How Did the Arizona Cardinals Crush the Minnesota Vikings?
The two most important stats of the game: Adrian Peterson toted the rock 13 times for 19 yards, including an 11-yarder, and Jared Allen was blanked entirely from the stat sheet. No solo tackles, no assists, no sacks—no nothin'.
Jeremy Bridges deserves the game ball without question. To step in and play left tackle, a position he had never played, against one of the most feared defenders in the league and completely shut him down is miraculous.
I know that Bridges received help from Ben Patrick and Tim Hightower and others, and that Allen was double-teamed for the majority of the contest, but Bridges did his job and Allen was dominated. That was an effort not many Pro Bowlers can muster, performed by a career back-up.
Maybe Anquan Boldin hasn't lost anything. Q turned in a two-TD effort while running after the catch like the Boldin of old.
I had publicly questioned his form recently, trying to recall the last time I saw him running angry and breaking tackles. Last night proved to me that he still owns the fire, and apparently is fully healthy for the first time all season.
It was great to see Larry Fitzgerald become a focal point of the offense once more, and he produced with a season-high 143 yards, including his longest reception on the season with a 34-yarder.
When Tim Hightower fumbled the ball away on the second play of the game to give the Vikings excellent field position, it was easy to moan and groan and wonder if it was a sign of impending doom.
Now that the game is over and we have more clarity when rehashing details, there is a positive spin to that blunder.
Before fumbling, Hightower had run straight up the Vikings' gut for 10 yards on the Cardinals' first rushing attempt.
This set the tone for the game, that the No. 4 rushing defense was beatable and nothing to shy away from. The Cardinals totaled 113 yards on the ground against a team that had been allowing an average of only 84 per game.
Tim Hightower continued his aggressive play by punishing defenders in his wake, and providing a lethal stiff-arm on his 32-yard romp.
Down 7-0 after handing the Vikings a scoring opportunity right out of the gate, Steve Breaston's 64-yard punt return was the spark that turned the game in the Cardinals favor.
That makes two games in a row Arizona has gotten a big return from special teams.
Punter Ben Graham, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, continued that pace by placing two of this three punts inside the Vikings' 20, with a long of 52.
Flying under the radar is Neil Rackers, who has missed only one kick all season, PAT's included. He is now 15 for 16, with his only miss being a 45-yarder in Week 2.
Tony Dungy accurately surmised that Arizona won this game in the trenches, and I agree. It wasn't just Bridges who played a phenomenal game, as the Vikings, the NFL leaders coming in with 40 sacks, had zero.
Defensively, Darnell Dockett was his usual unstoppable force, at one point shoving Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson aside like a feather and tackling Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
Calais Campbell made his presence known with constant pressure and his fifth sack of the year, and 34-year old Bertrand Berry registered two sacks to bring his total to five.
ESPN's NFC West blogger Mike Sando said it best : "The Cardinals outperformed the Vikings in every important dimension: offense, defense, special teams, coaching, intelligence, and overall orneriness."
Arizona is now 1-1 versus the top three teams in the NFL, and have for the moment moved past the Vikings as one of the teams to beat.
This article also appears on Revenge Of The Birds
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