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2018 Regular Season
Preview: Cards @ Vikes

Setting the Stage:
Vikes are 2 - 2 - 1. Cards are 1 & 4. Those Cardinal fans who watched the Vikes beat the Eagles are forecasting doom for the Denizons of the Desert.

Cards won their first game last week in wierd fashion - they were pulverized by the Niners in just about every aspect of the game, but - as a function of big defensive plays (sacks and turnovers) and a 75-yd "Hail Mary" on the first play of their initial possession - the Cardinals prevailed. (Unlike the Vike- Eagle contest, the Card - Niner galme was a lot closer than the final score suggested.


Vikes' Last Game
They beat the Eagles 23 - 21, building an early lead and hanging on to win by 2. Game wasn't as close as the score indicates.

First Quarter
Minn @ 15:00
TB on KO. Cousins moved the Vikes in 12 plays to the Eagle 10, where Bailey'a 28 yd aftempt was no good.

Philly @ 8:40
Wentz held to 3 & out. (Big Play: 15-yd sack by L Joseph). Johnston's punt returned to midfield.

Minn @ 7:04
Vikes moved to Viking 35 in 5 plays capped by a 37-yd Bailey FG. (Big Play: Cousins to Diggs for +24-yds). Vikes 3 - Philly 0.

Philly @ 5:02
TB on KO. Philly held to 3 & out. Johnston's punts 57 yds

Minn @ 2:51
Vikes ball on their own 10. They moved to their 20 in 4 plays before Cousins was sacked by Graham to end the quarter.

First Quarter Score: Vikes 3 - Philly 0.

Second Quarter
Vikings Continued
Vikess punted 2 plays later.

Philly @ 14:35
Philly ball at their own 33. Wentz hits Gibson for +48 yds on first play of series. Drive stalls at the Minn 12 where Elliott kicked a 30-yard FG. Vikes 3 - Philly 3.

Vikings 12:24
TBon KO. Vikes move from their own 25 to the Philly 27, where ak 45-yd FG attempt by Bailey was no good.

Philly @ 6:53
Philly took over on their own 35. They reached the Minn 31 in 4 plays before Wentz was sacked by Weatherly (for minus-8) and recvored by Linval Joseph who returned it 64-yds for a Viking score. Vikes 10 - Philly 3.

Philly @ 4:06
KO returned to Philly 26. A couple of false start penalties on Eagles helped force a 3 & out. Punt returnes to Minn 44.

Vikings @ 2:45
Cousins puts together a 9-play drive (all passing plays) capped by a 3-yd TD pass to Thielen. Vikes 17 - Philly 3

Philly @ 0:16
KO returned to Minn 10. Quarter ended 1 play later

Second Quarter Score: Vikes 17 - Philly 3

Third Quarter
Philly @ 15:00
KO returned to Philly 27. Wentz moves his team to the Viking 6-yd line in 9 plays before Ajayi's fumble is recovered by Kendricks at the Minn 5.

Vikings @ 9:33
On the first play from scrimmage, Cousins hit Thielen deep right for +68 yds. They get no further than the Eagle 4 where Bailey was good from 22-yds. Vikes 20 - Philly 3

Philly @ 7:28
KO returned to Philly 23. Philly reaches Minn 10-yd line in 7 plays before settling for a 28-yd Elliott FG. (Big Plays: Wentz to Ertz for +16 yds. Wentz to Jeffrey for +31-yds. Wentz to Agholor for +20 yds. Sack by Hunter for minus-8 yds). Vikes 20 - Philly 6

Vikings @ 2:57
TB on KO. Vikes held to 3 & out. Punt rolls out of bounds at the Philly 34.

Philly @ 1:19
A completion of 23 yds to Ertz followed by a 9-yd catch by Smallwood close out the quarter with Eagles 2nd & 1 at the Viking 32.

Third Quarter Score: Vikes 20 - Philly 6

Fourth Quarter
Philly Continued (15:00)
Wentz puts together a 7-play TD drive ending with a 12-yd TD pass to Smallwood. (No other play in the drive exceeded 8-yds). 2-pt try (Smallwood around RE) succeeds. Vikes 20 - Philly 14

Vikings @ 12:05
TB on KO. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Cousins fumbles - recovered by Bradham at the Viking 30.

Philly @ 10:03
(Philly drive interrupted by 4 penalties) & they were forced to punt at the Viking 45. Punt downed at Vikiing 11.

Vikings @ 9:11
Cousins (with healthy doses of L Murray) drained 6:40 off the clock en route to a 11 play drive ending in a 52-yd Bailey FG. Vikes 23 - Philly 14

Philly @ 2:47
TB on KO. After running up the miiddle for +11 yds on the first play, Wentz led the Eagles to the Minn 7-yd line in 7 plays where he hit Zach Ertz for a Philly TD. (Other Key Plays - To Ertz for +20. To Ertz for +15). XP was good. Vikes 23 - Philly 21

(1:07) Onside kick recovered by Thiesen. 2 Knees by Cousins. Game over.

Final Score: Vikes 23 - Philly 21


Last Game Stats


First Downs: Minn 19 - Phil 21
Rush-Yds-TDs: Minn 23-77-0 / Phil 17-81-0
Cmp-Att-Yd-TD:-INT: Minn 30-37-301-1-0/ Phil 24-35-311-2-0
Sacked-Yards: Minn1-3 /Phil 3-28
Net Pass Yard:
Minn 298 /Phil 283
Total Yards: Minn 375 /Phil 364
Fumbles-Lost:
Min n2-1 /Phil 2-2
Turnovers:
Minn 1/ Phil 2
Penalties-Yards:
Minn 4-23 /Phil 8-52
Third Down Conv.:
Minn 4-11 /Phil 2-9
Fourth Down Conv.:
Minn 0-0 /Phil 1-1
Time of Possession:
Minn 32:47 /Phil 27:13

Receiving - Diggs caught 10 passes for 91 yds and his teammate (Thielen_ was runner up with 7 & a TD

Rushing - Murray gained 42 yds on 11 carries. Cousins scrambled 5 times..

Punting - Wile had 39.0 Y/P average. Bailey was 3 for 5 in FG attempts

Tackles -Barrand Kendrick led Vikes with 6 tackles apiece followed by Joesph Hughes and Sandejo with 5.

Sacks Hunter and Joseph each had one. (Eagles as a team had one (Graham)

Vikings in a Thumbnail
They're solid and as well-coached as any team in the NFL.


Team Stats to Date
Category Vikes Opponents
Total First Downs 108 106
Rushing 15 30
Passing 87 61
Penalty 6 15
3rd Down Conversions 31/72 16/54
4th Down Conversions 2/4 2/3
Total Offensive yards 1936 1890
Rushing Yards 329 497
Passing Yards 1607 1393
Comp/Att Interceptions 161/226 2 110/166 3
Passing YPA 7.5% 9.1%
Sacked 14 14
Field Goals 7/12 13/15
Turnovers 0  
Avg Time of Possession 30:27 31:32

                               


Viking Offense
Quarterbacks
QB ...08 Cousins... 03 Siemian...01 Sloter

Running Backs
RB....33 Cook...25 Murray...44 Boone...32 R Thomas
FB....30 Ham

Wide Receivers
WR....19 Thielen....11 Treadwell
WR....14 Diggs...15 Zylistra...17 A Robinson

Tight Ends
TE.....82 Rudolph...89 Morgan....83 Conklin

Offensive Line
LT.......71 Reiff
LG    .79 Compton
OC    ..65 Elfein...61 B Jones
RG.....74 Remmers....63 Isadora
RT    ..69 R Hill...75 O'Neill

Cardinal Defense

Defensive Interior Line
DE - 44 Golden, 91 Mayowa, xx Z Moore,
DT - 90 Nkemdiche, 72 Pierre, G Smith
NT - 98 Peters, 95 Gunter
DE- 55 C Jones, 96 J Smith

Linebackers
SAM - 43 Reddick, 92 Gardeck
MLB - 57 Bynes, 51 Hodges
WILL - 20 Bucannon, 47 Turner

Defensive Backs
LCB - 21 Peterson, 26 B Williams, 39 Nichols
RCB - 28 J Taylor, 23 Benwikere
SS - 36 Baker, 30 Ford
FS - 41 Bethea, 38 Boston, 40 Tillman*


Matchup: Viking Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Cousins runs a highly efficient offense (He has a 71.2% completion percentage). He relies quite a bit on a quick-release short-passing attack to compensate for a less potent Viking run game. His major targets are Theilen (66 Targets/47 receptions and Diggs (55 Targets/37 receptions) None of the Viking receivers have home-run averages (the highest being Theilen with 12.5 YPR) but only one of the top 4 (Treadwell) has a YPR below 10.0. Their TE (Rudolph) hasn't flashed many gaudy numbers (yet).

The Cardinal pass defense seems to be gradually knitting together, but (especially early in games) continue to struggle to play effectively as a unit. It looks as if Benwwiker is beginning to takeon more CB#2 responsibility opposite Peterson. Boston and Bethea are capable deep patrollers with Budda Baker utilized as the secondary's "Swiss Army Knife. (Expect him to make more plays as he gains more experience.

Chandler Jones had a huge game vs. the Niners Sunday. (On one play it looked as though he left his feet and literally flew through the air like Superman to catch Beathard from behind to force a sack/fumble. He'll have his hands full battling their LT (Reiff). #2 sack artist, Markus Golden (injured) hasn't played at all this season. It will be interesting to see what our pass rush will be like when he returns. Josh Bynes (considered the "Steady Eddie" of the Cardinal LB core) stepped up his game and made plays vs. the Niners - he's looking more like a playmaker and less like a grinder at the MIKE spot.

Key Matchups: Peterson vs. Theilen. Benwikere vs. Diggs. Boston vs. Rudolphj. C Jones vs. Reiff


Matchup: Viking Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Viking runners are averaging 3.4 YPC (vs. 4.0 for their opponents). But they'll be up against a Cardinal defense that consistently gave up 6 - 8 YPC vs. the Niners and made you wonder why Kyle Shanahan would do anything other than run the football. Problems include: bouncing off the ballcarrier the initial contact, poor gap discipline and lack of pure physicall strength to set the edge. Opposing teams have been more successful attacking the perimeter of late, but we suspect that the Cardinal's problem is defense-wide.

Leading Viking runners are Cook, Murray (and the mobile Cousins). Bynes, Gunter, C Peters & (surprisingly) Chandler Jones have done a decent job defending against the run. Pressure has to be on Cardinal safeties to squeeze the lanes and contain the Viking RB's.

Key Matchups: Murray or Cook and the Minny OL vs. vs. Peters, Nkemdiche, Gunter, Bynes, Boston, .


Cardinal Offense

Quarterbacks
09 Bradford, 03 Rosen, 07 Glennon

Running Backs
23 D Johnson, 29 Edmonds, 22 Logan, 32 Coleman

Wide Receivers
WR - 11 Fitzgerald, 13 Kirk, 16 Sherfield
WR - 16 C Williams, 14 Nelson,

Tight Ends
TE1 - 86 Seals-Jones, 85 Holmes, 84 Gresham,

Offensive Line
LT- 74 Humphries, 73 Wetzel, (79 Cunningham)
LG - 76 Iupati, 68 Vujnovich,
OC- 64 Cole, 62 Munyer
RG- 67 Pugh, (68 Vujnovich)
RT - 71 A Smith, 75 Clausell, 79 Cunningham

Viking Defense

Defensive Interior Line
DT.......93 S Richardson...94 J Johnson...92 Holmes
NT......98 Joseph...96 T Johnson
RE....97 Griffen....91 Weatherly...99 Hunter...90 Bower

Linebackers
WLB...42 Gedeon...50 E Wilson
MLB...54 Kendricks....57 Downs...40 Brothers
SLB...55 Barr

Defensive Backs
LCB.....26 Waynes...21 Hughes...24 H Hill
RCB....29 Rhodes...20 M Alexander...35 Sherels
SS .....34 Sendejo...27 Kearse....23loka
FS......22 H Smith...41A Harris


Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Viking Pass Defense
Enter Game #2 of the Josh Rosen era. In his first game last week as a starter, his debut was auspicious, as, on his first play from scrimmage, he went deep down the middle to hit Christian Kirk perfectly for a 75-yard TD.

Rosen's offensive line protected him throughout the Niner game, but (aside from that opening play) his receivers continued to suffer from Dropsy and Josh overthrew a few open men. The expectation has to be that Rosen and his receivers will execute better and better with time; but meanwhile, Cardinal fans are grinding their fingernails down to the bone until it happens.

NG Linval Joseph looked so terrifying returning a recovered fumble vs. the Eagles that some media folk were suggesting that Coach Zimmwe convert Joseph to a RB. Vikes are solid up the middle - starting with Joseph at NT, proceeding through Kendricks at MLB and ending with Sendejo's solid presence at SS.

Vikes are sacking as many QB's (14) as enemy pass rushers are getting to Cousins. Leading sackerr is Hunter, followed by Weatherly and H Smith (2 each) and a bunch of one-sack dudes. Rhodes H Smith and Rhodes each have one pick apiece.

Key Matchups:
Fitzgerald vs Rhodes...Kirk vs. Waynes...Joseph vs. Cole. Hunter vs. Humphreys


Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Viking Run Defense
What's with David Johnson? To answer a question with a question: "What's with our OL run blocking? (As good as Johnson has shown to have been) he's not effective "running to darkness." Vikes are giving up 4.0 per carry which might invite Coach McCoy to stick with the running game, but typically what happens is DJ doesn't gain much and we stop handing him the leather.

The presence of Joseph and Kendrick on the front seven suggests that we avoid the pile and attack the perimeter with sweeps and screens.

Key Matchups:
Johnson vs. Sendejo. Cardinal OL vs. Joseph and Kendricks


Special Teams

Viking Special Teams

K        05 Bailey    
P        06 Wile               
H       16 Wile
LS      47 McDermott    
KR     35 Sherels
PR     21 Hughes

Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ...04 Dawson
H - ..02 Lee
LS -..46 Brewer
KR - 22 Logan, 14 Nelson
PR - 13 Kirk, 22 Logan


Matchup: Viking Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Lee and (despite losing the Seattle game) Dawson appear to have an edge over Wile and Bailey.

On the Vike ST's, either Sherels (5.0 YPR) nor Hughes (6.5 YPR on punts and 26.7 returning KOs) are exactly setting the woods on fire. Cardinal coverage and returnl teams continue to be a work in progress - (Kirk is beginning to get his sea-legs) but they aren't expected to strike terror among opposing coverage units.

Key matchups:
Dawson and Lee figure to have an edge over Wile and Bailey. Kirk has breakaway potential and we're starting to see flashes.


Coaching
Mike Zimmer is in his 5th season as Vike HC. Vikes went 13 & 3 in 2017 and went to the playoffs with the #1-ranked defense in the NFL (both yardage and points allowed).

Disgruntled Cards, fans (unhappy with OC McCoy) have been grousing about our inability to sign Viking OC John Felippo.

Cardinal HC Steve Wilks remains only a partially open book - he steadfastly defends his policy of remaining consistent and not bailing on new systems and strategies that have only been in place for 5 games. Unfortunately, the most 1 & 4 will get you is a prize from a Cracker Jax box.


How to Beat the Vikes
Zimmer figures to rely on 71% dink & dunk stuff by Cousins and then wait for the Cardinals to shoot themselves in the foot. Therefore our strategy should be: Make fewer mistakes. Take our share of shots downfield.
Stop the run. Drop fewer passes (It ain't rocket science and most of our problems can be fixed by teaching and preparation). Card defenders have not fared well vs. opposing short-pass ball control attacks. That's gotta change if we're to win this sucker - but I feel it's do-able.

 
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