For the first time in a long time, we’re actually giving out a game ball after a Minnesota Vikings’ victory! Yes, the Vikings beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon by a score of 30-24, ending their four-game losing streak. Considering that the Vikings won, it was also the first time in a few games where there was more than one player that didn’t have their head firmly lodged in their rear end. So, let’s take a look at a few players that are legitimate candidates for this week’s game ball.
Danielle Hunter, DE - The Vikings’ pass rush finally found its way back to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, much to the chagrin of Carson Palmer. Palmer "only" took four sacks on the afternoon, but it seemed like a lot more. . .probably because he was under siege all afternoon. How good was Minnesota’s pass rush?
Number of snaps Carson Palmer was NOT under pressure vs Vikings: 16 Number he WAS under pressure: 27 62.8%. That's ludicrous— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 20, 2016
Hunter was leading the charge, as he collected two of the Vikings’ four quarterback sacks on the afternoon, including the one that officially ended the game when he got to Palmer on Arizona’s last play. And don’t look now, but it’s Hunter, not Everson Griffen, that currently leads the Vikings in sacks. Not bad for a guy that turned 22 last month.
Jeff Locke, P - We know about the two huge returns that got the Vikings into the end zone, but the biggest play of the game might have come from the left foot of Locke. Punting from his own goal line with about two and a half minutes remaining, the Vikings needed a big kick from Locke to make the Cardinals work, and that’s what they got. Aided by a misplay by Cardinals’ return man John Brown, Locke’s punt took a favorable bounce and rolled. . .and rolled. . .and wound up stopping at the Arizona 13-yard line. It was a career-best 72-yarder for Locke, and it came when the team needed it most. He also had a net average of 47.3 yards/punt.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/KR/Gunner - The renaissance of Cordarrelle Patterson has been one of the nicer stories about this Vikings’ season. Even though his touches were limited in the Norv Turner era. . .and, seriously, Norv’s got some ‘splainin’ to do there. . .but he’s now a vital part of this football team again. He might still be the most dangerous player in the league with the football in his hands, and his 104-yard return for a touchdown put the Vikings in the lead for good. He also had a great 30-yard catch and run when the Vikings decided to. . .gasp. . .throw the football on 3rd-and-1. Also, he’s now to the point where he’s getting not just double-teamed as a punt gunner, but triple-teamed. That’s some respect right there. Patterson is going to get paid this offseason. Now we’ll have to see if it’s by the Vikings or not.
Xavier Rhodes, CB - There really isn’t a lot more that we can say about Xavier Rhodes. If he’s not the best all-around corner in the league at this point, the list of names ahead of him is a short one. He had the longest interception return for a touchdown in Vikings’ history on Sunday with his 100-yard pick-six, and added another brilliant interception on a play where Palmer overthrew Malcolm Floyd by about three yards. He was so good in coverage that he wound up pulling a full Blutarsky.
Zero. Point. Zero. Rhodes might have had the best game of his NFL career yesterday, and he just keeps getting better.
Those are the players that I think merit a look for this week’s Game Ball. If you think I missed someone, feel free to sound off in the comments section.
Week 1 Winner: Eric Kendricks, LB
Week 2 Winner: Sam Bradford, QB
Week 3 Winner: Everson Griffen, DE
Week 4 Winner: Xavier Rhodes, CB
Week 5 Winner: Adam Thielen, WR
Week 6 Winner: None (bye week)
Week 7 Winner: Xavier Rhodes, CB
Week 8 Winner: Jeff Locke, P
Week 9 Winner: Stefon Diggs, WR
Week 10 Winner: Stefon Diggs, WR