The Arizona Cardinals arrived in Minnesota looking to get their second victory of the 2018 season. Arizona’s defense was riding high and ready to take on a potent Vikings offense. The Cardinals offense was looking to build upon a fast start from a week before. However, on Sunday it was a perfect storm for Arizona as the Viking hordes showed why they should still be considered one of the contenders in the NFC. What happened to the Cardinals? Today we dissecting Arizona’s loss in Minnesota.
Same Old Song
For the second week in a row, the Cardinals got a score early in the first quarter. Arizona punted on the game’s first possession but soon had a scoring drive after the defense held Minnesota on a fourth down try. Josh Rosen led the offense down the field helped by a 35 yard throw to fellow rookie Christian Kirk. Phil Dawson knocked in a 26 yard field goal to give Arizona the early 3-0 lead. The drive went seven plays for 49 yards.
Arizona’s field goal came with eight minutes left of the first quarter. The offense would not again put points on the scoreboard until there was less than seven minutes remaining in the game. David Johnson got the score from a yard out to make it a 27-17 score. In what has been a trend this season, the Cardinals offense struggled to consistently move the football. Arizona put up just 10 points on offense against the Vikings. The offense finished with season high in passing yards (208 net) and total yards (269 net).
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Through six games this season the offense has failed to gain more than 300 yards on offense. The offense has looked stagnant and lacks creativity. On the ground, Arizona tries for three yards and a cloud of dust. The problem for the Cardinals is it is more like no yards and a mouth full of dirt. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy calls a bland offense outside of the scripted start. The offense moved the ball well late in the game, a time where tempo was turned up and Rosen had more control on the play calling. Any time an offense runs better under a rookie quarterback over an experience play-caller, it is time to look at changes.
Vikings Run Rampant
The Minnesota Vikings came into the game in the bottom half of the league in rushing the football. Minnesota’s offensive line had struggled all season to open consistent running lanes. That changed on Sunday as the Cardinals defense surrendered 195 yards on the ground. The defense was overmatched at the line of scrimmage while the second level failed to make open tackles. Minnesota’s Latavius Murray took the bulk of carries as starter Dalvin Cook missed the game with an injury.
Murray played in all five games prior to starting against the Cardinals. On Sunday he carried the ball 24 times and finished with 155 yards and a touchdown. Entering the game Murray started twice in place of Cook, totaling 106 yards on 30 carries. The Cardinals front seven struggled to get off blocks and fill gaps. Corey Peters was routinely double-teamed and pushed back into the second level. Linebackers Haason Reddick and Josh Bynes were unable to fill gaps as blockers sealed off alleys for Murray to run free.
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Arizona’s aggressiveness was countered by motion by Minnesota. Pre-snap movement by receivers to simulate jet sweeps or swing routes helped get the Arizona defense looking one way and cheating towards the motion. Minnesota used this to gain leverage on blocks to seal defenders away from the play. While Chandler Jones and the defensive ends did a solid job of sealing the edge on runs, the defense was often out-of-place and unable to keep the Vikings from lengthy runs.
Glimmer of Hope
For most of the game, the Arizona offense looked confused and lackluster. However, when utilizing their opening script the unit was able to move the ball on a tough Vikings defense. At the end of the game, as the Cardinals attempted their comeback, the uptempo approach helped get the offense going. Part of that was Rosen getting the chance to make changes at the line as well as opening up the offense. Defensively the Cardinals struggled to stop the run and cover Minnesota receivers. The Vikings totaled 411 yards on 71 offensive plays. The defense was able to put steady pressure on Kirk Cousins, finishing with four sacks and four deflections by the line. Al Holcomb’s defense was their performance in the fourth quarter. The defense held on and gave the offense chances to claw back into the game.
At the end of the day the Cardinals show signs of things to build on. It is a short week as Denver comes to town on Thursday. Arizona is hopeful both sides of the ball can continue to build on the positives and play a complete game. The season is nearly at the midway point, but time may be running out for many inside the building.