Going into Thursday night's game without their three best defensive players (Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith), many people. . .yours truly included. . .expected the Minnesota Vikings to get blown off the field by the Arizona Cardinals. But, the purple and gold put together a spirited performance and nearly pulled off what would have been a major upset.
In the end, however, they shot themselves in the foot just enough times to make sure it didn't happen.
Thanks in large part to three fumbles, one of which extinguished their chances for good, the Vikings fell to the Cardinals by a final score of 23-20 on Thursday Night Football.
Arizona got on the board first, courtesy of a 27-yard field goal from Chandler Catanzaro to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Vikings then put together one of their best offensive drives of the season, marching 80 yards in seven plays. Teddy Bridgewater went 3-for-3 for 42 yards on the drive, and Peterson carried the ball four times for 38 yards, capping the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to give the Vikings a 7-3 lead. The touchdown was the 100th score of Peterson's career, 95 of which have come on the ground.
The Minnesota lead didn't last long, though, as Carson Palmer found receiver John Brown on a short pass, and Brown proceeded to get through a couple of tackles and get to the end zone for a 65-yard score. That put Arizona back on top by a score of 10-7. Blair Walsh connected on a 44-yard field goal just before halftime, and the two teams went into the locker room tied at 10.
The Vikings had a nice drive going to start the second half, but then they inexplicably called for a reverse, and they fumbled the ball back to the Cardinals. From there, a couple of Minnesota natives helped get the lead back for the Cardinals. Carson Palmer completed a short pass to Michael Floyd (from St. Paul), and he got a great block from Larry Fitzgerald (from Minneapolis) for what ended up being a 42-yard scoring play to put the Cardinals back on top, 17-10. Catanzaro connected on a 23-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 20-10.
The Vikings got back on the board early in the fourth quarter, thanks to a big 54-yard field goal from Blair Walsh to make the score 20-13. After forcing an Arizona punt, the Vikings put together a great drive to tie it up, as Teddy Bridgewater found Mike Wallace. . .yeah, Mike Wallace. . .for a 7-yard touchdown pass to knot things up at 20-20.
The Cardinals took the lead back with 1:23 remaining, as Catanzaro hit his third field goal of the night from 47 yards out to give Arizona a 23-20 lead. The Vikings moved the ball down the field and got into field goal range for Blair Walsh, but then they committed their final turnover of the night, as Bridgewater was sacked by Dwight Freeney and fumbled the ball with Arizona recovering. It was the Vikings' third turnover of the night, and it cost them just as much as the other ones did. The Cardinals took the victory formation, and went away with a 23-20 victory.
It was definitely a much closer game than many of us expected, but in the end, you can't fumble the ball away three times against a team the caliber of Arizona and expect to come out on top. Still, the Vikings put this performance together without their three best defensive players, so if you're into moral victories, maybe this qualifies.
Looking at the stat sheet, Bridgewater set a career-high for passing yardage, completing 25-of-36 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown. Adrian Peterson had a relatively quiet second half, and wound up with 23 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Rudolph would up being the Vikings' leading receiver on the evening, with six catches for 67 yards.
For Arizona, Carson Palmer completed 25-of-35 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns on the evening. David Johnson wound up leading the Cardinals in rushing with 92 yards on 19 carries. Michael Floyd was the Cardinals' leading receiver with five catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota falls to 8-5, and have an extended break before returning to TCF Bank Stadium on December 20 to take on the Chicago Bears. The Cardinals clinched a playoff spot, moving to 11-2 on the season, and they will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles on Sunday Night Football.
The Vikings lost a heartbreaker on Thursday Night Football, falling 23-20 to the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of this week's game right here at The Daily Norseman!