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Vikings prepare to face another tough pass rush

After allowing seven sacks last week to the Cowboys, the Vikings will face another tough test Thursday against the Patriots.

MINNEAPOLIS — If there's ever a good time to play on just four days' rest, it's after a game like the one the Minnesota Vikings played on Sunday.

The Dallas Cowboys cruised to a 40-3 win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium after pushing the Vikings around for much of the afternoon. Dallas more than doubled Minnesota's offensive output, while holding a nearly 15-minute advantage in time of possession.

While it may have been a tough few hours to relive, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said there's still something to learn by watching the tape.

"We watched it, learned from it, talked through it," said Cousins. "You certainly can get better from it."

For Cousins, watching the film may have been even more painful as he was sacked a season-high seven times while completing just 12 of 23 passes for 105 yards and no touchdowns. It ended a streak of 39 consecutive games where Cousins threw for at least one touchdown, the sixth-longest streak in NFL history.

“It’s tough, Kirk getting sacked before you even (get out of your break),” said wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who had just three catches for 33 yards. "It's definitely being in a tough situation. We've just got to move toward a quick game — getting the ball out quicker, putting the ball in space and letting people work."

When asked what the offense can do to help get in a better rhythm, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook responded with one word: "block."

"We don't want Kirk to hit the ground," he added. "Us as men, we're gonna look ourselves in the mirror and correct that. That's the type of bunch we got in this locker room." 

The Cowboys have gotten to opponents' quarterbacks 42 times this season, six more sacks than any other team in the league, so the Vikings may not face a tougher pass rush for the remainder of the regular season. The team with the second-most sacks this season, however, just so happens to be the Vikings' Thursday night opponent — the New England Patriots.

"It is a huge challenge this week," said Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell, who was a backup quarterback for the Patriots in 2008. "They've got the sack leader (Matthew Judon) in the NFL. I think Judon is having one of the best defensive seasons going right now in our league, and when you turn on the tape, it's easy to see why. Incredibly talented, strong, can win so many different ways, and then how dialed in the rest of that group is."

Judon has 13 sacks this season, including 1½ sacks against the New York Jets last week. The Patriots are riding a three-game winning streak into Thursday, and in that span, they've recorded 15 sacks.

And the Vikings will be without their starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who is back in concussion protocol for the second straight week.

"I feel like we've got a good plan," O'Connell said. "But make no mistake about it, it's going to be a heck of a challenge."

The Vikings host the Patriots Thursday at 7:20 p.m. on KARE 11.

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