Sunday, January 10, 2010
Updated: January 13, 12:05 PM ET
Boys to see familiar looks in Minnesota
By Calvin Watkins
IRVING, Texas -- At the end of the night, Wade Phillips was singing "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye."
Tony Romo was kicking his leg up, and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys were smiling after a commanding 34-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild-card game at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday.
And while the Cowboys will now meet Minnesota in the NFC divisional round next Sunday afternoon, their new opponent will look somewhat similar.
The Vikings boast two speed receivers, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, who combined for 16 touchdowns in the regular season. There's also tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and his 11 touchdowns. How could one forget running back Adrian Peterson, who is considered one of the best in the game at his position?
Then there's Brett Favre, a future Hall of Famer, who says he loves playing against the Cowboys.
You could substitute some of the Vikings' names with Eagles players. Move Harvin out and put in DeSean Jackson. Replace Rice with Jeremy Maclin. Shiancoe for Brent Celek. Peterson for Brian Westbrook.
Favre for Donovan McNabb.
Another common theme is that both teams run the West Coast offense. Inside linebacker Keith Brooking said both teams look for the big play, but the Vikings will do more things over the middle and want to control time of possession by running the ball.
In three meetings against the Eagles, the Cowboys held the West Coast offense to just three touchdowns.
Can the same happen against the Vikings?
"Favre's a great quarterback," nose tackle Jay Ratliff said. "He can definitely beat you with his arm, but they also have weapons with Adrian Peterson. Their offensive line is definitely a big, physical line, so we need to be ready to step up and face up to that challenge."
During the regular season, Minnesota averaged 29.4 points per game (second in the league) and was fifth in total offensive yards at 379.6.
Minnesota's explosive offense starts and ends with the way coach Brad Childress controls Favre's playmaking ability. Favre likes to audible but has had verbal spats with his coach regarding play calling and audibles.
The Cowboys are hoping for a reckless Favre when they meet the Vikings on Sunday. The veteran QB played that way for the Packers in a 2007 game at Texas Stadium.
In that meeting, Favre went 5-for-14 for 56 yards and two interceptions before being knocked out of the game with an elbow injury.
Favre's ability to move around the pocket, much like McNabb's, should give the Cowboys fits in the pass rush.
"We have to get pressure on him," outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "We can't let him sit back there because he'll pick us apart. He's a really smart quarterback. Everyone says he can't run, but he can still move back there."
The Cowboys could have problems running the ball against the Vikings. Minnesota was second in the league in rushing yards allowed with an average of 87.1. But over the past five weeks, the Vikings have allowed 496 rushing yards (99.2).
Dallas, meanwhile, has rushed for 638 yards in the past five weeks, including its playoff win over the Eagles.
Numbers aside, the Cowboys haven't lost a game since Dec. 13. They've won four in a row and are playing as a unit, with plenty of confidence.
"I think we're playing as good as anybody right now," Phillips said. "I mean, I thought we were [in] the last three games there. We know Minnesota is undefeated at home and they have a lot of weapons, and they're a good football team."
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.