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How about them 10-1 Cowboys!

Over the last six weeks we’ve witnessed the slow, steady demise of a once 5-0 Vikings football team to consistent injury, kicking game and coaching defects. The combination has jeopardized this once promising season. It’s easy to point the finger, but all 32 teams understand in the NFL that it’s not how you start but how you finish.

With five weeks left, the Vikings can still rescue their season by catching Detroit in the NFC North or qualifying as a Wild Card. Three of the Vikings’ remaining five games are at U.S. Bank Stadium, where they are 4-1. In a couple of weeks they could be getting running back Adrian Peterson back, so keep hope alive.

This week on Thursday night, buckle up for the hottest team in the NFL. The 10-1 America’s team Dallas Cowboys will be here for a prime time showdown on NBC.

Dallas lost their first game to the New York Giants 20-19 and since have reeled off 10 straight wins. They have the dynamic combo of rookie sensations quarterback Dak Prescott and the NFL’s leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott. The NFL has not had a breath of fresh air like this combo in a long time.img_2645

Prescott has taken Tony Romo’s team to the next level. He has protected the football, having only two interceptions this year. For an All-Pro quarterback, that’s great. For a rookie? That’s unheard of.

He’s thrown for 2,835 yards and 18 touchdowns and has been brilliant in the fourth quarter, only the fourth rookie QB in NFL history with six consecutive multi-touchdown games. He has a QB rating of 108.6, third-best in the NFL. Only Tom Brady of New England and Matt Ryan of Atlanta are rated higher. He has been nothing short of sensational, plus he has the ability to move in the pocket and run — he has five rushing touchdowns.

Elliott is the best running back in football. He leads the NFL in rushing with 1,199 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 109 yards a game. Dallas has not had a rookie running back like this kid since Tony Dorsett.

Dallas is loaded with talent and experience. Dez Bryant is among the best receivers in the NFL, and tight end Jason Witten is a future Hall of Fame player.

The Vikings will have their hands full dealing with these Cowboys, who have maybe the biggest, most physically dominating offensive line in the NFL. Looking closely at the Cowboys reveals that they have feasted on the likes of San Francisco, Cleveland and Chicago, who are a combined 3-31.

img_2696The Vikings have played a much tougher schedule than Dallas and beat the Giants, remember, the only team to beat Dallas. However the Vikings lost to Chicago.

Dallas is listed as a 9-2 favorite to reach Super Bowl 51 in Houston. They are 5-0 when they score 30 points or more and 5-0 when they score 24 points or more. They are 0-1 when they don’t score 20 points. That’s where the Vikings defensive unit can make this game interesting.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer used to work for the Cowboys, so he has knowledge of how the Cowboys’ machine operates. The Vikings now need to go 5-0 to match last year’s 11-5 record. It’s a home game against the Cowboys, and you should be able to win at home.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

No place like home! Vikings win 30-24

After four straight losses, three of which were on the road, the 6-4 Vikings were back at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday looking for a spark. They may have started a fire after getting a team-record two 100-yard touchdowns to beat the Arizona Cardinals 30-20.

Corner back Xavier Rhodes turned the Vikings’ season around with an electrifying 100-yard interception return of a Carson Palmer pass for a touchdown. With minutes left in the first half, the Arizona Cardinals were marching against the Vikings’ vaunted defense. On third down Palmer tried to squeeze his pass to John Brown at the goal line and Rhodes jumped the route for a 100-yard touchdown, making it Vikings 20, Cardinals 10. Rhodes, the fourth-year corner back from Florida State, had two interceptions in the game.

When you’re the last undefeated team in the NFL at 5-0 and suddenly you’re 5-4, it’s cut bait time. It’s do or die with six weeks left in the season. The Cardinals cut the Vikings’ lead to 20-17 at halftime and kicked off to Cordarrelle Patterson, who grabbed the kick and raced 104 yards for a touchdown. It was Patterson’s fifth career kick return for a touchdown.

The two 100-yard scores were a Vikings record for one game. “A lot of guys were joking to me that I did not have the juice I had like my rookie year against Green Bay,” said Patterson. “I caught the ball and saw the hole open as soon as I caught it. There’s no way I could miss it. I made one cut, saw the kicker, made him miss and another guy behind me, and it was just green grass.”

The Vikings again struggled offensively with just 217 yards total for the game, 72 yards rushing. But playing with a lead allowed the Vikings pass rush to be a factor, and they chased, harassed and sacked Palmer four times.

Photo Lou Lampson

Photo Lou Lampson

It was the Vikings’ first win since Norv Turner resigned as offensive coordinator two weeks ago after the Bears loss on Monday Night Football. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, the Vikings are again in the spotlight on national TV in a rematch against the 6-4 Detroit Lions. The winner will have sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs had his NFL record streak of back-to-back 13 reception games end. Cardinals Pro Bowl corner back Patrick Peterson help limit Diggs to six catches for 37 yards.

The Vikings cut veteran kicker Blair Walsh last week. He missed eight kicks this season, including four extra points, and his replacement, Kai Forbath, had an extra point kick blocked. Sunday there were a record 12 extra points missed around the NFL.

Before kickoff, the Vikings and Arizona Cardinals honored the late Dennis Green with a video presentation and presented gifts to the Green family: his wife Marie Green, daughter Patti, and Dennis and Marie’s children Vanessa and Zachary.

Green was the third Black coach in NFL history, the second in the modern era, when he was hired January 10, 1992. He died the same day the U.S Bank Stadium celebrated the ribbon cutting for the grand opening; he was 67.

Green is the second-winningest coach in Vikings history. He coached in 171 games total, including playoffs, in 10 years and was 101-70. He led the Vikings to the playoffs eight times.
Green won four division titles, two NFC Championship game appearances, and in 1998 his team finished 15-1 and scored an NFL-record 556 points.

Photo Lou Lampson

Photo Lou Lampson

Only seven coaches in NFL history won as many as 15 games in the regular season. While coach of the Vikings, Green wrote a weekly column for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He founded the NFL’s and Vikings’ Community Tuesday initiative through which players used their day off during the regular season to make positive differences around the community, a lasting legacy.

With the Vikings, Green coached Cris Carter, Chris Doleman, Randy Moss, Warren Moon, Randall McDaniel and John Randle, all Hall of Fame players. That should be enough, you would think, to join the greatest Vikings ever in the Vikings Ring of Honor.

Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy was Green’s first defensive coordinator 1992-95. He and Brian Billick, 1992-98, both won Super Bowls as head coaches for Indianapolis and Baltimore. Emmitt Thomas was his assistant, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. Tyrone Willingham, 1992-94, became the first Black head coach at Notre Dame and the University Washington.

While head coach of the Cardinals, Green also drafted my son Larry Fitzgerald Jr. with the third pick of the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Green hired Fitzgerald as a Vikings ball boy when he was head coach of the Vikings and developed him. Fitzgerald is certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

 

Can Timberwolves finally show a growth spurt?

How long is too long? And at what point do fans decide enough is enough? After 12 years of the Timberwolves missing the playoffs, I feel being patient and trusting have just about run their course.

Every organization experiences tough breaks, losing star players in free agency and injuries. Some teams fail because management and the coaching staff work against each other, both seeking more control over basketball decisions.

Coach Tom Thibodeau photo Steve Floyd

Coach Tom Thibodeau photo Steve Floyd

Three years ago, Flip Saunders was brought back by owner Glen Taylor to help rebuild this organization, which appeared to have lost its way. Two years ago, Saunders died after a sudden battle with cancer. Much of the work he put in motion kind of drifted through a season of mourning. Sam Mitchell was interim coach and led the team to 29 wins.

That was a big improvement over the previous one year under Saunders with only 16 wins. Still, Taylor decided he would not hang with Mitchell and the staff that Saunders hired. He virtually cleaned house and hired Tom Thibodeau as president of basketball operations and head coach.

Photo Steve Floyd

Photo Steve Floyd

Thibodeau is well respected and highly regarded and was very successful in Chicago for five years. He was five for five, making the playoffs each year. He is trusted with taking this young, talented core of carefully selected players to the next level.

Many expect the Timberwolves to be a playoff team this year, although some are disappointed already with the team’s 3-6 start in which several big leads have been blown. Thibodeau does not bite his tongue about his team — he’s called them out for at times lacking discipline and toughness.

When he has about 20 games in with these guys, you will start to see Thibodeau’s imprint — improved consistency and working together as a unit. His ability to make in-game adjustments is highly regarded.

Drafting point guard Kris Dunn number one to team with Ricky Rubio, Zach LeVine and Tyus Jones was a good move — he’s talented and a good defender. The talented Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Gorgui Dieng and Ricky Rubio have had time together. I’m a big believer in Thibodeau staying the course and teaching his team the little things.

The Western Conference is so deep and loaded — Golden State, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Portland, Memphis, Utah — that everyone is good.

Photo Steve Floyd

Photo Steve Floyd

Photo Steve Floyd

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 MondayFriday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com