See more of the story

Long snapper Andrew DePaola didn't officially sign with the Vikings until Saturday, but a day later he made his debut during Sunday's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys. His signing was the most drastic of the many changes to the Vikings' struggling special teams.

DePaola, a 33-year-old NFL journeyman, was a bright spot against the Cowboys after the Vikings benched Austin Cutting. Special teams were still far from steady, though coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged "some" progress after the game.

"The snaps were good," he said. "I thought we had some good coverage on some of it. The one time the ball, we missed the tackle and the ball kind of got outside.

"We worked real hard on it this last week, and we're going to work real hard on it again."

Other personnel changes included benching rookie receiver Dan Chisena, who entered Sunday leading the Vikings in special teams snaps but had made one too many gaffes as a cover man on punts and kickoffs. Coaches also benched rookie K.J. Osborn, who was a gunner in last week's win at Chicago.

They were replaced by slightly more seasoned options: cornerback Kris Boyd and running back Ameer Abdullah.

Boyd had a roller-coaster afternoon, catching a 23-yard pass from punter Britton Colquitt on a successful fake punt that was negated because Boyd illegally shifted before the snap. He was then penalized for an illegal block when the punt was replayed.

Boyd later corralled Cowboys punt returner CeeDee Lamb on a 10-yard return but missed Lamb during a 20-yard punt return that helped set up Dallas' game-winning touchdown drive.

The Vikings' punt return team, ranked worst in the league, didn't move that needle. Osborn, still the primary returner, fumbled his first chance; safety Josh Metellus recovered it to prevent a first-quarter turnover.

Linebacker Eric Wilson provided an early boost by breaking through the Cowboys line to block an extra-point attempt. It was Wilson's first blocked extra point of his NFL career but his second blocked kick in as many seasons. Wilson also denied a Falcons punt in 2019.

Some of Sunday's changes could stick. DePaola went 7-for-7 on successful long snaps, giving coaches something to think about while carrying two long snappers on the roster, for now.

DePaola, originally undrafted in 2012 out of Rutgers, hadn't snapped in an NFL regular-season game since September 2018, when he tore an ACL during Raiders practice. He sat out the 2019 season and much of this year, until last week when the Vikings called.

Was this a one-game run? Or will Cutting, the 2019 seventh-round pick, be replaced by DePaola for the season?

"I don't know," Zimmer said. "We'll see."