its regular quarterback. But shortly before kickoff, as the Eagles fell behind the Colts in the fourth quarter, it appeared the Vikings could snatch the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a win.
Instead, Philadelphia rallied to beat Indianapolis and get to 9-1. The Vikings lost their chance to keep pace with the Eagles and sustained the kind of loss that will reignite national talking points about their legitimacy a week after they seemed to have silenced many of them.
Their comeback victory from 17 points down in Buffalo — the largest second-half rally in Highmark Stadium’s 49-year history — came with a significant physical and emotional cost for Vikings players that called the game one of the hardest they’d ever played.
Tasked with making a quick recovery to face another NFC contender in a nationally-televised game, the Vikings were bloodied by a Cowboys team that held the ball for 19:13 in the first half, gained 249 yards, converted eight of its 10 third downs and short-circuited the Vikings’ offensive game plan with a pass rush they could not handle.
The Vikings chose to take the ball after winning the opening coin toss, trying to score on their first drive of the game for the fourth straight game. On their third offensive play, though, Micah Parsons slipped past Christian Darrisaw as Kirk Cousins rolled to his right, giving Parsons the opportunity to chase Cousins down and strip the ball. The Cowboys recovered on the Vikings’ 27, setting up a Brett Maher field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
Minnesota got a chance to take the lead on the second drive, with Dalvin Cook carrying three times for 26 yards against a Cowboys team that had given up more than 200 yards in its past two games. Cook’s 7-yard run gave the Vikings a second-and-3 from the Cowboys’ 7, but after Cousins couldn’t connect with T.J. Hockenson on a fade route, the tight end let a third-down throw go through his hands on a quick out route.
It was the last legitimate chance the Vikings would get to take a lead.
On the Cowboys’ next drive, Michael Gallup beat rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. with an inside release on third down, catching a 14-yard pass from Dak Prescott. Tony Pollard ripped off runs of 18 and 20 yards, slipping past a tackle attempt from Booth on the first one before spinning off of guard Connor McGovern on the second one. The drive ended with Ezekiel Elliott jumping over a pile for a 1-yard touchdown to make it 10-3.
The Vikings’ ensuing drive ended Dorrance Armstrong beat Darrisaw for a sack off a bull rush, forcing a Vikings punt. The Vikings announced in the second quarter that Darrisaw, who’d sustained a concussion against the Bills a week ago, was again being evaluated for a concussion. The team ruled him out at halftime.
By the break, Dallas was up 23-3; Prescott threw a late swing pass to Pollard, who beat Patrick Peterson to the corner for a 30-yard touchdown, and the Cowboys pressured Cousins on six of his seven dropbacks to get the ball back once more before halftime.
Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb for 27 yards along the Dallas sideline; Maher hit a 60-yard field goal that officials waved off to review Lamb’s catch, and when the call was upheld, Maher hit from 60 again to give Dallas a 20-point lead at halftime.
The Vikings had a chance to stop the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half after Harrison Smith crept up to the line of scrimmage to chase Pollard down from behind for a 1-yard loss and Peterson blew up a pass to Pollard for a 3-yard loss.
On third-and-14, though, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore dialed up the play that put the game away.
With Prescott working from a clean pocket against a four-man rush, Pollard beat Jordan Hicks downfield on a wheel route. Prescott hit him in stride for a 68-yard touchdown, as Hicks dove at the running back’s heels in vain. The pass made it 30-3; Elliott would add a 1-yard score and Maher would hit another 50-yard field goal to make it 40-3 with 10:04 to play.
Cousins finished 12 of 23 for 105 yards; the Cowboys pressured him on 63% of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats and Information.