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NFC Playoffs Report Card: Cowboys-Vikings

Grading out the performances from the Vikings' 34-3 rout of the Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoffs ...

Quarterbacks:TonyRomo actually threw the ball pretty well for the most part, with the notable exception of the awful decision he made on the interception by BenLeber. That pass looked like the old Romo, not the franchise quarterback that had led this team to a division title and a playoff win in recent weeks. Though his offensive line could have been better, Romo held on to the ball way too long at times and showed questionable pocket awareness throughout the contest. Couple that with the multiple fumbles and this game will be one that weighs on Romo until training camp begins in late July. Grade: D+

Running Backs:Felix Jones was pretty productive when given room to run, especially when Dallas got him out on the flank or in open space. The problem is he did not get the ball nearly enough as Dallas had to go almost exclusively through the air once they fell behind by more than two scores. MarionBarber ran hard but was generally ineffective Grade: B+

Receivers: Jason Witten had a big day controlling the middle of the field by making an assortment of tough grabs, but was also victimized when trying to block JaredAllen a couple of times, most notably on the Allen sack that caused Romo to fumble deep in Cowboys territory. MilesAustin had a couple of nice plays early, but was missing in action the rest of the day. RoyWilliams was a non-factor and is fast becoming one of the worst trades and signings in Cowboys history. Grade: C

Offensive Line: Not the best effort by this unit to say the least, but they played better than the final numbers will indicate. The run blocking, especially on outside runs, was outstanding to start the game and the third quarter. Unfortunately, they weren't able to stick with the run enough and their pass blocking was spotty at best as Romo was often hurried and running for his life. DougFree did a nice job stepping up for the injured FlozellAdams. Grade: C-

Defensive Line: This group was fairly stout against the run throughout but did not generate enough of a push up the middle with the exception of Jay Ratliff's sack of BrettFavre after beating Vikings right guard AnthonyHerrera at the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys needed more. Grade: C

Linebackers: Anthony Spencer had a nice game and was a force throughout, finishing with 10 tackles and a sack. DeMarcus Ware had one sack when he was unblocked but other than that was not nearly the dominator the Cowboys hoped he would be. Bradie James and Keith Brooking did their jobs for the most part, especially in the running game. Grade: B

Defensive Backs: It feels strange to say that a defensive backfield that gave up four passing touchdowns to Favre had a good game but the Cowboys corners, in particular youngsters MikeJenkins and OrlandoScandrick, were outstanding all game long. Jenkins was victimized on one SidneyRice touchdown, but the big negative for this group was the first Rice score in which safety GeraldSensabaugh never turned his head to find the football Grade: B+

Special Teams: Shawn Suisham missed a couple of field goals that could have changed the complexion of the game. David Buehler was excellent with his kickoffs but the kickoff return team was horrible, not even getting the ball past the twenty on most of their many returns. Grade: D

Coaching: Nice plan early on with the outside run game and having Romo get rid of the ball quickly but for some reason they got away from that. As soon as the 'Boys started trying to go with deeper pass drops, the tide began to turn in the wrong direction. Grade: D

Quarterbacks:Brett Favre was masterful throughout the game and did an amazing job moving around in the pocket and delivering the football. His first touchdown pass to Rice was a picture perfect throw that he made while getting crushed by AnthonySpencer. This performance was the reason why BradChildress was so relentless in his pursuit of Favre. Grade: A

Running Backs: Nothing spectacular from either of these guys and they were not nearly as big a part of the victory as many anticipated. That said, both ChesterTaylor and AdrianPeterson were threats not only as runners, but catching passes out of the backfield at times. Grade: C

Receivers: If the casual fan didn't realize it before the game hopefully they do now: SidneyRice is a full-fledged star in the National Football League. Two of his touchdowns came against excellent coverage by Sensabaugh and Jenkins. VisantheShiancoe, PercyHarvin, and BernardBerrian all contributed to the victory as well. Grade: A-

Offensive Line: The big guys who were the focus of much of the pre-game talk held up well with the exception of the miscommunication between Taylor and PhilLoadholt that allowed Ware to crush Favre. Not a great day on the ground, but gave Favre enough time to make the plays they needed. Grade: B

Defensive Line: The Vikings defensive line has three perennial Pro Bowlers, but the only one of the starters that isn't, RayEdwards, showed that maybe he needs to be. Edwards was relentless throughout and finished with five solo tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble. Jared Allen contributed a sack that caused a fumble as well and the inside guys got the better of the Cowboys interior offensive line throughout. Grade: A

Linebackers: Rookie Jasper Brinkley and his fellow backers struggled at times to stay with Witten, but other than that they got the job done. Ben Leber's interception was huge and really helped put the nail in the Cowboys' coffin. Grade: C+

Defensive Backs: The back end of the Vikings' defense was the unsung heroes of this game, especially considering the fact Antoine Winfield has been banged up and the secondary is the supposed weak link of this team. That wasn't the case in this outing as every member of this group made plays, whether it was BennySapp taking down MarionBarber on an outside run or safety TyrellJohnson forcing MilesAustin out of bounds before he could come down with what would have been a crucial first down. Grade: A-

Special Teams: The Vikings won all three phases of this game, including the kicking game. The kickoff team set the tone for every drive with their outstanding coverage and ChrisKluwe had a nice punt that forced the Cowboys to start their drive at their own two. Kicker RyanLongwell was perfect, unlike his counterpart. Grade: A-

Coaching: Excellent game plan by both coordinators as they didn't ask Favre to do too much offensively and didn't allow any big plays defensively. Great design on the second Rice TD catch when he got up after the cut block at the line of scrimmage and was wide open. Grade: A-

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