Cowboys at Vikings: McCarthy makes a familiar prime-time tour
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Coach Mike McCarthy has another first-place, high-scoring team that he takes to Minnesota for a prime-time game in an assuredly noisy environment, with fans pissed off by the prospect of a Viking signature victory over a longtime nemesis of the franchise.
The Green Bay Packers? They’ll likely watch it on TV, concluding a restful weekend after playing against the NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals.
The Dallas Cowboys, of course, are under McCarthy these days. After a difficult first season together that was marred by quarterback Dak Prescott’s broken ankle and the stress of COVID-19, they are thriving with a 5-1 record that towers over the disappointing NFC East.
The Vikings (3-3) have the ability to follow a formidable offense when they meet Sunday night in the NFL National Showcase Game. They will have the benefit of annoying crowd noise. They also have a proven defensive strategist on their side with coach Mike Zimmer.
“It always makes you work harder than usual,” said McCarthy, who is 8-6 at Minnesota after 13 years with the Packers, plus a 31-28 win for the Cowboys last season at US Bank Stadium without. crowd due to the virus.
The Cowboys have employed Zimmer for 13 years, most notably as a defensive coordinator from 2000-2006. His former team have given him and his staff a lot of work over the past two weeks, with extra time to plot. against an offense that leads the league averaging 6.58 yards per game and 34.2 points per game.
Prescott’s status is uncertain due to calf strain suffered during the touchdown pass he threw to beat New England in overtime on Oct. 17. He has trained on a limited basis and has made it clear that he has full confidence that he will be healthy enough to play.
The Cowboys, with an unspoken eye on their weak division, will be very careful in their assessment to make sure he’s not vulnerable to further injury.
“It’s a trip, and I want to play in this last game,” said Prescott, the first Cowboys player with three or more touchdowns in four straight games. “It’s not entirely my decision, because there is a bigger picture. It’s more than this one game.
CONFIDENCE TRAINING ROOM
The ultimate appeal if Prescott plays lies with McCarthy and Britt Brown, the team’s associate athletic trainer and director of rehabilitation. Prescott spent a lot of time with him after the broken ankle and became friends with Brown as a rookie in 2016.
“Whether that sets us up for the games or whether I’m making the calls while playing this week,” Prescott said, “he’s very proud of what he does, and he does his job as well as everyone else.”
The first practice after the week off for each team was, well, like the first practice after a week off.
“It felt like the school had been closed for the summer a bit,” Zimmer said of Monday’s practice. “I had to sort of restrain them and tell them that I was not happy with their situation. “
Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory said his unit messed up the rosters on Wednesday. Tight end Dalton Schultz said “it wasn’t a super lively day” with players “kind of rusting off” after the break.
“It was just like reviewing a little bit,” said Schultz, adding, “At this point in the season, we can’t really afford to have a day like this.”
Teams coached by McCarthy are 10-4 after their week off. Zimmer’s Vikings are 3-4.
TO GET RID OF
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has only been sacked nine times in six games, and the team’s sack rate (3.75%) per pass attempt is the fifth best in the league. Cousins is also fifth in the league, according to NFL Next Generation stats, with an average pitching time of 2.64 seconds per attempt.
“From a game call point of view, we’re not trying to get into a position where we’re taking sacks, and I think that’s probably the most important thing,” Cousins said. “From one game to the next, from one game to another, it’s going to change, but we are aware of trying to avoid them and, really, it takes the whole group.
Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs has seven league-leading interceptions, joining Professional Football Hall of Fame Rod Woodson (1993) as the only players since the 1970 merger with just as many in the top six matches. If Diggs chooses Cousins, he will break the NFL record for the longest period of consecutive games with an interception to start a season.
“The way he plays, we knew he could be special,” said Vikings safety Xavier Woods, who has been with the Cowboys for the past four seasons. “Did I see seven interceptions?” Nobody sees him, but you know he can go get the ball. He has ball skills like no other.
STEELE IS STILL IN
Terence Steele started the week as the starting right tackle for the Cowboys despite returning La’el Collins from a five-game suspension for violating NFL addiction policy. Steele replaced Collins, just like he did last year as an undrafted rookie when Collins had hip surgery and missed the entire season.
Steele is receiving rave reviews after an offseason dedicated to getting stronger. He took a bit of a bump in 2020, when the Cowboys struggled with other injury issues on the offensive line. Collins works on both right tackle and left guard, meaning he could eventually replace Connor Williams, who has had a tough game against the Patriots.
“You have to clearly recognize how well Terence played,” said McCarthy. “Continuity of the offensive line is something that you always strive to maintain throughout the year. But also, I think it gives us the most competitive, the more depth I’ve had in my time here.
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