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(Sunday, January 17th)
Final Score: Minnesota 34, Dallas 3
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Brett Favre threw three of his four touchdown passes to Sidney Rice, and the Minnesota Vikings used a stifling defense to shut down the Cowboys, 34-3, and reach the NFC Championship Game.
Favre threw for 234 yards for the Vikings, who had a bye last week and were sharp on both sides of the ball to reach the conference title game for the first time since 2000. Favre, who had no interceptions, also advanced to play in his first NFC title game since the 2007 season, when he was with the Packers.
Second-seeded Minnesota advances to play the top-seeded Saints next Sunday in New Orleans.
"In order for us to win this coming week, we have to play the same way," Favre said. "We have to play outstanding football. We know we're capable of it, and we'll see what happens. But it was a great win for us in all phases."
Ray Edwards recorded three sacks for a Minnesota defense that didn't allow the Cowboys to get into a rhythm for most of the game. Tony Romo threw for 198 yards, but had no touchdowns, was picked off once and lost two fumbles as he was under constant pressure from Minnesota's defensive front.
"I think it was quite obvious they did a good job applying pressure," Romo said. "Give them credit, they did a good job today. They played hard, they did some good things."
Shaun Suisham made one field goal but missed two others for the Cowboys, who had won four in a row, including a win over Philadelphia last week in an NFC wild card game. That was Dallas' first playoff win since December 1996, but Sunday, Minnesota denied the Cowboys a second straight postseason victory.
"We know what it takes to get to this point," said Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. "We've got to get to this point next year, maybe play from home, take it from there. That's going to be our goals next year."
Dallas had its chances, though. The Cowboys reached Vikings territory on the game's opening drive, but lost possession after Edwards ripped the ball away from Romo.
After the Vikings went three-and-out, Dallas got to the Minnesota 30-yard line before Suisham missed a 48-yard attempt, which led to the Vikings' first score. Rice raced up the right sideline and Favre aired a perfect pass over the shoulder of Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who never turned to see if the ball was coming. Rice made the catch and continued into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown.
Dallas then went on a drive that spanned into the second quarter. The Cowboys had a first-and-goal at the nine, but Romo was sacked for a loss and they settled for a 33-yard field goal from Suisham.
The Vikings responded with their second score to begin pulling away. With Minnesota at the Dallas 16, Rice dove down by the line of scrimmage to set a block, but then got back up, caught Favre's pass over the middle and got across the goal line.
That made it a 14-3 game with 7:23 left in the half, and the Cowboys' next series ended in another Romo fumble. Dallas was playing without left tackle Flozell Adams, who suffered a calf injury during the previous drive and didn't return. Doug Free came in as a replacement, but it was tight end Jason Witten who Vikings end Jared Allen beat on his way to sacking Romo.
The quarterback lost the ball and Ben Leber gained possession at the Dallas 20. The Vikings eventually settled for a 23-yarder from Ryan Longwell, and they were up 17-3 at the break.
That was the score moving to the fourth, as the Vikings punted three times in the third and the Cowboys couldn't get their offense started. Suisham missed a 49-yarder on Dallas' first drive of the half, and late in the third quarter, Romo had his pass intercepted by Leber, leading to a 28-yard kick by Longwell shortly into the fourth.
Minnesota put the game away with Rice's third touchdown catch, a 45-yard strike that the receiver walked across the goal line to make it a 27-3 game with 7:32 to play.
"I gave the defender something up the line and I was able to get behind him," Rice said. "And once again, Brett put the ball right there where it needed to be."
The Cowboys didn't gain a first down on their next two drives, and the Vikings put the exclamation point on the victory with Favre's 11-yard touchdown pass to Shiancoe with just under two minutes left.
Favre completed 14-of-25 passes, while Romo went 22-for-35...Favre has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 19 consecutive postseason games...The Cowboys totaled just 103 yards and five first downs in the second half...Rice finished with six catches for 141 yards...Witten had 10 catches for 98 yards...The Cowboys haven't reached the NFC title game since the 1995 season, when they won the Super Bowl.
01/17 18:28:33 ET