Cancel the amber alert, the Minnesota Vikings defense has been found safe-and-sound.
The Vikings defense returned to form on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium beating up the Arizona Cardinals, ending their four-game losing streak with a, 30-24 win. Minnesota sacked quarterback Carson Palmer four times, picked him off twice and had two 100-yard scores, keeping pace with the Detroit Lions in the NFC North.
Arizona was limited to 290 yards of offense as Palmer was harassed all game long, completing only 20-of-38 for 198 yards, hitting him 15 times for a quarterback rating of 63.3.
Sam Bradford (20-of-28, 169 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 98.7 rating) threw an first-quarter touchdown to Adam Thielen, giving the Vikings an early 7-0 lead. Arizona featured a heavy dose of David Johnson in the first half, capping off a 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive.
Following a Cardinal field goal, new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur dialed up some trickeration. Out of the wildcat, Jerick McKinnon swept right, handing off to Bradford who was split out wide. Bradford had just enough time to chuck it deep to Thielen at the goal line. Arizona was flagged for pass interference, setting up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Matt Asiata, putting Minnesota up 13-10. New kicker Kai Fortbath’s extra-point attempt was blocked.
From there the Vikings defense roared to life. Xavier Rhodes (2 INT, TD) picked off Palmer at the goal line, jetting 100 yards for a score, the first touchdown of his career. Rhodes added another interception of Palmer in the second half.
The Cardinals mounted a 75-yard drive, ending with a 29-yard touchdown catch by Jermaine Gresham to close out the half, cutting the Vikings halftime lead to 20-17.
Cordarrelle Patterson made sure Arizona’s momentum didn’t last. The outstanding return man opened the third quarter with a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, putting the Vikings up 27-17. Forbath added a short field goal later in the quarter and Minnesota looked like it was ready to run away with this one, leading 30-17.
But in typical Viking fashion, Arizona was allowed to claw its way back. T.J. Clemmings, who all things considered did fairly well back at left tackle, gave up a strip sack of Bradford, handing the Cardinal a short field. Johnson made Minnesota pay for the mistake, catching a 4-yard touchdown pass from Palmer that cut the lead to 30-24.
The Vikings promptly went three-and-out on their next series, giving Palmer and the Cardinals a chance to take the lead. Danielle Hunter came up with a huge second-down sack, something Minnesota hasn’t done during its four-game losing streak, forcing an Arizona punt.
Again the Vikings couldn’t salt the clock away, forced into another three-and-out. But a beautiful Jeff Locke punt flipped the field, giving the Minnesota defense one last chance to seal the team’s first victory in over a month. Harrison Smith came up with a sack but the drive was extended on a questionable roughing the passer call on a Tom Johnson hit in the end zone. But even as the collective stomachs of Vikings fans started to rise in their chests, the defense made a stand. Hunter sacked Palmer on fourth down, sealing the win for Minnesota.
The Vikings now head into Detroit on Thanksgiving for a matchup with the Lions that will decide first place in the division.