One of the most important match-ups this Sunday will be Viking LT Bryant McKennie vs. Cowboy LB/DE Demarcus Ware.
The Vikings will need McKennie to step up and be the dominant player he is capable of being this week-end. He is responsible for protecting QB Brett Favre’s blindside as he will be lining up opposite one of the elite defensive forces in the game in the Cowboys Demarcus Ware.
It’s a tough assignment for McKinnie, who has suffered from an ankle injury that has affected his mobility, but the team needs him to rise above the pain and play at a high level to keep Ware from disrupting the Vikings offensive plans.
Ware registered 11 sacks this season. Good for 7th in the league. He also forced 5 fumbles this season. He was an absolute force vs. the Eagles with 2 sacks and a forced fumble in the lopsided Cowboys victory.
There is little doubt that the Vikings will be scheming a way to slow, if not control the pressure from the Cowboy’s right side by giving Big Mac some help.
The last time he faced an elite Pro Bowl pass rusher, he gave up two sacks, committed two penalties and was benched for ineffective play. That nightmarish performance came Dec. 20 against Carolina’s Julius Peppers, who kept the Vikings left tackle on his heels all game.
Ware, who has been selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls and has also led the Cowboys 45 quarterback hurries this season, can be just as destructive as Peppers.
“[He’s] very high-tempo, so you have to match his intensity,” McKinnie said.
On the other side of the line, Vikings rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt doesn’t exactly have a walk in the park on the other side. He will be matched primarily against linebacker Anthony Spencer, arguably Dallas’ best defensive player the final month of the season.
Spencer earned NFC defensive player of the week honors for his effort against the Philadelphia Eagles in the regular-season finale. He had five tackles, two sacks, two hurries and a forced fumble in a 24-0 Cowboys victory that enabled the Vikings to clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.