The Minnesota Vikings arrived in Texas like so many crusaders out of the cold country, eager, they say, to convince all those skeptics that "this team is definitely for real."

The speaker was Chuck Foreman, the Vikings' gifted running back, who also admitted today that, "Nobody expects us to win, except us. No it doesn't upset me, but after awhile you do get kind of tired hearing the Vikings can't do this, the Vikings can't do that.

"I know we're not as flashy as some of these teams. We don't have anybody who wears white shoes or does silly dances in the end zone. We look slow and awkward to a lot of people and we don't look older than most teams.

"So we don't look flashy, but we are flashy. People do keep badmouthing us and I wish I knew why. You hear it's because the media doesn't like Bud (Grant), that he doesn't cooperate, things like that.

"But very few people judge us by our ability, and that's their mistake. People should take a long look at the personnel we have and the way our guys play.

"I saw a headline in one of the papers the other day.It said something like 'Vikings are like straw men in forest fire when they go to Super Bowl.' Now that bothered me. Here I've played in the Super Bowl three times in my five years. How many other people can say the same things?

"I guess that's what disturbs me the most. People just don't give us the respect we've earned."

Publicly, of course, the Dallas Cowboys are saying they have the utmost respect for the Viking team they will play Sunday for the NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.

"Anyone who writes the Vikings off in this game is making a big mistake," Cowboy middle linebacker Bob Bruenig said today. "They're all the same guys who've been to the Super Bowl three and four times, and they can do it again."

"We have to respect them," said outside linebacker Thomas Henderson, who said he will have to spend 50 per cent of his Sunday afternoon keeping a wary eye on Foreman, particularly on third-down situations.

"They're in the playoffs, right? They beat the Rams didn't they? Hell, yes, it's a good football team. As a matter of fact, I'm scared of them, because they can keep me away from that Super Bowl cash."

Henderson has scrawled No. 44 - Foreman's number - and the Viking running back's name in ink all around the wooden frame of his locker. "I want to be thinking about him all the time," he said. "I'm thinking about him when I'm talking to you, and I'll think about him when I go to sleep tonight."

A week ago, the Cowboys were all thinking about Walter Payton. They stopped the Big Bear with 60 yards on 18 carries, and now they are pointing their flex defense at Foreman in an effort to accomplish the same eye-popping results.

"Sure, the Cowboys played well last week, and I'm sure they've looking for me," Foreman said. "But Chicago's whole offense is Walter Payton. You stop him, you stop them. If they stop me, we've got other people who will hurt them.

"That was not the same Chicago Bear team we played during the season. They had a lot of pressure on them to win those last six games, and it seemed like their objective was to just make the playoffs, not go much further.

"The Bears looked like they forgot to play. They looked flat. They weren't ready, and it showed."

The Vikings, on the other hand, have come to Dallas with that lean and hungry look, even if their most valuable asset, quarterback Fran Tarkenton, cannot play because of a broken ankle.

"But all of us believe in Bobby Lee (Tarkenton's replacement)," Foreman said. "We've had our problems offensively all season - too many turn overs, not enough consistency - and then losing Francis made us almost start from scratch.

"But the team has rallied behind Lee. We've had to make several adjustments because of their different styles. Fran was great at moving around and improvising and Bob likes to pretty much stick back there. As a result, I'm not catching as many passes. I stay back and block a little more, but our receivers go a little deeper.

"I can't tell you exactly what we're going to do Sunday, but our game plan this week is the best we've ever had since I started playing against the Cowboys. We'll give them a heck of a lot better than the Bears did last week. I know that.

"So people can say whatever they want to say about us. They said we were lucky to play the Rams last week in the mud. That's a crock. We controlled those guys at the line of scrimmage, and we would have controlled them if the sun was shining.

"Our personnel beat the Rams, not the weather. But we're still the underdog in Dallas and that's fine with me. Maybe we'll surprise you all again."