What was supposed to be a blockbuster showdown between NFC favorites has turned out to be a battle of futility as the Dallas Cowboys pay a visit to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday in a matchup between one-win teams from Mall of America Field at the Metrodome.

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The largest margin of defeat for the Cowboys this season has been seven points and they will be playing three of their next five games on the road. They are 1-3 and off to the worst four-game start since losing the first four tests of the 2001 campaign.

Last in the NFC East, Dallas is coming off Sunday’s 34-27 home loss to the Tennessee Titans in which penalties killed momentum and scoring opportunities. In all the team was penalized 12 times for 133 yards, while quarterback Tony Romo threw three interceptions and was sacked six times. For how poorly the offensive line played, Romo was still able to pass for 406 yards and three scores.

The Cowboys, whose only win of the season came on the road at Houston in Week 3, netted a season-best 511 total yards.

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“We have to fight back,” Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said. “There’s only one alternative and that’s to fight back. We have to put it together. Obviously we’ve done some good things, controlled the ball, threw the ball, ran the ball, but we didn’t win.”

Running back Felix Jones saw more action as promised and finished with a season-high 109 yards on 15 carries in the Tennessee loss. Jones also caught four passes for 17 yards and his 19 touches eclipsed his previous career high of 17, set during a 34-3 playoff loss to the Vikings last year. It was the first time the Cowboys had a 400-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher in the same game.

The defense, along with untimely blunders, spoiled Jones’ show by failing to stop the run, which helped put the Cowboys in another must-win situation much like the 0-2 start they back in September. After the Cowboys, who already had their bye week, make a stop in Minnesota, they’ll host the New York Giants and Jacksonville before hitting the road again with stops in Green Bay and New York.

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