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Cardinals Game Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The Cardinals are 1-0 and ready to start their home game schedule on Sunday. Despite it only being one week into the season, the Cardinals looked absolutely impressive in their road win over Tennessee.

As for their opponent, the visiting Minnesota Vikings, they blew an opportunity to escape Cincinnati with a victory in Week 1. Running back Dalvin Cook coughing up the ball in overtime as the Bengals would seal the deal with a field goal.

Furthermore, this game has an underlying shade of personal tension, as it marks cornerback Patrick Peterson‘s return to the desert. Peterson, of course, was drafted by Arizona and spent his first ten seasons with the Bird Gang.

Now, the eight-time Pro Bowler is with the opposition, and with both teams obtaining very different results than expected, it’s time to preview what may go down in Glendale.

A Tale of Two Defenses

Starting with the visitors, Minnesota’s defense enters 2021 with some questions as about half of their defensive depth chart doesn’t have a third-stringer as of Wednesday. The performance of corner Bashaud Breeland is also a point of concern. It was against Breeland that Bengals rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase caught a 50-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Yet, Minnesota was still aggressive in the trenches, it was their combined five sacks on Joe Burrow that helped keep Mike Zimmer’s team alive. Linebacker Nick Vigil led with eight tackles against his former team while defensive tackle Michael Pierce had two of the five sacks on Burrow.

However, it doesn’t help when it requires several players to match the work of one man who had five sacks by himself. That would be Chandler Jones, his relentless attack on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill indeed awarding him NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Derrick Henry was surprisingly held to a scoreless 58-yard effort.

As far as pass defense goes, 212 yards given up to Tannehill may not be ideal. But remember, his biggest targets were suppressed most of the game, which is always a success. Thanks to the likes of cornerbacks Budda Baker and Byron Murphy, Tennessee’s A.J. Brown and Julio Jones only managed a combined 78 yards and one touchdown.

Offensive Efforts

Things got ugly for the Minnesota offense from the get-go, with a false start penalty that would be the first of 12 total flags all game. The running game was uncharacteristically quiet, Dalvin Cook rushing for 61 yards and a touchdown. 

Fortunately, Cincinnati’s defense doesn’t feature as stout of a lineup as Arizona, as explained by Kirk Cousins‘ 351 passing yards and two touchdowns. Second-year wideout K.J. Osborn stepped up as a number three target to Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. But it was Thielen who caught Cousins’ touchdowns and remains a dangerous threat alongside Jefferson.

Looking at Arizona’s rushing approach, both Chase Edmonds and James Conner weren’t spectacular, but they didn’t need to be. The combined effort of this duo got the job done; that was enough with how Tennessee’s pass defense was wavering. As long as both men continue to stay consistent, keeping both flow and momentum on Arizona’s side will come with little resistance.

Arizona’s passing game proved to be overwhelming for Tennessee. Kyler Murray led an air raid on the Titans, stumping the secondary for 289 yards plus four touchdowns. Murray even ran one in himself. DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk received all four passing scores, the latter reeling in this 26-yard rainbow.

Conclusion

Don’t expect the Vikings to take Week 1’s loss lying down. The passing game did their part even in defeat and can keep up the assault this week. Also, just because Derrick Henry was held in check doesn’t mean Dalvin Cook will either; stranger things have happened before in football.

The undisciplined play proved to be the fatal flaw of Minnesota, that’s not a trend that looks like it will continue. Yet, Arizona does have the necessary players to overcome an offense like the Vikings. Minnesota fans are definitely missing corner Cameron Dantzler; if Kyler Murray can exploit his absence, all the more reason why Arizona could win.

Vikings at Cardinals is on Sunday, September 19 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 ET on FOX.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

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