Five keys to a Cardinals victory over Vikings

For the third time in as many seasons, the Cardinals (4-2) will take on the Minnesota Vikings (4-2) at Mall of America Field on Sunday morning.

The Cardinals have lost their last six games in Minneapolis, and haven’t won there since 1977.

The Cardinals are on a mini-two game losing streak.

What are five things they need to do in order to break that streak?

1. Last October, the Vikings were up 28-0 on the Cardinals after one quarter. The Cardinals cannot allow Minnesota to jump out ahead like that again. Instead, their offense, led by John Skelton, needs to be the one who jumps out ahead.

In order to do that, the offense needs to convert on third down.

2. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Cardinals were converting on just 32-percent of its third down attempts.

Skelton and the offense need to stretch drives, score and wear down Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and the rest of that Vikings defense.

3. Christian Ponder is hitting on nearly 70 percent of his passes this year. The defense needs to make him uncomfortable at home.

Ponder’s been sacked just 13 times in six games. The front seven has to keep constant pressure on him, like they’ve done on quarterbacks all season. If they can bring him down, force a couple turnovers and get points off them, then it’ll make work a little easier.

To go along with Ponder, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin need to be accounted for as well.

Peterson gashed the Cardinals for 122 yards and three touchdowns last year. They can’t allow him to get loose like that again.

Harvin leads the league in catches. I’d imagine Patrick Peterson would line up on Harvin. He’ll have to make Harvin disappear on Sunday, taking away Ponder’s best aerial weapon.

4. The team can’t afford to turn the ball over against the Vikings, because that will get the crowd going, and any time you cough up the ball, it gives the opposition that many more chances to go up on you.

Play smart and hold onto the ball at all times.

As Skelton said earlier in the week, it’s okay to take a three-and-out and punt it away, instead of trying to force something that’s not there, which can be disastrous.

5. Special teams will be crucial for a Cardinals win.

If Dave Zastudil can blast his punts like he’s been doing, and keep Minnesota’s offense pinned back, that gives the defense liberty to open things up.

If the Vikings choose to kick to Peterson, he’ll have to get some nice returns, which will setup the offense on a shorter field, if he doesn’t take a few home.