It wasn't always pretty, and it wasn't always fun, but the Minnesota Vikings moved their record to 5-2 on the season on Sunday afternoon with a 21-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
I understand that a win is a win, there are no style points in the National Football League. . .that's all well and good. And I understand that the Cardinals have one of the NFL's better defenses. . .they still haven't allowed more than 21 points in a game through their first seven games of the season, and technically the defense only allowed 14 today. But the Minnesota offense was not good today. Not at all. The special teams weren't particularly good today, either. . .witness the block in the back on Marvin Mitchell (which was a correct call) that negated what would have been a 103-yard kickoff return for a score by Percy Harvin to start the game.
Fortunately for the Vikings, they had a few major things go their way as well.
The Arizona pass protection was every bit as bad as they were advertised in this one, with the Vikings being credited with seven sacks on the afternoon. Brian Robison picked up a hat trick with three sacks, including one that forced a John Skelton fumble to squelch a potential scoring chance for Arizona. Jared Allen chipped in with two sacks (giving him at least one in five consecutive games), and Kevin Williams had a big sack on a fourth down near midfield. Antoine Winfield, who might be having his best season ever, was also credited with a sack, presumably on the play where he squashed Skelton on an attempted roll out.
And how about Harrison Smith, huh? The "Eraser" got his first NFL interception on Sunday, and turned it into his first ever NFL touchdown with a few nifty moves and a dash to the corner of the end zone. That was the first interception for a touchdown by a Viking since Jared Allen had one in the 2010 season finale against the Detroit Lions. It was the first one by a Vikings' defensive back since November 25, 2007, when Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith both had one against the New York Giants. (Chad Greenway had one in that game as well, a 41-17 Minnesota victory.)
I would be crazy to not mention Adrian Peterson's performance in this one. Anyone that's still wondering if the man is back or not needs to look no further than his performance this afternoon. AD put up 22 carries for 153 yards (right around seven yards per carry), and found the end zone for the first time in five games. He's not human. Can't be. But I'll have more on that in my next post.
Yes, the stat sheet shows a lot of things that one would assume would point to a Minnesota loss. The Vikings allowed LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona's third string running back, to go for over 100 yards and a touchdown. They allowed a receiver that wasn't Larry Fitzgerald to eclipse the century mark as well, as Andre Roberts caught seven passes for 103 yards and a score. (Fitzgerald was held to just four catches and 29 yards, with over half of his yardage coming on one 16-yard grab towards the end of the game.) Christian Ponder completed just one of seven passes after halftime for four yards, and Percy Harvin didn't have a catch after halftime. Heck, Harvin didn't even have a touch in the second half, as all four of his receptions and both of his carries came before halftime. The offense has a whole had just two first downs in the second half, with one of those coming with about five seconds left on Minnesota's final play. Kyle Rudolph didn't catch a pass all day. Jerome Simpson only caught one ball. The play calling on offense could charitably be called "questionable."
But, at the end of the day, all that matters is that Minnesota's number on the scoreboard was bigger than Arizona's number, and the team that was expected to be one of the NFL's worst is one win away from doubling their win total from a season ago.
Surely the Vikings can't continue to expect to win by playing the sort of game they played today, but today they got the victory, as ugly as it may have been. Hopefully the team can get past this one quickly. . .because in about 96 hours, they get to do it again.