The Arizona Cardinals started their tricky second half road schedule losing to the Minnesota Vikings 30-24 inside U.S. Bank Stadium. With the loss the Cards fall below .500 to 4-5-1. Minnesota improves to 6-4.
Here are five things we learned Sunday in Minneapolis.
Minneapolis Mindset…As the great Bill Parcels once said, you are what your record says you are. The whole #SeeRedBeRed hashtag probably took on a whole new meaning for the Bird Gang this weekend. Bruce Arians’ team played hard but not always smart. It was one of those “one step forward, two steps back” games. It was also Arians’ first ever loss as head coach to an NFC North opponent and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Another road trip awaits next week against a rested and talented Atlanta Falcons’ team (6-4) who is looking to create separation atop the NFC South.
Sam I Am…Sam Bradford wasn’t flashy against James Bettcher’s defense but he was efficient. The veteran, who is playing behind a patch-work offensive line and without a marquee running back, completed 20-28 for 169 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating Sunday was 98.7. This season it’s 99.9. His steady play helped snap a nasty four-game losing streak and enabled the Vikes to keep pace with the Lions in the very-winnable NFC North.
Century Clubs…It’s extremely rare for an NFL team to have one 100-yard touchdown in a game, two is nearly unthinkable…unless you’re the Vikings apparently. First, Xavier Rhodes stepped in front of a Carson Palmer throw at the goal line and raced untouched down the sideline for a 100-yard pick-six late in the second quarter. Then Cordarrelle Patterson housed the opening kickoff in the second half for a 104-yard score. No team has turned the same feat in a game since 1962. Arizona has been plagued by mental lapses and poor decisions, for one reason or another, all season. There’s such a fine line between success and failure in the NFL, one–much less two of said plays are tough to overcome when the big picture includes figuring out a way to make the playoffs which now appears more bleak moving forward.
Walking A Fine Line (of scrimmage)…In the battle of banged up (i.e. depleted) offensive lines the Vikings got the edge Sunday. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer turned up the heat in the second half as Palmer was sacked four times and hit 23 others. He never looked comfortable as the Vikings’ front was able to get him “off his spot” in the pocket. Palmer didn’t get much help from his receivers outside of Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson (combined 13 receptions). The quick regression of J.J. Nelson is quite concerning for the inconsistent group.
Commit to It…the Cards have, in many ways, morphed into a run-based offense and why not when you have Johnson in your backfield. One of the brightest stars in the NFL consistently gashed one of the best defenses behind the Cards’ patch-work offensive line. He almost had 100 by halftime (89) against a unit that averages only 97 a game. “DJ” ended up with 103 as Arizona spent most of the second half in comeback mode.