The Cardinals came out very flat, obviously on a high from clinching their division last week, and were punished for it. The Vikings were up three touchdowns before the end of the first quarter, and had the game well in hand by halftime.
The Vikings defense came after Kurt Warner, and were very successful in doing so, collecting 4 sacks and countless hurries. Warner was left a sitting duck in the pocket on most plays, as the Cardinals run game was once again non-existent, allowing the Vikings’ pass rushers to go all out at the passer on almost every down. Tavaris Jackson got the start for the still injured Gus Frerotte, and was excellent, throwing 4 touchdown passes.
Jackson, though, was definitely aided by the two-headed rushing monster of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, who combined for 231 yards on the ground.
This game got off to a blistering start, as after forcing a punt by the Cardinals on their first possession, Bernard Berrian returned that punt 82 yards for a touchdown. It was very telling of what was to come in this game, as a few Cardinals players were to casual at knocking him out of bounds, and allowed him to get by them on the sideline.
After getting the ball back, Warner promptly threw a pick, giving it right back to Minnesota. Jackson would make them pay, as he hit who else but Bernard Berrian, for a 41 yard touchdown. When the Cardinals got the ball back, Anquan Boldin decided to keep the turnovers rolling, as he coughed it up to Darren Sharper, giving the Vikes the ball at the Cards 23 yard line.
Jackson would make good use of the short field, hitting Sidney Rice for a six yard score, making the score 21-0, all before the end of the first quarter. Not to mention, Ken Whisenhunt had already used up all of his challenges by this point too, on each of their turnovers. The Vikings would score again in the second quarter, as Peterson and Taylor carried the team 91 yards down the field on 12 plays, ending in an 11 yard touchdown reception by Taylor on a screen pass.
Down 28-0, and being embarrassed at home, the Cardinals actually decided to show up for the second half, well at least the offense did. On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Cardinals went 73 yards in only 3 plays, as Jerheme Urban caught got in for a 50 yard score from Warner.
After both teams traded punts, the Vikings drove into field goal range, only to have Ryan Longwell’s 34 yard field goal blocked by impressive rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Roderick Hood would pick up the loose ball, and return it 68 yards for a touchdown. This play seemed to give life to the Cardinals, now down only two scores, but unfortunately the defense was not inspired, as it would give up a touchdown on the next Vikings possession.
Jackson would hit Bobby Wade on a double move, burning Roderick Hood for a 59 yard score. This touchdown pretty much wrapped things up, but Whisenhunt decided to keep Warner in the game, and try for the comeback. This was not the smartest decision, as Warner got killed on the next drive, and it was lucky that he did not get hurt with some of the hits he was taking. The Cardinals would string some plays together, but ultimately came up short on fourth and long. Finally, Matt Leinart would see some time late in the fourth quarter, mostly just handing the ball off.
You have to wonder just what Whisenhunt was thinking, keeping his star quarterback in the game, even though they were getting blown out, and have already clinched the division. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to maybe see Whisenhunt give some of his starters a rest next week in New England, and then come back with them at home in the finale against the Seahawks to tune up for the postseason.
One thing is for sure, and that is that the Cardinals are certainly not looking very good heading into the playoffs after their hot start. The Vikings, on the other hand, have to be happy with this victory, and have kept their one game lead on the Bears in the NFC North. The defense was great in this one, especially the secondary, holding the Cardinals dynamic receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, to only 86 yards combined and no touchdowns.
There may even be the makings of a quarterback controversy, as Jackson threw a career high four touchdown passes with regular starter Gus Frerotte watching from the sidelines. It will be interesting to see if Childress sticks with the hot hand in Jackson, or goes back to Frerotte, if healthy, next week against Atlanta.