When they met in a 2019 game, the Vikings and Dallas Cowboys combined for 52 points. In a 2020 game, they rang up 59.
The teams meet again Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, and it would be no surprise if even more points are scored between the two high-powered offenses.
“I think it’s going to be high-scoring game, I really do,” said hall of fame coach Tony Dungy, who as an NBC studio analyst will have a lot to say about the Sunday Night Football game before, during and after the broadcast. “I think it’s going to be a shootout.”
The Cowboys (5-1) lead the NFL in both total offense and scoring offense. The Vikings (3-3) are No. 5 in total offense and No. 14 in scoring.
Both teams feature highly rated quarterbacks, with Dallas’ Dak Prescott being fourth in the NFL in passer rating and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins eighth. Cousins is rated tied for third among NFL quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus while Prescott is No. 12.
Both teams also have top-notch running backs. Minnesota has Dalvin Cook, who has missed two games due to a sprained right ankle but has averaged 91.5 yards in the four he’s played, and Dallas has Ezekiel Elliott, who is averaging 86.8 yards per game.
Meanwhile, both teams have been inconsistent on defense. The Cowboys are No. 23 in the NFL in total defense while the Vikings are No. 16.
“We’ve got to make (Prescott) feel our presence, because if we don’t, he’ll kill us,” Vikings co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said Wednesday. “He’s a great quarterback, he knows where to go with the ball. He has a strong arm, he can make plays with his legs, and he’s got a great amount of receivers that can make plays. Their tight ends make plays. So, the (Vikings) front has to do a great job of making them feel our presence.”
Prescott suffered a calf injury while throwing the winning touchdown pass in the Cowboys’ 35-29 overtime victory at New England on Oct. 17, then used last week’s bye to rest. He participated only in individual drills in Wednesday’s practice, but Dallas owner Jerry Jones has expressed optimism about him playing Sunday. And Patterson said he does not expect Prescott to be limited.
The Vikings also are coming off their bye week, and that gave Cook some extra time to rest. He missed two of three games because of his ankle injury before he returned to rush for 140 yards in a 34-28 overtime win Oct. 17 at Carolina. He said after the game he still wasn’t fully healthy.
“I feel good,” Cook said Wednesday. “That bye week was necessary.”
Cook will be going against Elliott’s team for a third straight season. In Minnesota’s 28-24 win at Dallas on Sunday Night Football in November 2019, he rushed for 97 yards on 26 carries while Elliott was held to 47 yards on 20 carries. In the Cowboys’ 31-28 win last November at U.S. Bank Stadium, Cook ran for 115 yards on 27 carries while Elliott gained 115 on 27 attempts.
“Always playing against a guy like Zeke, my mindset and his mindset probably is, I want to out-rush him and he wants to out-rush me,” Cook said. “That’s the nature of competitiveness, so it ain’t going to be a personal thing between us, you go do what you do and I do what I do. It should be a fun matchup, two good running backs on the field looking to make plays.”
Cousins has played against Prescott’s team five times, the first four with Washington in 2016 and 2017 and then with the Vikings in 2019. Prescott missed last November’s game at Minnesota after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in October, and was replaced by Andy Dalton.
In last year’s game against Dallas, Cousins completed 22 of 30 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns, and his passer rating of 140.1 remains the fourth-best he’s had in 53 games as a Vikings starter. So is Cousins expecting it could be a shootout on Sunday?
“You have to be aware of the team you’re playing, which includes the offense and the special teams, and just be aware of the whole picture,” Cousins said when asked if the Vikings might not be able to afford settling for field goals.
Dungy was the Vikings’ defensive coordinator from 1992-95 before going on be a hall of fame coach with Tampa Bay and Indianapolis from 1996-2008. But he believes Sunday it will be a night for the offenses to shine.
“I think it’s going to be a high-scoring game, but it will be interesting to see which defense is going to be able to come up with a takeaway or a stop at a key time,” Dungy said. “But I think it’s going to be an offensive show.”