It will likely go a bit unnoticed this week, but the Vikings defense was dominant in Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. It will go unnoticed because Arizona finished with 24 points and because the Vikings had such a sensational offensive performance in the 4th quarter and overtime.
But it won’t go unnoticed here. The bottom line is the defense allowed just 10 points (Arizona scored TDs on a kickoff return and a fumbled kickoff by the Vikings), held Arizona to 95 yards in the 2nd half and recorded 6 sacks. And if not for their effort, the offense wouldn’t have been in position to spark a dramatic comeback victory.
The peak of the Vikings defensive performance came at the game’s most crucial moments. The Vikings offense was just stymied at the goal line and Arizona took over on their own 1. The Vikings held Arizona to a quick 3-and-out, which allowed the Vikings offense to drive down the field quickly on the ensuing possession and score a TD to make the score 24-17 in favor of the visiting Cardinals.
Then the Vikings defense held Arizona to another 3-and-out on the next drive, which set up Brett Favre and Co. for the eventual game-tying drive when TE Visanthe Shiancoe came down with a dramatic TD. The Vikings defense held Arizona on a last-second possession to force overtime.
One more time the defense came up big. Another 3-and-out series for Arizona, this one in overtime. The Vikings drove down the field and Ryan Longwell kicked a game-winning 35-yard FG.
In those 4 possessions, the Vikings sacked Cardinals QB Derek Anderson 4 times and held Arizona’s offense to -8 yards in 12 plays.
“We knew it was on us and we wanted to get the ball back for number four and the boys,” LB E.J. Henderson said after the game, “and we knew that they could put up some money and we got it back to them and they scored.”
Another factor that should not go unnoticed is the raucous Mall of America Field crowd, which came alive late in the game and was at its loudest in a long time. The noise clearly impacted Arizona’s offense and provided the Vikings with an advantage.
“They really feed off that crowd,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of his team. “That’s really an advantage that we’ve come to expect here at the Metrodome, raising the roof off that place. They feed off the positive energy. That’s huge.”
Here are a few more notes on the Vikings defensive performance:
— Arizona had 6 drives that went 3-and-out
— Vikings held Arizona to 20 yards or less on 8 of 11 drives
— Arizona had negative yardage on 2 drives
— Cardinals had multiple 1st downs on just 2 of 11 drives
Very impressive work by Leslie Frazier’s group. Here’s what a few of the key defenders had to say following the game…
“We were making him (Derek Anderson) move all game; he just made some plays. He didn’t just sit in the pocket, he was good with the ball and moving around. We just finally corralled him there at the end, and it was good to do that. That’s how we needed to be playing all year.” — DT Kevin Williams
“I think we had him (Anderson) on his heels a little bit. The crowd had a great impact for us, and the D-line had a little bit quicker step, it seemed like. I think his eyes went quickly from down the field to the rush and everyone around him. That’s what we need in those situations. That’s why it’s fun to play at home.” — LB Ben Leber
“I definitely feel like it was a turning point. It was a crucial four or five minutes and we showed the type of team that we are and the type of heart we have and the camaraderie of the team. As you can see this locker room is like a playoff win so it’s definitely big for us and hopefully it will get us rolling.” — Henderson
“All the guys calmed down. We said, ‘It’s our season. If we lose this game, that’s it, really.’ If we lost, that would have basically been it for us. So, everybody just calmed down and everybody started playing better.” — DT Pat Williams
Tags: Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams
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