A long season finally got a little better Sunday as Adrian Peterson powered in for three first-quarter touchdowns to build a huge lead as the Vikings beat up the Arizona Cardinals for a 34-10 win.
“It felt good just to get a ‘W’ first and foremost and get out of this slump. It was a good test for us, and we did what we’ve been preaching,” said Peterson, who rushed 29 times for 122 yards.
Donovan McNabb ran in for a score, too, and the Vikings (1-4) went ahead 28-0 less than 12 and a half minutes into the game. Kevin Kolb had three turnovers for the Cardinals (1-4) and finished 21 for 42 for 232 yards and one touchdown pass, a performance so shaky the Vikings were able to confidently run down the clock after some ugly offense of their own during the second and third quarters.
“There isn’t a magic wand that we can wave, and all of a sudden it will get better. But we are going to keep plugging at it, and we will get better,” Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin said.
From McNabb’s bounced passes to Kolb’s errant throws, neither former Philadelphia quarterback played well. McNabb’s final numbers against what had been a leaky Arizona secondary were 10 completions, 21 attempts, 169 yards and a bunch of boos.
“I don’t worry about it all, because at the end of the day you look up and you see a win,” McNabb said. “We’re excited about it.”
The Vikings started three straight first-quarter drives at the Arizona 18, 24 and 25, stretching their lead so large so quickly the fans stopped chanting for rookie Christian Ponder. McNabb and the Vikings were still jeered off the field at the half with a 28-3 advantage after a sack prompted a run-out-the-clock order from coach Leslie Frazier.
Frazier said he remains confident in McNabb as the starter. With a wide, sly smile, the coach insisted he was unaware of the boos.
“Never heard it. All I heard were cheers. It was a great day for the Vikings,” Frazier said.
Added linebacker Chad Greenway: “You never want to get booed by your own fans, but you expect it when you’re 0-4 that they’re going to tell you how they feel.”
McNabb has at least avoided those costly turnovers, unlike Kolb, who has six interceptions and three lost fumbles in five games.
“It’s not one person making a lot of mistakes. It’s all of us making one or two mistakes. That’s where details come in,” Kolb said. “You’re never going to find non-belief in this locker room. We felt like we had a chance the whole time.”
The Cardinals had six possessions in the first quarter, only once crossing their own 30. Kolb’s batted pass was intercepted by Asher Allen, and Brian Robison knocked the ball out of Kolb’s hand on a speed rush to end another series before it started.
“Our guys have got to grow up and start making those plays,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
The Vikings lost their first four games by a combined 19 points, including two devastating defeats here last month when Tampa Bay (17-0) and Detroit (20-0) came back from big halftime deficits.
The Cardinals could’ve easily finished the first quarter of the season undefeated, too, losing by a total of eight points to Washington, Seattle and the New York Giants. In the modern NFL, however, it’s usually those seemingly innocent inconsistencies and the inability to finish games strong that suggest real problems.
The Vikings gave the Cardinals their chance to get back in this one, too, when a fumble lost by Michael Jenkins on the first drive of the third quarter gave them the ball near midfield.
Kolb was under heavy pressure on the next drive, but he finally found Larry Fitzgerald for a critical back-shoulder completion near the goal line, and Beanie Wells rumbled in on the next play to cut the lead to 28-10. An eerie silence came over the crowd, as if everyone in the stadium started to dread another collapse.
But on the ensuing possession, McNabb found Devin Aromashodu, who took over Bernard Berrian’s role as the deep-route wide receiver, on a crossing pattern that netted 60 yards. That drive at least ate up some time and ended with a 26-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell, the first score by the Vikings in more than 29 minutes.
Wells was tripped up on fourth-and-1 on Arizona’s next drive at his own 47 by Allen — playing for absent stalwart Antoine Winfield, out with a neck injury — and the Vikings took over in Cardinals territory.
Right tackle Jeremy Bridges, who had a rough afternoon, was flagged for illegal hands to the face that wiped out what would’ve been a touchdown pass by Kolb to Early Doucet on the Cardinals’ next possession, and they went on to turn the ball over on downs.
“We stood up at the end. We did what we had to do to win the game and finally put together a complete game,” Robison said.