FRISCO, Texas - Focus on the Cowboys' struggles of stopping the run as much as you want, and it would be fair to do so. After allowing back to back games of over 200 yards rushing to the Bears and Packers, it's the one clear weakness of an otherwise outstanding unit.
But what will the Cowboys do when they face a team with the ability to run the ball effectively with a top-flight running back and a receiver who is firmly in the discussion as the best at the position?
That's the challenge the Vikings will present on Sunday with Dalvin Cook in the backfield with Justin Jefferson on the perimeter and the rest of their offensive firepower to go along with those two.
"They have a lot of good players in key spots," safety Jayron Kearse said. "They do a good job of getting them open and finding the rhythm with those guys."
While Cook is a formidable opponent and crucial piece to the Vikings' offense, there is no question that Jefferson is the most dangerous player on the field come Sunday that the Cowboys must neutralize.
"He's the best receiver in the league," Kearse said of Jefferson. "The tape doesn't lie. You can say whatever you want to say, you turn on the tape [and] you see it. He gets open against everybody. He plays [well] against every opponent. Every top corner you put in front of him, he's going out and he's making his plays… The tape doesn't lie."
Nope, the tape does not in fact lie. Through just nine games, Jefferson has already surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark, good for second in the league, and is on pace to blow through his career-high last season of just over 1,600 yards. Tack on his 69 catches, four touchdowns and average of 15 yards per catch, and the Vikings have themselves a franchise changing piece.
The bad news for the Cowboys? They have the unenviable job of trying to stop him. The good news? They have a history of slowing Jefferson down - to a degree.
In their primetime thriller last season in Minnesota, the Cowboys and Cooper Rush pulled out a last-second win on a touchdown pass to Amari Cooper and thus launching the legend of Rush.
But what might be forgotten amidst all of the theatrics and storylines from last year's clash was that the Cowboys essentially made Jefferson a non-factor, limiting him to just two catches for 21 yards and no touchdowns. That was thanks in part to a guy that Jefferson knows well from his time at LSU in Trevon Diggs and their battles when Diggs was at Alabama.
If you go back a year earlier than that to the 2020 season during Jefferson's rookie season, he mildly had more success against a Cowboys' defense that was out of sorts for the entirety of that season.
In that game, again the Cowboys were playing with a backup in Andy Dalton, while Jefferson racked up 86 yards on just three catches and a touchdown. But these are not the Vikings of previous seasons with head coach Kevin O'Connell leading them to an 8-1 record during his first season.
Besides, this certainly is not the Jefferson of previous years, either, given his torrid 2022 campaign that has flung him near the top of any ranking list for best wide receiver in the NFL. Then again, this isn't the Cowboys defense of yesteryear.
"We just have to play out ball," Kearse said. "We can play with anybody in this league as long as we're playing our brand of football. And if we're not playing our brand of football, then show our three losses. That's just what it boils down to."
Kearse is no stranger to the Vikings or their offensive firepower in recent years. A seventh-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2016, he was privy to a unit that had the likes of a younger Adam Thelien, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and Corrdarrelle Patterson. Not to mention Adrian Peterson.
But as this new iteration of the Vikings upset the Bills in Week 10 in a comeback win that was kickstarted by a fourth quarter one-handed Jefferson catch that would even make Odell Beckham Jr. jealous, one thing is clear - stopping Jefferson is a requirement, no matter how tall of a task it may be.
"Definitely we saw it," Kearse said. "Definitely one of the catches in this league's history. It's just some of the things that he does, and [it's] further proof of the point of him being the best receiver doing it right now."