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Big Red Recap: Cardinals lose desperate showdown with Vikings

Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals attempts to make a tackle in the Minnesota Vikings' 30-24 win on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (Associated Press)

On the road. Different time zone. Early kickoff.

The odds didn’t favor the Arizona Cardinals, and once again the house won — or in this case, the Minnesota Vikings.

In a game neither team could afford to lose, the Vikings proved more desperate with a 30-24 victory to improve to 6-4, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

At 4-5-1, the Cardinals, while not out of it, appear to be on life support, at best.

Statistically, the Cardinals had more first downs (24-16), total yards (290-217) and a better time of possession (31:02-28:58), but two turnovers, including a pick-six and a kickoff return touchdown, were too much to overcome; the latter put the Cardinals in a 27-17 hole just 13 seconds into the third quarter.

Carson Palmer passed for two touchdowns and was intercepted twice. He finished 20-of-38 for 198 yards.

David Johnson accounted for two scores, one rushing and one receiving, and 160 total yards, ending with 103 yards on the ground.

Larry Fitzgerald was the team’s leading receiver with six catches for 63 yards.

The Cardinals have now lost nine straight in Minnesota.

THE GOOD

Establishing the run early is exactly what the Cardinals did. Of their 111 first-quarter yards, 54 came on the ground with Johnson accounting for 47, including a one-yard scoring run. That play finished an 11-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 7 at the 4:07 mark. It was Johnson’s 10th rushing touchdown and 11th overall, and he became the first Cardinals player since MacArthur Lane in 1970 to score at least 11 touchdowns in the first 10 games.

Johnson, with 113 first-half yards from scrimmage, became only the third different player in NFL history with 100 or more scrimmage yards in each of his team’ first 10 games, joining Edgerrin James (2000 and 2005 with Indianapolis) and Larry Brown (1972 with Washington). Of Johnson’s 113 yards, 89 came on the ground in 17 attempts. Later in the third quarter, he would top 100 rushing yards (103) for the fourth time this season.

Against the league’s No. 1 scoring defense, the Cardinals scored 17 first-half points, including a late touchdown right before the end of the second quarter. Palmer hit Jermaine Gresham over the middle. Gresham, who fumbled out of bounds earlier on the drive, broke a couple of tackles and went 29 yards for a score, pulling Arizona to within three, 20-17, with 50 seconds to play. It was Gresham’s first touchdown of the season and 26th of his career.

Set up by Chandler Jones’ strip-sack of Bradford—Deone Bucannon recovered the fumble on the Vikings first turnover of the game—Johnson recorded his second touchdown of the game, catching a four-yard pass from Palmer to pull Arizona to within a score, 30-24, at the 7:24 mark of the fourth quarter. For Johnson, his 12 total touchdowns trails only Mal Kutner’s 13 in 1948 for the most through the season’s first 10 games in franchise history.

THE BAD

It was an awful start to the game in all three phases. The offense went 3-and-out, following a false start penalty on center A.Q. Shipley prior to the first snap; special teams had a 36-yard punt, Drew Butler’s first since Sept. 25, and allowed a 23-yard return; while the defense couldn’t stop Adam Thielen, who caught two passes on a five-play, 41-yard scoring drive, including a 16-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-6 to give Minnesota an early 7-0 lead at the 10:25 mark.

Running the Wildcat formation for a second straight snap in the second quarter, the Vikings went into their bag of tricks. Sam Bradford, lined up as a receiver, had the ball pitched to him and threw deep, looking for Thielen, who was interfered with by Tony Jefferson in the end zone. On the very next play, Matt Asiata rushed two yards for a touchdown, capping a five-play, 75-yard drive, giving Minnesota the lead back, 13-10, at the 7:16 mark. The extra point was blocked.

Driving for the potential go-ahead score late in the second quarter, Palmer was picked off in the end zone. The pass was intended for John Brown, but instead of breaking out, he broke in and Xavier Rhodes had an open look at the football, caught it, and returned it the length of the field, 100 yards, for a touchdown to put Minnesota up, 20-10, at the 3:07 mark. It was Palmer’s ninth interception of the season. Rhodes recorded his team-high third pick.

A poor start to the game was followed by a poor start to the second half. Kicking off, the Cardinals special teams again imploded: Taking the ball four yards deep in the end zone, Cordarrelle Patterson headed right, found a seam, cut back toward the middle and out-raced the coverage unit for a touchdown and a 27-17 lead just 13 seconds into the third quarter. The 104-yard return gave the Vikings two 100-yard plays in a game for the first time in franchise history.

STAT OF THE GAME

5 & 27: The Cardinals offense managed only five first downs and 27 total yards in the second half when the line failed Palmer the most, allowing four sacks, including three in the fourth quarter

HE SAID IT

“We took it on the chin,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It’s real frustrating, man. It’s looking real cloudy as far as the playoff picture. They deserved to win. They wanted it more than us.”

NOTED

– Fitzgerald extended his streak with a reception to 189 straight games, the fourth-longest in NFL history.

– Justin Bethel, a three-time Pro Bowl selection on special teams, had his first career blocked extra point.

– Mike Iupati exited the game, missing a handful of snaps in the second quarter with an injured left ankle. He would eventually return.

– Prior to the game, the Vikings honored their late coach Dennis Green, who also coached the Cardinals.

– Among the Cardinals’ inactives were injured players Tyrann Mathieu, Corey Peters and Tharold Simon.

UP NEXT

It’s another road game.

The Cardinals travel to Atlanta for a game against the Falcons on Sunday, Nov. 27. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. MST with pregame coverage beginning four hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Falcons have won three of the past four matchups, including the most recent meeting in Atlanta in 2014, 29-18.

The Cardinals’ last win in the series was in 2013, 27-13, at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Cardinals’ last win in Atlanta was in 1993. They have dropped seven straight at the Georgia Dome.

Overall, the Cardinals lead 16-13 in the all-time series, dating back to 1966.

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