Maxx Williams, 2nd half defense flip switch for Cardinals vs. Vikings

Sep 19, 2021, 7:45 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2021, 7:25 am
Maxx Williams #87 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball after a reception against the Minneso...
Maxx Williams #87 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball after a reception against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter of the game at State Farm Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

GLENDALE — The Arizona Cardinals sure know how to make things interesting.

Arizona for a second straight game came out the gate not quite running on all cylinders.

Reminiscent of their start against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, the offense shot itself in the foot with penalties. And unlike last week, the defense watched as the Minnesota Vikings turned their first drive into easy points.

But as the saying goes: It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.

Staring at a 20-7 deficit midway through the second quarter, Arizona got the train back on the tracks by the time the clock read 0:00, edging out Minnesota for the 34-33 home-opening win Sunday to move to 2-0 on the season.

By the second quarter, it was clear the Cardinals needed some kind of spark to get things rolling. They found just that in the form of tight end Maxx Williams.

The tight end had himself a day, setting career marks in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (94) in the victory. His overall performance is something to write home about, but it was the play he made in the second quarter that really gave the Cardinals some juice.

“I think the motto’s been, ‘Finish,'” Williams said after the win. “Obviously it wasn’t pretty but we won. This is my third year here. Last year, two games at the end of the year we just had to finish one of them [and we would have] made the playoffs and I think that’s eaten us all year.”

Looking to answer back following two touchdown throws by Kirk Cousins, Arizona started its drive on its own 25-yard line. After a failed flea flicker attempt, quarterback Kyler Murray took to the air once more.

But instead of a short gain, Murray’s throw deflected off of not one but two Vikings before landing in the outstretched hands of Williams. Thirty-four yards later and the Cardinals had a first down and, more importantly, a sign of life.

“They were playing a bunch of two high stuff and doubling Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) a ton,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. “We thought we could work Maxx down the seams and across the middle and he did a great job.

“Really that deflection got us going. We were real stagnant offensively. That got us going and I think woke us up a little bit and so that was a huge play in the game.”

Woke them up it did.

Murray capped off the drive with a 12-yard scamper, cutting the lead to a one-score game.

And much like the offense following the double deflection, the defense came out reenergized, forcing a three-and-out while giving Murray and Co. enough time to make something happen before the half.

The signal caller responded to the defense’s effort, throwing a 77-yard touchdown to a wide open Rondale Moore to give the Cardinals their first lead of the day with 1:46 left in the half.

The two sides traded field goals before the half came to a close, making it 24-23 in favor of Arizona, but there was clearly another gear being reached by the Cardinals that wasn’t quite there at the jump.

The second half was a different ballgame for the Cardinals defense.

After putting up 23 points in the first half, Minnesota’s offense was held to just three points in the final 30 minutes of play. The only touchdown the Vikings saw came off a pick-six from Murray a minute into the third quarter.

But even then, momentum still felt on the Cardinals side.

Cousins’ second half was nothing like his three-touchdown outburst in the first, with the defense holding the quarterback to under 100 yards and no scores over the last two quarters. Running back Dalvin Cook, who finished with 96 rushing yards in the first half, only managed 35 on his last nine attempts of the day.

It wasn’t the cleanest game by any means. There’s obviously some things to work on come Wednesday, starting with the first-quarter offense. But for now, they can sit back and enjoy a 2-0 start to the season for a second straight year.

“Obviously a win is a win, right? You can’t take that for granted,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said postgame. “It’s tough to get wins in this league, so when you get one you gotta enjoy it and learn from it.

“There’s opportunities out there for us to really be a dominant team. A lot of it is execution and it felt defensively we really settled in that second half. But that first half we didn’t come out with that same strike that we had versus Tennessee. A lot to clean up, but again, a win is a win.”

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Maxx Williams, 2nd half defense flip switch for Cardinals vs. Vikings