Minnesota Vikings: Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings snapped a four game losing streak in their victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

In their first win since week five, the Minnesota Vikings pulled out all the stops in their pursuit to keep their season afloat against the Cardinals. The Vikings relied on two non-offensive plays over 100 yards and a crafty trick play to narrowly defeat Arizona 30-24.

Desperately needing a win, the Minnesota Vikings managed to slip past the Cardinals using all three phases of the game. Due to the amount of big plays on which they relied, this victory does raise questions on the legitimacy of the Vikings’ return to winning.

What made this win questionable

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In the first half, Cardinals running back David Johnson had his way with the Vikings defense. The Vikings had no answer, and they relied on dropped passes and other mistakes for the Cardinals’ drives to end.

By the time the defense cleaned things up in the second half, the offense began to sputter for the Vikings. Part of the problem was conservative play calling and insistence on keeping the run. Another part was their inability to take advantage of certain situations.

For example, on one drive, the Arizona defense gave up over 40 yards in penalties, and the Vikings still had to settle for a field goal despite making it down to the red zone. On their only turnover of the game, Mike Zimmer trusted his offense to convert a fourth down at mid field. Bradford missed a couple open receivers and forced a pass to Cordarrelle Patterson–it was almost intercepted.

More than anything, this victory is questionable because three big plays determined the outcome of this game. The Cardinals drove the ball deep into the red zone, and Carson Palmer threw a horrible pass (John Brown also ran a horrible route) that resulted in a 100-yard Xavier Rhodes pick six. Rhodes made a terrific play, but Palmer’s decision greatly benefited the Vikings.

Then, Patterson opened the second half with a kickoff return touchdown. Again, great play by Patterson, but the aloof Cardinals special teams certainly helped. Finally, before those other two plays, the Vikings used an awesome, crafty trick play on a wildcat reverse pass to draw a goal line pass interference. Matt Asiata scored a gimme (well, there is no such thing for Asiata) as a result.

To fans, including myself, these plays were both entertaining and promising. To a more objective crowd, they could certainly argue a fluky element. Even if these plays were fully legitimate, which they certainly could be, the Vikings still only won by six points–it should have been a blowout.

Why this victory was real

Finally, the Minnesota Vikings’ pass rush came alive. Simply stating that the Vikings had four sacks for 43 yards doesn’t do the pass rush justice. Purple Reign hurried and pressured Palmer throughout the game, primarily in the second half.

When the game came down to one potentially game-winning drive for the Cardinals, Mike Zimmer wisely kept the pressure on. The Vikings terminated the Cardinals’ drive early, but a questionable Tom Johnson roughing the passer caller breathed life into Arizona. It didn’t matter. A few plays later, the Vikings again brought the pressure, and the Cardinals were unable to mimic the late game heroics of the Lions two weeks ago.

Xavier Rhodes deserves a lot of credit. His two interceptions were both athletic and critical. Plays that may have just been pass breakups early in his career have translated into interceptions this season as Rhodes continues to elevate his game.

Despite their weak finish, the offense played very well in the first half. Despite their weak start, the defense played well in the second half. If the Vikings can find a way to piece those two elements together, games like this won’t be quite as close.

It would be a shame to not mention how the three big plays have two sides to them. On one side, one could consider them fluky. Yet, the Vikings proved to be opportunistic consistently early in the season, so perhaps their mojo has returned. To discount the immense preparation that went into those big plays would be a major shortcoming.

Next: Will Adrian Peterson Return this Season?

A four-game losing streak called for desperate measures. It payed off for the Vikings this week, but the real antidote for the Minnesota Vikings is consistency.