Now that’s more like it.
The 2018 iteration of the Minnesota Vikings still hasn’t played a full 60 minutes the way they’re capable of yet, but Sunday’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals was probably the closest they have come to playing a complete game.
The defense had arguably their best game of the season, holding the Cardinals offense to ten points and 269 total yards while forcing two turnovers and sacking Josh Rosen four times. The offense was efficient and effective, as long as Cardinals defenders weren’t getting their hands on the ball. Kirk Cousins had six passes batted down, one picked off on what was probably his worst throw as a Viking, and yet another strip sack that was returned for a touchdown by Budda Baker. He was also sacked four times. But the rest was really good! Especially the running game! The Vikings rushed for 195 yards, their highest output on the ground since December 2015. The bulk of the work was done by Latavius Murray, who ran for a career-high 155 yards. Cousins attempted a season-low 34 passes in the victory, giving the offense some semblance of balance for the first time this year.
While there is still plenty of work to do—and beating this Arizona team isn’t a particularly notable feat—Sunday’s result certainly beats the alternative fate that the Vikings suffered in their previous home game. Hopefully they can keep improving as they try to get their third straight win in New York next week. But before we look ahead to the Jets, let’s take our weekly review of the five biggest plays from Sunday’s game.
Play 1: Vikings ball, 2nd & 10 at the Arizona 21. First quarter, 7:11 remaining. L.Murray up the middle for 21 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
What a sight for sore eyes. Unless you’re Antoine Bethea, of course. In that case, the Bethea family has asked that you donate to a local charity in lieu of flowers.
After the Cardinals had taken an early 3-0 lead, the Vikings answered right back with a quick seven-play touchdown drive capped by this 21-yard touchdown run from Murray. His vicious stiff arm of Bethea gave the Vikings their first rushing touchdown of the 2018 season and kicked off a career day for Tay Train, who was replacing the inactive Dalvin Cook.
Play 2: Cardinals ball, 4th & goal at the Minnesota 1. Second quarter, 12:07 remaining. D.Johnson left guard to MIN 1 for no gain (X.Rhodes). MIN-S.Weatherly was injured during the play.
After Cousins’ bad pass that was picked off by Tre Boston early in the second quarter, Arizona quickly got within scoring range with a 40 yard pass to Ricky Seals-Jones. The Cardinals were inches away from tying the game facing a 4th & goal, but the defense held firm on a run up the middle from David Johnson.
Xavier Rhodes and Eric Kendricks were among the first to arrive at the space cleared by Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph. The play call from Mike McCoy wasn’t incredibly creative, which has been par for the course for the Cardinals this season. In my preview of the game, I wrote this:
Watching the film, I was amazed at how many of Johnson’s carries went exactly where it looked like they were going to go before the snap. With an offensive line as weak as Arizona’s, it’s surprising that Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy isn’t using more creativity to manufacture some space for his star back.
Arizona’s continued lack of creativity was Minnesota’s gain, and the Vikings maintained their lead. Until Chandler Jones strip sacked Cousins and Budda Baker scooped & scored two drives later, of course. The Vikings tacked on a field goal just before halftime to regain the lead, but the game was still very much in the balance early in the second half.
Good thing the Vikings have Adam Thielen on their side.
Play 3: Vikings ball, 3rd & 13 on the Minnesota 42. Third quarter, 13:01 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass short left to A.Thielen ran ob at ARZ 45 for 13 yards. Arizona challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field stands. (Timeout #1.)
On the opening drive of the second half, the Cardinals had just stuffed two Murray runs to make it 3rd & long for the Vikings. A stop here would have given Arizona a lot of confidence to mount an upset. Thielen had other ideas.
Cousins was hit as he threw, but somehow Thielen was able to adjust and make the acrobatic catch on the sideline.
The catch was so unbelievable that Steven Wilks challenged it, burning a timeout for Arizona. Five plays later, Thielen finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a ten-point cushion.
On the ensuing Cardinals drive, Harrison Smith sacked Rosen to force a three-and-out to give the Vikings excellent field position. Latavius Murray was sprung by Brian O’Neill and David Morgan for a 34-yard run that made it 1st & goal. Two plays later, a lot of...unexpected things happened.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 2nd & goal at the Arizona 7. Third quarter, 6:42 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins right end for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Kirk Cousins, dual-threat quarterback?
Cousins scored on a quarterback keeper to give the Vikings a commanding 17-point lead. That was good. The “Dead Arm Dance” celebration after he scored? Ehhhh, not as good.
Either way, the Vikings were up 27-10 and the rout was on.
Just kidding! This team is seemingly incapable of making anything that easy. Despite Anthony Harris grabbing his first career interception on the next drive, the Vikings offense went three-and-out on their next three drives to allow the Cardinals to hang around down the stretch. The lead was down to ten points with the Cardinals driving in Minnesota territory late in the game. Thankfully, a reliable defensive star put things to rest once and for all.
Play 5: Cardinals ball, 2nd & 15 at the Minnesota 48. Fourth quarter, 4:24 remaining. (Shotgun) J.Rosen sacked at ARZ 44 for -8 yards (D.Hunter).
Danielle Hunter had already extended his streak of games with a sack to six earlier in the day. This time, he effectively ended the Cardinals’ day.
After a third down wide receiver screen went nowhere on the next play, the Cardinals punted and never saw the ball again. Hunter’s second sack of the day (seventh of the season) ended any lingering doubts and put the Vikings back over .500.
As always, we welcome you to vote in the poll to tell us which play you thought was the biggest and encourage you to suggest any we may have missed in the comments. Enjoy the rest of your Victory Monday!
What was the most important play from the Vikings’ win over the Cardinals?
This poll is closed
Murray’s TD run
Goal line stand on 4th down
Thielen’s acrobatic third down catch
Cousins’ rushing TD
Other (comment below)