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Vikes, ’Boys have plenty of playoff history

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Mike Beacom

msbeacom@yahoo.com
Contributing writer

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By Mike Beacom

When Dallas visits Minnesota this Sunday it will mark the seventh time the two clubs have faced off in the playoffs — a series dating back to the early 1970s when each was beginning its fight for NFC supremacy.
Turnovers have been plentiful in a series which has produced more lopsided affairs than it has close games, but then again the divisional-playoff contest in 1975 offered one of the greatest (and most controversial) finishes in league playoff history.

Here is a look back at each of the six previous meetings between the Cowboys and Vikings:

1971 NFC divisional playoffs — Dallas 20, Minnesota 12
Minnesota put up 311 yards in front of its home crowd on Christmas Day (as compared to just 183 for Dallas) and recorded a safety when Alan Page got to Roger Staubach in the endzone. But the Vikings shot themselves in the foot by committing five turnovers (QBs Bob Lee and Gary Cuozzo threw two interceptions each).

1973 NFC championship game — Minnesota 27, Dallas 10
Minnesota needed 17 fourth-quarter points to beat Washington in the divisional round, but had little trouble with Dallas, who had squashed the Rams, 27-16. This game was an almost exact opposite to the two teams' first meeting — the Cowboys committed six turnovers, including four Staubach interceptions, one returned for a score — and the only Dallas points came from a field goal and a Golden Richards 63-yard punt return. Once again the Minnesota defense was superb (holding the Cowboys to 153 total yards).

1975 NFC divisional playoffs — Dallas 17, Minnesota 14
This is the game fans still remember, with a much different perspective depending on the colors of the clothes they wear. Both teams entered the fourth quarter in a 7-7 tie. Dallas scored a field goal before Minnesota mounted a long drive to take the lead on a Brent McClanahan plunge. The game-winning drive began at the Dallas 15-yard line with less than two minutes to play. Staubach completed a 4th-and-16 pass to Drew Pearson to extend the drive, then a few plays later, with just 24 seconds left, launched the ball 50 yards downfield where Pearson bumped into CB Nate Wright but managed to make the catch as Wright fell to the ground. Pearson then sidestepped his way into into the endzone for the winning score. Vikings fans remain adamant that Pearson pushed off on the play; Cowboys fans disagree. Said Staubach afterward in describing the touchdown throw, "It was just a Hail Mary pass; a very, very lucky play." And thus, the Hail Mary was born.

1977 NFC championship game — Dallas 23, Minnesota 6
Nothing was going to stop the Cowboys on their journey to a second pro football title, not Chicago (37-7), Minnesota or Denver (27-10) in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys' second time hosting the Vikings in the conference championship game provided a much different result than the game that had been played four years earlier. With Fran Tarkenton injured, the Vikings turned to Bob Lee, who completed just 14-of-31 attempts, and Chuck Foreman managed less than three yards per carry against Dallas' No. 3 ranked run defense. The Cowboys jumped out to a 13-0 lead thanks to turnovers, and in the fourth quarter rookie RB Tony Dorsett finished off the Vikings with an 11-yard touchdown run.

1996 NFC wild card — Dallas 40, Minnesota 15
The defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys mopped up on Minnesota thanks to a 23-point second quarter. Emmitt Smith gained 142 yards of offense and scored two touchdowns, and safety George Teague returned an interception 29 yards for a score (Teague also saved a TD by forcing a fumble near the goal line). Minnesota's rushing attack was held to just 63 yards. The win was the end to the Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990s. The following week they lost in Carolina, 26-17, and Dallas didn't win another playoff game until 2010.

1999 NFC wild card — Minnesota 27, Dallas 10
The Vikings owned Dallas for a three-year period (1998-2000) and this game gave the club a playoff win for a third consecutive year after Minnesota had gone through an eight-year drought (1989-96). The Cowboys made the playoffs with an 8-8 record under Chan Gailey and had lost three of their last five games. They were no match for Jeff George and Randy Moss. The duo connected five times for 127 yards and a 58-yard score that broke a 10-10 tie in the second quarter.

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