IRVING - AUGUST 28: Center John Sullivan #65 of the Minnesota Vikings gets ready to hike the ball during a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys on August 28, 2008 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys won 16-10. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
The last time the Dallas Cowboys won a playoff game in Minnesota, it was the mid-seventies, Staubach versus Tarkenton, the Purple People Eaters versus the Doomsday Defense, Bud Grant versus Tom Landry--it was the Hail Mary game, and our official stance is that Drew Pearson did not push off.
That is, it's been a while.
Dallas, of course, was eliminated from the playoffs by Minnesota in 2000, which, in the context of NFL football, is also ancient history. This match-up will feature few hold-overs from that one, with Jerry Jones being the only obvious common face. Tarkenton-Staubach it isn't; but whether this match-up is any less intriguing seems doubtful.
Tony Romo and Brett Favre meeting in the divisional round, as it has unfolded this season, is loaded poetic implications, the likes of which fuel any kind-of-corny sports movie. Romo, growing up in Wisconsin, idolized Favre. Now, the two are friends and counterparts in a showdown to determine who goes to the conference championship. It's student versus master, only it'll be hard to tell which is which, what with the two quarterbacks exhibiting strikingly similar styles of play.
But to chalk this up to a battle of quarterbacks would be a study in reductionism at best. The game will also feature two of the best pass rushers in modern NFL history in Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware; a Cowboys defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season going against the best they've seen all year in Adrian Peterson; an increasingly effective secondary against a veritable cache (Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe) of weapons at Favre's disposal; a potentially daunting triage of Dallas running backs versus the second-ranked run defense in the conference; et cetera.
That Dallas, winners of four straight, is the hottest team in football is a forgone conclusion to some, including Favre; "No duh," he said in response to the question earlier in the week, resurrecting one of our favorite early-nineties expressions. The Vikings were sliding, losing 3 of 4 in December, until their last game, a 44-7 week 17 beating of the New York Giants at the Metrodome. The Cowboys, of course, come in as winners of their last four, and an increasingly sexy pick to go to the Super Bowl.
But none of this will matter when they take the field at the Metrodome, widely believed to be the loudest venue in the NFL. To use an old NFL cliche, this is a what have you done for me lately league; and the Vikings have been quick to point out that Dallas has yet to do anything in the hostile setting of the Metrodome.“They have to come here and do it. They ran on Philly, but that’s Philly,” defensive tackle Pat Williams said. “We’re the Vikings.”