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Vikings’ loss was like a cruel déjà vu for Cardinals fans

How does an NFL team go from notching a historic win in the Divisional Round to turning in by far its worst performance of the year with the Super Bowl on the line?

It’s a question Minnesota Vikings fans are asking themselves after their team got curb-stomped by the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 Sunday night.

The outcome had a lot of Arizona Cardinals fans reliving an eerily similar performance by their team nearly two years ago to the day against the Carolina Panthers.

Don’t believe me? The similarities are everywhere.

The backgrounds

Both the 2015 Cardinals and 2015 Vikings were 13-win teams that went into the postseason with a bye as the NFC’s number-two seed. Both teams had quarterbacks (Carson Palmer, Case Keenum) who had been maligned through their careers only to notch MVP-caliber seasons. Both teams lost starting running backs who were enjoying great seasons. Arizona’s Chris Johnson went down to a knee injury in a Week 12 win over San Francisco. He was leading the league in rushing at the time. Minnesota rookie Dalvin Cook went down in a Week 4 loss to Detroit and he was third in the league in rushing at the time.

The “miraculous” way they got to the NFC Championship Game

The Cardinals blew a couple of leads against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, and watched Aaron Rodgers spin his magic, throwing a Hail Mary to Jeff Janis with no time left to send the game to overtime. In OT, Palmer found Larry Fitzgerald on a broken play and the veteran receiver turned it into a 75-yard gain that set up the Cardinals’ win.

The Vikings blew a couple of leads in their playoff game against New Orleans, including a 17-0 bulge. After Saints kicker Wil Lutz put the visitors up by a point with :25 left, it was time for another improbable finish. Facing a 3rd-and-10 from the Minnesota 39-yard line, Keenum flung a pass downfield to Stefon Diggs, who made a leaping catch and got free from the Saints’ defense, scoring on a 61-yard touchdown with no time left to give the world the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

The beatdown

Both NFC Championship Games in question were the Sunday night games on the day’s playoff schedule and both took place in a stadium named after a financial institution (Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia).

Each team suffered their worst loss of the season. The Cardinals endured a 34-point shellacking at the hands of Carolina, while Minnesota wore a 31-point defeat.

Each opposing quarterback riddled the defense he was facing. Against the Cardinals, Carolina’s Cam Newton threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns. Philadelphia’s Nick Foles threw for a season-high 352 yards and three touchdowns. Both Arizona and Minnesota’s pass defenses surrendered a season-high in total yardage allowed — 476 for the Cardinals, 456 for the Vikings.

Both Palmer and Keenum threw pick-sixes in their respective games. Luke Kuechly intercepted Palmer for a score to close the night’s scoring. Patrick Robinson victimized Keenum to put Philadelphia on the board. Each pick-six was the only one surrendered by each quarterback all season long.

The aftermath

Some will argue the Cardinals have never been the same since that night in Charlotte, and it’s hard to argue. Arizona is 15-16-1 in the two full seasons since. We’ll have to wait and see how Sunday’s loss affects the Vikings record-wise in the seasons to come.

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