Series: Vikings lead 13-10
Last Meeting: Minnesota needed a crazy comeback to top Arizona 27-24 in overtime last season. This was the finalmagic moment in Brett Favre‘s career. Favre was 36-47 for career-high 446 yards, but started the game with an interception on Minnesota’s first drive, then threw another pick on 2nd and goal from the Cardinals’ 2 yard line.
The Cardinals had a 24-10 lead and the nail appeared the be in the coffin after Favre threw an incomplete pass intended for Jeff Dugan on 4th and goal from the Cardinals’ 1 with just 6:26 remaining. But the Vikings’s defense forced a three and out and Favre quickly drove them 40 yards for a touchdown. Another three and out and punt set the Vikings up with the ball on their own 23 with 2:24 left. Favre led another efficient drive for a touchdown. The Vikings’ defense made another stop in overtime before Ryan Longwell ended the game with a 35-yard field goal. Maybe the magic was actually with the defense? Feels like we won’t see that kind of shut-down performance this week.
Current Streak(s): Minnesota has won three of the last four. And eight of the last 10. And ten of the last thirteen if you want to go back to the 1991 season, when the NFL’s kooky schedule called for the Cardinals and Vikings to play each other twice in three weeks, even though they weren’t (and have never been) in the same division (with 28 teams and uneven divisions there was no way to have any kind of uniformity in the schedule back then).
The Cardinals have been part of several pivotal moments in recent Vikings history, maybe more than any other non-NFC North/Central team (except the Giants? They are always popping up in the schedule and in the playoffs). Starting with the most recent: the final fourth quarter comeback of Favre’s career in 2010; E.J. Henderson’s gruesome leg injury in 2009; Tarvaris Jackson’s weird (and awesome, for him) comeback (from the bench) in 2008 that helped Minnesota inch closer to clinching the NFC North; Josh McCown’s hail mary that knocked Minnesota out of the playoffs in 2003; a 1998 divisional playoff game.
The Henderson play was the beginning of a four game stretch that put some of us into a panic. The 2009 Vikings had stormed to a very convincing 10-1 start. Then a Sunday night game in Arizona brought Minnesota back to earth in a hurry: it was one of those games where it felt like everything went wrong, especially when Henderson was lost for the season on a tackle near the end of the game (Minnesota lost 30-17). The Vikings lost three of four in December and almost ended up playing a wildcard game. We all remember what happened after that.
The 2008 Jackson-Berrian game (as I am now calling it) was maybe a bigger shock to the system than the Henderson game in 2009. The Vikings were riding a three-game winning streak that had propelled them to the top of the NFC North, but even though Jackson had filled in for Gus Frerotte the week before in Detroit and pulled off a win, travelling to Arizona was a tough matchup. The Cardinals also came into the game 8-5, and their passing offense was walking up and down the field against everybody they played. Plus, Jackson had been so bad in Weeks 1 and 2 that season that Brad Childress had to turn to Gus Frerotte. The Vikings went up 21-0 in the first quarter thanks to a Berrian punt return for a touchdown and a nice bomb from Jackson to Berrian for a score. Sidebar/Rant: There are a number of common emotions that I associate with watching the Vikings: pure-joy (one example: watching Randy Moss in that 2000 divisional playoff game against the Saints); boredom (anytime Brad Johnson was involved); despair (the last seven games of Daunte Culpepper’s career with the Vikings); I-can-die-happy-now (Vikings win at Lambeau in the playoffs, over Favre!). The 2008 Cardinals game introduced a new and maybe indescribable feeling. All I remember is wondering whether I had entered a different dimension. Four touchdowns and no interceptions for T-Jack? So he was only 11-17 for 163 yards and he reverted to regular-Tarvaris almost immediately. It was still a huge game for the Vikings (they won 35-14).
The 2003 game featured arguably the most painful moment/series of plays in modern Vikings history (OK, it’s a close second). The Vikings were one play away from clinching a playoff spot, but also one play away from keeping Green Bay out of the postseason. And that one play was a hail mary with no time remaining that was ruled complete based on a highly questionable application of the force-out rule. Nightmare.
The last game I listed was the 1998 divisional playoff game. The Vikings rolled the Cardinals, that season’s feel-good story, pretty easily. It was the classic Leroy Hoard day: 11 carries, 44 yards, and three touchdowns while Robert Smith picked up 124 yards but never got to touch the ball near the goal line.
The good news this week? The only thing that would make this game “pivotal” is if Christian Ponder gets to see his first NFL action.