Vikings 35, Cardinals 14

The frozen North has been living up to its name the last few days, but the Vikings have provided a welcome shot of warmth with the way they’ve been playing.  This weekend the hot Vikes went into balmy Arizona, a place that has been a house-of-horrors for them in the past (McCown to Poole anyone?), and showed why it’s about time people started taking them seriously as contenders in the NFC.  Yes, I said it, and I’m not ashamed of it – this team is for real.  What else do they need to do to prove it?  They took hold of first place by beating up their division rivals the Bears at home, then avoided the ultimate trap-game in Detroit, then took their show on the road and knocked the piss out of a Cardinals team that was supposed to put them in their place via aerial assault.  It was a thoroughly dominating performance by the Purple – maybe more dominating than their win over the Bears, and certainly more impressive given that it happened on the road under late-season pressure.  That’s the kind of game the Vikes are supposed to lose or, at best, win on a fluke.  Instead they took the Cardinals by their scrawny necks, shook them and tossed them away.

The Vikings scored early and often:  Bernard Berrian via punt return; Tarvaris Jackson to Bernard Berrian on a sweet sideline pattern (Berrian was tightly covered but what does it matter when you have TD-Jack tossing the ball?); Sidney Rice on a laser-beam six-yarder from T-Jack.  21-0 before the end of the first quarter.  Cardinals shell-shocked.  Vikings fans not only out-screaming Cardinals fans but possibly out-numbering them.  What would prove the image that best summed-up this beat down?  How about Jared Allen waving his arms to fire the crowd up?  Just call U of Phoenix Stadium Metrodome West from now on.

Superlatives Heaped on T-Jack

Tarvaris Jackson, pressed into starting duty after Gus Frerotte‘s back fracture, achieved a measure of vindication for both himself and the man who drafted him, Brad Childress, by going 11/17 for 163 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Three of said touchdowns were high-difficulty throws executed with a precision I frankly didn’t think Jackson was capable of.  The fourth, a double-move/pump-fake 59 yarder to Bobby Wade, was so beautiful it made the angels weep (and Adrian Wilson‘s “help” coverage probably made Ken Whisenhunt weep or perhaps yell swear words).  If Tarvaris can play this well for the rest of the season and into the playoffs…well, then there’s no reason he shouldn’t be brought back as the starter next year.  Either way, it appears the Gus Frerotte era has ended in Minnesota, and I’m not sad to see it go.

Ground Game

The Vikings have not always lived up to their reputation as a dominating force in the running game this season, but yesterday they did, plowing the Cardinals’ defense to the tune of 239 yards.  Adrian Peterson flew by Robert Smith to claim the single-season team rushing record by racking up 165 on 28 carries, while Chester Taylor, normally more a receiving threat than a running one, had his high-game of the year by carrying 10 times for 66.  Chester added four catches for 37 yards and a TD, and showed again that a quarterback’s best friend is a running back who can make yards on screens (short passes becoming long gains – there’s no better stat-padder).  The Vikings’ offensive weapons all showed up, with the exception of Visanthe Shiancoe, who caught only one ball for 8 yards (and thankfully kept it in his pants while cameras were on him).

What A Defense

The game-plan against Kurt Warner is pretty basic – hit him in the mouth and watch him get rattled.  The Vikings took this to heart yesterday and began blitzing Warner right off the bat.  And why not blitz him?  You know the Cards aren’t going to run it.  The onslaught was relentless, and by the third quarter, it honestly looked like Warner was again contemplating retirement.  Maybe if the Cardinals could block Warner would have fewer bruises and a better feeling about the future.  Jared Allen has undressed a few left tackles this year, but what he did to Mike Gandy yesterday should be illegal.  And what made it sweeter was that the secondary play, for once, equaled the D-line.  It was a total defensive effort.  The high-flying Cards were left not only grounded but befuddled.  And the Vikings left Arizona needing only one more win or one Bears loss to sew up the NFC North title and the first playoff berth of the Brad Childress era.

Other Notes:

Chad Greenway had seven tackles, half a sack and what felt like about 10 tipped passes.  He probably won’t make the Pro Bowl but he probably should.

Jared Allen’s two sacks gave him 14.5 on the year – 5.5 more than his old team the Chiefs have altogether.  Oh dear.

One of these days Naufahu Tahi is going to get more than 2 yards on a reception and I hope I’m there to see it.

Ryan Cook started for an injured Artis Hicks and mostly didn’t embarrass himself, though he did have a false start during a stretch of three on one possession for the Vikes.

Pat Williams left the game with a shoulder injury.  His arm was in a sling afterward and it looks like he may be done for the season.

Adrian Peterson had another fumble that was reversed after a Chilly challenge.  Please hold onto the ball AD.  It would be so sad for you to have this awesome year then be remembered for coughing one up during the playoffs or something.

I hate Joe Buck more than words can express.  Horse-faced creep.  I wish he’d get run over by a FedEx truck. I wish Troy Aikman would kick him in the nuts.

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Tags: Adrian Peterson Adrian Wilson Arizona Cardinals Artis Hicks Bernard Berrian Bobby Wade Brad Childress Chad Greenway Chester Taylor Chicago Bears Detroit Lions Gus Frerotte Jared Allen Joe Buck Kansas City Chiefs Ken Whisenhunt Kurt Warner Mike Gandy Minnesota Vikings Naufahu Tahi Nfc North Pat Williams Robert Smith Ryan Cook Sidney Rice Tarvaris Jackson Troy Aikman Visanthe Shiancoe

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