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2015 Regular Season
Preview: Vikings @ Cards

Last MInute News, Rumors etc.:
(Updated regularly if or when needed) -

Setting the Stage:
Thursday night game on a national stage. Both teams will be dealing with short workweeks coming off physical games (Minnesota got blacktopped by Seattle. Cardinals beat. the Rams handily. It's the beginning of Snow Bird season, and we're already hearing that Packers fans from Wisconsin (who are said to travel well or have moved to the Valley are snapping up tickets.
No reason we can't expect the same thing from Minnesota. So much for home field advantage.

You can look at the 38 - 7 Viking loss to Seattle in two different ways: (1) Minnesota isn't really very good or (2) The Vikings are tied with the Packers for the NFC North lead, are embarrassed by the lopsided loss vs. Seattle and will come out fighting for survival. (Cards have to expect the latter). WIth Seattle 3 games back and facing four tough games vs. Minnesota, Philly, Green Bay and Seattle, Coach Arians and his merry men cannot afford to ease-up on the gas pedal.

Opponent's Last Game
The Vikings got blown out by Seattle 38 to 7. It was a pretty close game heading midway thru the second quarter, but a couple of crucial penalties gave Seattle a 14-point lead with 2:04 left till halfime. An additional comedy of errors (penaties and a pick) added another 7 points to the Seattle lead, and the 'Hawks were ahead 21 - 0 at halftime. Vikes were never able to recover and Seattle won going away. Three factors that leaped out: (1) killer penalties, inability (or unwillingness) to get Adrian Peterson going on the ground and (2) inability by Vikes to stop long time consuming Seattle drives that ended in TD's instead of FG's.

First Quarter
Seattle received. Lockett returned the KO to the Seahawk 49. But on the 4th play from scrimmage, Rawls fumbled. Exum recovered. Minny ball on their own 30. Vikes were held to 3 & out. (Bridgewater was sacked for minus-3). Punt was downed at the Seattle 19. Wilson engineered a 12 play (7:39) TD drive capped by a 5-yard scoring run by Rawls. (Longest plays of drive were completions of 14-yards and 14-yards to L Wilson and a short pass to Lockett for 10-yards). Seattle 7 - Minnesota 0.

Minn returned the KO to their own 21. They converted one first down on a contact penalty by K Wright but eventually punted from their own 25.Punt was returned (less penalty) to the Seattle 19. Rawls took offfor +20 over right tackle to end the quarter.

First Quarter Score: Seattle 7 - Minnesota 0.

Second Quarter
Seattle moved from their own 39 to their own 46 before punting. Sherels returned it to the Minny 25. A 25-yard pass from Bridgewater to M Wallace was undermined on the next play by minus-6 yard tackle of Diggs on an end around. Vikes punted from their own 39. Ball was downed at the Seattle 2-yard line. This time, Wilson engineered a 13-play (6:15) scoring drive punctuated by a R Wilson 8-yard scoring scramble. (Key plays: Rawls up the middle for +19 and a 29-yard deep pass to Lockett for 29 yards with a roughness penalty on Exum tacked on. On the next play, Robison sacked Wilson for minus-8 but was flagged for roughness. Three plays later, Wilson scrambled in from the Minnesota 8. Seattle 14 - Minnesota 0.

KO was returned t the Minny 14. Five plays later (with 1:21 on the clock) Bridgewater's pass for Diggs was intercepted by E Thomas and a face-mask penalty on Diggs tacked on another 15-yards. Seattle ball on the Minny 20 with 1:08 in the half. Wilson put a dagger into the Vikes with a 20-yard scoring strike up the middle. Seattle 21 - Minnesota 0.

TB on the KO. Vikes picked up one first down before having to punt on 4th & 10 from their own 30. Punt was blocked and rolled out of bounds with no time left on the clock.

First Half Score: Seattle 21 - Minnesota 0.

Third Quarter
KO was returned by the Vikjes to their own 21. An offensive pass interference call contributed to a 3 & out. Punt was returned to the Viking 42 (The punter - Locke - was injured on the play). A 14-yard scramble helped set up a 5-yard TD pass to F Jackson. Seattle 28 - Minnesota 0.

KO was returned by the Vikes to the Minny 16 yard line. The following penalties on Minnesota - Holding (-10)Pass Interference (-10), Illegal Block Above Waist (-10) set up a Viking punt from their own 18. Punt (net penalty on Seattle) was out of bounds. Seattle ball on their own 25. Five plays later, Wilson circled LE for 53-yards but the apparent TD was nullified by a holding penalty which spotted the ball on the Seattle 47. On the very next play Wilson hit Baldwin down the middle for a 53-yard score. Seattle 35 - Minnesota 0.

Patterson returned the KO 101 yards for Minnesota's only score of the day. Seattle 35 - Minnesota 7.

TB on the KO. Seattle moved to its own 35 to end the quarter.

Third Quarter Score: Seattle 35 - Minnesota 7.

Fourth Quarter
Seattle completed the final 13 plays of a 15 yard drive capped by a 23-yard Hauschka FG. Seattle 38 - Minnesota 7.

KO was returned by Minnesota to their own 25. They managed to move to near midfield but, after 8 plays, turned over the ball on downs on own 47. 4:32 left. The two teams exchanged three and outs before T Jackson took 2 knees to end the game.

Final Score: Seattle 38 - Minnesota 7.

Meaningful Game Stats

Passing - Bridgewater was 17 for 28 but for only 118 yards, no Td's and one interception. (Wilson was 21 for 27, 274 yds, 3 tD's and no picks).

Receiving - A RB (Peterson) led in receptions with 4 catches. Four others had 2 - 3 catches apiece.

Rushing - Peterson was held to just 18 yards (he only carried the ball 8 times). By contrast, Rawls gained 101 yards (1 TD) and Wilson scrambled for 51 more).

Pass Defense - Vikes gave up 260 net passing yards while only gaining 94.

Run Defense - Vikes surrendered 173 net rushing yards while only gaining 31.

Turnovers - +0 (1 pick and 1 recovered fumble).

Tackles - Blanton led with 9 followed by Floyd and Greenway (6) and Exum, and Rhodes (with 5 apiece).

Sacks - 2 by Robison (Seattle had 4).

Third Down Efficiency - 2 for 10 (20%). Seattle had 9 for 13 (69%)

Net Rushing Yards - 31 (for 1.9 ypc) . (Seattle had 173 (4.8 ypc)

Run/Pass Ratio: 16/28

Net Punting Average - 36.4 (vs. 27.0 for Seattle influenced by the 101 yarder by Patterson).

Penalties - 9 for 95 yards (Seattle was flagged 9 times for 65 yards).

Red Zone Efficiency: Vikes - 0 for zippo (0%). Seattle: 3 for 4 (75%).

Time of Possession: Vikes: 24:50. Seattle: 35:10

Meaningful Viking Season Stats (prior to Sunday's games)

First Downs: Vikes 214 - Opponents 216

First Downs (Rushing): Vikes 87 - Opponents 62

First Downs (Passing): Vikes 105 - Opponents 125

Receiving: Diggs (42 catches, 604 yds., 15.1 ypr, 2 TD's, Rudolph (36 catches, 604 yards, 9.5 ypc, 4 TD's, , Wallace (28 catches, 318 yards, 11.4 ypc , 1 TD and Peterson (23 catches, 183 yards, 8.0 ypc & 0 TD's) lead Ram receivers.

Passing Yards: Bridgewater has completed 65.2% of his passes (7.1 ypa) with 8 TD's and 7 interceptions. He's been sacked 30 times and lost 229 yards from sacks/lost-yardage.

Rushing: Peterson is the bell cow with 237 carries for 1,164 yards (4.9 ypc), an 80 yard long-gainer and 8 TD). Next most active ballcarrier is Bridgewater with 34 (& 2 TD's)

Sacks: Vike defenders have racked up 25 sacks. Minnesota QB's have been sacked 31 times.

Defense - Vikes spread around the tackles, with Barr leading the defense with 61 tackles followed by Kendricks (55), Joseph (54), H Smith (54), Sendejo (41) and 4 others with 30 or more.

Field Goals: Not 100% consistent. Walsh has kicked 24 of 29 FG attempts with his misses evenly distributed among the 30 - 39, 40 - 49 and Over 50 ranges.

Interceptions: Total of 8. Terrance Newman leads the Vikes with 3.

Time of Possession: Vikes 31.20 - Opponents 29:11

Turnover Ratio: +3

Rosters/Match-ups

Viking Offense

WR1.11 Wallace ..........17 Wright...........84 Patterson     
TE....82 Rudolph............83 Pruitt............85.Ellison
LT.....75 Kalil.................74 Shephard                    
LG....63 Fusco             
C      61 Berger.............62 Easton     
RG   79 Harris..............67 Kerin     
RT.....68 Clemmings....78 Siries            
WR2.14 Diggs.............12 C Johnson......19 Thielen                       
QB    05 Bridgewater...13 S Hill...............06 Heinicke
RB....28 Peterson.........,31 McKinnon.....44 Asiata 
FB....48 Z Line          

Cardinal Defense

DE        93 Campbell..........90 Redding......71 Bryant
NT        95 Gunter...............69 X Williams                
DT        92 Rucker..............73 Mauro........72 Stinson                    
SLB      44 Golden.......... ..54 Freeney......56 Riddick
ILB       20 Bucannon.........59 Fua       
ILB       51 Minter...............55 Weathrspoon             
WLB    57 Okafor...............96 Martin
LCB     21 Peterson...........27 C White                   
RCB    25 Powers.............28 Bethel               
SS       26 R Johnson.........22 Jefferson              
FS       32 Mathieu.

Matchup: Ram Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Bridgewater, when on his game, is an accurate, heady and mistake free young QB who can use the threat of play action to Peterson to his advantage. Viking OL appears to be unspectacular, and allowed Bridgewater to be sacked 4 times Sunday. Diggs is the leading Minny receiver, with their TE (Rudolph) next in line followed by Mike Wallace. Peterson and J Wright are #4 and #5 WR's.

The Card pass rush is characterized less by total sacks or sack leaders and more "by committee" who forces the passer to hurry his throws.

Cards are deep and talented at both safety and corner (though the absence of Powers does pose some challenges re physicality and corner depth though Bethel has stepped in admirably). They need to remain fundamentally sound (as they did vs. the Rams) maintaining gap discipline, hurrying Bridgewater, employing sound ball techniques and staying with their man. .

Key Matchups: P Peterson and Bethel vs. Diggs and Wallace. R Johnson vs. Rudolph. Minter and Mathieu vs. A Peterson. Card "pass rush vs. committee" vs. Viking O line.

Matchup: Ram Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
We expect Peterson to carry the ball much more than 8 times. Bridgewater is a heady scrambler and must be accounted for on every defensive down.

Key Matchups: Peterson vs. "everyone" (gap discipline). Stinson, Mauro, Gunter and/or Campbell vs. Viking O line. Mathieu and Bucannon vs. Bridgwater.


Cardinal Offense

WR1     11 Fitzgerald..13 Jar Brown......10 Golden   
LT         68 Veldheer....79 Sowell                      
LG        76 Iupati.........62 Larsen                     
C          63 Sendlein....53 Shipley                    
RG       61 Cooper                   
RT        70 Massie.......78 Watford.........74 Humphreys                     
TE        85 Fells...........87 Niklas           
WR2    15 M. Floyd.....12 John Brown...14 Nelson              
QB       03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........09 Barkley        
RB       38 Ellington.....27 C Johnson....30 Taylor............33 K Williams
TE        84 Gresham

Viking Defense

LDE........96 Robison.......95 Crichton 
DT..........73 Floyd............92 T Johnson       
NT.........98 L Joseph......72 K Ellis        
RDE.......97 Griffen.........94 Trattou.............99 Hunter 
SLB.......55 Barr..............51 E Robinson     
MLB......54 Kendricks.....93 Trusnik                       
WLB......52 Greenway.....58 T Watts   
LCB .....23 Newman.......26 Waynes...........21 J Robinson     
SS........34 Sendejo........36 Blanton
FS   ......22 H Smith......,32 Exum Jr.     
RCB......29 X Rhodes.....24 Munnerlyn......35 Sherels

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Ram Pass Defense
When Palmer has time, he can be deadly. In the past - when he hadn't, he was prone to making some bad decisions. He's been better of late; especially with a bevy of dangerous receiving weapons to throw to in Fitz., Floyd, the two Browns and Nelson. (Note - Our starting TE Gresham was hurt in the Ram game and his status at this time remains unknown - which means that Fells may become our next dude up). Card pass protectors had a tough time vs. SF pass rushers but rebounded nicely vs. a very tough and physical Ram pass rushing crew.

Robison had two sacks vs. Seattle. Joseph and Barr may be banged up; but if they can suit up, they too can "bring it."

Palmer is at his best when he can parlay an extra half-second into intermediate to deep passes for chunk yardage. But the key here is buying him the extra half second. Otherwise, he'll be forced to throw underneath, throw swings or circles to his RB's or hit his TE down the short seam. Then his offensive production becomes a matter of whether we can pose enough of a threat in the run game - which is what we were able to do vs. St. Louis.

Key Matchups: Vehldeer and Iupati (& a RB) vs. Robison, Joseph and Barr. Fitz, Floyd, John Brown and Nelson vs. Newman, Rhodes and Munnerlyn.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Ram Run Defense
With C Johnson (cracked tibia) and Ellington unable to suit up, it was up to David Johnson, (PB hero) Kerwynn Williamis and Stephon Taylor to pick up the slack and they did so admirably vs. StL. D JOhnson gained 99 yards and L Williams had one long TD run. Card RB's were aided by considerably improved run-blocking by Card linemen and receivers. How well we run the ball has a direct relationship to how much time Palmer can hold onto the ball and pick out his receivers.

Last Sunday, the Vikes couldn't stop Rawls and Seattle's scrambling QB (Wilson). We have to expect that the Minnesota coaches will be questioning the manhood of every Viking run-blocker between now and Thursday. (Nevertheless - until the Vikes prove they can stop our RB's, I expect us to "pound it."

Key Matchups: D Johnson vs. the Minny Front 7. K Williams vs. the Minny Back 7.

Special Teams

Vikes

        18 Locke                           
K         03 Walsh                          
H        18 Locke   
LS       47 McDermott                                
KR      84 Patterson                            
PR      35 Sherels

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                                   
H          02 Butler                             
LS        82 Leach                                  
KR       31 D Johnson.....10 Golden          
PR       21 Peterson

Matchup: Niner Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Walsh is 24 for 29 (with a miss or two at each general distance). Locke has a bit lighter leg than Viking opposing punters - plus, he may be a bit banged up this week. Memo to Catanzaro: Do not (I repeat: do not) kick the ball anywhere near Patterson - who took one back 101 yards vs. Seattle).

Although the home run potential is there, Peterson, Mathieu, Golden, Nelson. D Johnson & Co. are not consistently breaking off long returns the way they were expected. Butler has become more solid but not "money" inside the 20.. We like the way Cat Man has consistently put the ball into the back of the end zone, but every three games or so, he'll hurt us with a missed XP..

Key matchups: "Everyone" vs. Patterson. Catanzaro vs. the back of the end zone. Butler vs. the sideline. Bethel and Campbell vs. Walsh

Coaching
Minn: Zimmer is Viking HC. (He's considered funnier than just about any other HC in the pros right now). He has a defensive background, but has Norv Turner coaching his offense. (Norv is known for assembling a vertical passing game around play action and waggles off the "I."

AZ: Bruce Arians comes across as having an "old school" coaching style but unafraid of new approaches or to stretch the play-calling envelope. HIs motto: "No risk-it/no biscuit." A fun guy to follow - and he backs it up with solid coaching fundamentals (he has a huge staff of teaching-coaches from diverse backgrounds) and a record of proven success. Impressive stack of W's hasn't hurt his credibility with the players any.

We expect Coach Zimmer and his staff to constantly remind the Vikes that they were (1) embarrassed Sunday and (2) may blow a playoff spot now that they're tied with the Packers for the NFC North lead. And we expect BA to have Cardinal players check their press-clipping at the door and face Thursday's contest as though it was a playoff game (which is what the Vikes no doubt will be doing).

Last Word
Cards have four games left to play - With Philly's dismemberment of the Pats, all four will be playoff-intensity contests vs. tough opponents (Vikes, Eagles, Packers and Seattle). Despite the three game lead, blink once and watch your playoff chances go "bye-by."


 
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