Man, that was one hell of a game. It was one of the most evenly matched, back-and-forth, topsy-turvy games you’ll ever see. The Cardinals should count themselves lucky to have come away with a win.
This game had it all: good, bad, and ugly. Appropriate for a week in which the 91-year-old(!) Clint Eastwood has a new movie out, let’s run through the GBU gamut for this instant classic.
Kliff Kingsbury Winning the Coaching Battle
I’m on record as being down on Kliff heading into this season, but it’s hard to argue against the job he’s done through two games. After a bit of a shaky 1st quarter in Tennessee, we completely de-pants the Titans, and then Kliff thoroughly outcoached Mike Zimmer, a relatively well-regarded veteran coach, on Sunday. Kliff was aggressive but not foolish and trusted his players, especially his kicker, whereas Zimmer had several questionable punts and trusted his kicker too much, which is historically a bad idea where the Vikings are concerned. Looking ahead, Kliff was nowhere near the college coach Urban Meyer was, but he should prove himself the far better NFL coach so far against the Jaguars this weekend.
Rondale Moore and Maxx Williams
Surely somewhere, someone won a bet that Moore and Williams would be the top two receivers for the Redbirds on Sunday. Not DeAndre Hopkins, not Christian Kirk, not even A.J. Green. Instead, it was the 2nd-round rookie and unsung veteran TE who led the Cardinals aerial attack against the Vikings. Moore was simply electric and looks like just the shiny new toy Kliff has had on his wishlist for years, and Williams was Kyler’s security blanket over the middle in the face of a strong Vikings pass rush. These two won’t do this every week, but it’s good to know this team has the depth of skill position talent that someone new can step up each week alongside DHop.
2nd-Half Run Defense
We’ll get to the 1st-half run defense in a minute, but the front seven balled out of their minds in the second half against Dalvin Cook on Sunday. Yes, he was banged up, but he had shredded us in the 1st half, piling up over 100 yards against a unit that had completely bottled Derrick Henry up last week. Guess they got their mojo back at halftime. And this wasn’t a function of gameflow, either—this was a one-score game the entire 2nd half. The front seven stepped up big tie in the second half.
1st-Half Run Defense
See above. Running behind an offensive line that was considered below-average at best, Cook got just about anything he wanted for the first 30 minutes. He mostly gashed us up the middle, showing nifty cutting ability and incredible burst. Hell, ever Kirk Cousins had a 29-yard run against us in the first half. Our D-line was being pushed around and our LBs were chasing dust—a far cry from what we saw in Tennessee. Here’s hoping we see more of a 2nd-half effort against James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, and the Jaguars running attack in Week 3.
The Cardinals’ Final Possession
In case you’ve forgotten this 3-and-out in the ensuing madness, let me paint the picture for you. The Cardinals had stalled in the red zone and taken the lead on a short Matt Prater FG on their previous drive, then had forced a Vikings 3-and-out to get the ball back on our 39 with just under 3 minutes to play (and the Vikings had all three timeouts). We needed to keep the clock moving and get at least one 1st down. Instead, Kyler inexplicably ran out of bounds on 1st down, was sacked on 2nd down, then completed a useless short pass to Chase Edmonds on 3rd down. Not his finest moment. At least we forced them to use two timeouts there. But we only took 36 seconds off the clock and gave Minnesota the ball at their 26 with a timeout AND the 2:00 warning, needing just a FG. An inexcusably bad possession that probably should have cost us the game.
D.J. Humphries’s Day at the Office
Seth called it a “rough day at the office.” A rough day at the office is spilling your coffee on your pants, jamming the printer, and having a meeting run through your lunch break. This wasn’t that. This was spilling coffee on your laptop, clogging the only toilet on your floor, and falling asleep during an important meeting. Humphries, one of the better left tackles in the league, was absolutely railroaded by Danielle Hunter to the tune of 3 sacks and 3 TFLs. It was so bad that Humphries is gonna need to go ahead and come in on Saturday to make up for it. He’ll be better in Jacksonville this weekend, but that was a disastrous performance.
Everything about this play was ugly. Kyler staring down Rondale Moore. Kyler not seeing Nick Vigil right in the middle of the defense. Moore and Josh Jones’s awful attempts at tackling Vigil. (Seriously, Moore was just flailing out there trying to strip the ball. He should watch some BYU highlights.) All the air it took out of the crowd. Just an U-G-L-Y play all around that we’d be talking about a lot more if the Cardinals hadn’t won. (And his other INT was almost as ugly, a careless lob down the middle that was easily picked off by Vikings S Xavier Woods.) At least Patrick Peterson didn’t get in on the INT party.
Patrick Peterson’s Homecoming
No, Pat Pete didn’t get an INT. In fact, he had about as bad of a homecoming game as he could have imagined:
Vikings CB Patrick Peterson allowed four catches for 98 yards and 2 TD against the Cardinals, per @PFF.— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) September 20, 2021
Kyler Murray had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when throwing toward him.
Peterson just plainly wasn’t very good his last couple seasons in the desert, but the version we saw in purple on Sunday was even worse. The Cardinals are much, much better off with trio of Byron Murphy, Robert Alford, and Marco Wilson (who was unfortunately injured and replaced by the serviceable Antonio Hamilton on Sunday) than Peterson and his $10M contract. This is a player who once looked destined for Canton but is now a total liability in coverage. It’s a shame, but it’s all of his own making.
Vikings Play-By-Play Man’s Botched Call
You could easily go with Greg Joseph’s day here. His missed XP loomed large in a game that was ultimately decided by 1 point, and he pushed a very makeable 37-yard game winner as time expired. That’s brutal. But, and say what you will, the job of an NFL kicker is much tougher than a play-by-play announcer. Joseph’s job was to make a kick; all Paul Allen had to do was say whether or not he made it. He failed miserably at that. I almost feel sorry for the poor schlub in Minnesota stuck in traffic listening to the call. “It’s GOOOOD! …no, he missed it!” Allen might have had the worst day of anyone on this list. (Note: Funny enough, Allen was also the play-by-play guy on the infamous Josh McCown-to-Nate Pool TD that knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs back in 2003… and put the Cardinals in position to draft Larry Fitzgerald.)
I still don’t think my blood pressure has come down since Sunday. Yes, the Cardinals were basically gifted a win, but you take any wins you can get in the NFL, and 2-0 is a mighty good place to be, especially in a tough NFC West. A road win against a beatable Jaguars team on Sunday would put us at 3-0 and a monumental early-season game against the Rams on tap.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Not many expected the Vikings to be in this game, much less in a position to win with a few seconds left. If Kliff has truly taken a leap as an NFL head coach, he’ll have these guys ready to play and dispatch the rebuilding Jags. (Kyler limiting the mistakes and the pass rush showing up again would help a lot as well.)
What did you see out there on Sunday, RotBers? Give us your own GBU in the comments.