The Cardinals offense needed to come out and make a statement. It needed to score on its first possession -- preferably a touchdown. So after getting the ball on the Vikings 48 following a bad punt, John Skelton led the Redbirds on an incredible three-play, two-yard drive that took all of 80 seconds off the clock leading to a punt.
Following a Vikings' 88-yard touchdown drive, the Cardinals offense came back with a legitimate 13-play drive that should have led to a score, but apparently John Skelton forgot that he had 1) a bad offensive line and 2) an internal clock. He fumbled after taking a hit from Brian Robison.
Fortunately, Paris Lenon intercepted Christian Ponder's next pass, ultimately leading to a LaRod Stephens-Howling short touchdown run.
That score came at the 12:41 mark of the second quarter. Arizona's next score came with 2:08 left -- in the ballgame -- and the Vikings up 21-7.
What was most frustrating about the 21-14 loss was that despite another hideous performance by the offensive line (seven sacks allowed), the Cardinals actually outgained the Vikings 356-209. They also had 21 first downs compared to just 12 for Minnesota. They even had a 10-minute edge in time of possession.
Unfortunately, they couldn't capitalize. Even though Jay Feely missed a field goal right before halftime, I thought Ken Whisenhunt's decision to go for it on 4th and 2 at the Minnesota 18-yard line in the 3rd quarter sent the wrong message on several fronts:
1) I thought it showed a lack of confidence in Feely after two straight missed field goals (dating back to last week).
2) I thought it showed panic. Sure, the Vikings had a two-touchdown lead, but there was still eight minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
3) It was an awful play-call. For the first time all season, you actually had some semblance of a running game, and you called for Skelton (who can't run) to roll out with a glorified backup fullback as his option. Reagan Maui'a was well covered and Skelton was leveled for no gain.
The Cardinals defense, despite allowing Adrian Peterson to rush for 153 yards and a touchdown, played well enough to win. They also held Ponder to 58 yards passing and picked him off twice. That's unacceptable. It's unacceptable that your defense continues to make plays and do its job, while the offense stumbles around all over itself. It's unacceptable that arguably the best receiver in the league is held to four catches for 29 yards.
I'm not saying it's time for Cardinals fans to panic. They're still 4-3 and only a game behind the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers with four division games left. The defense will continue to keep them in games.
The Cardinals next game is a week from Monday against the 49ers. It's a home game. It's Primetime. It's also a must win.