CARDS BLOW 14 PT. 4Q LEAD - LOSE TO MINNESOTA IN OT.
The Cardinals are coming off a
gut-wrenching loss to "the best team in the NFL" and - at 3 & 4 - are within
one game of last place in their divisioon. Vikes are reeling from a number
of recent events; many of which put them in the High Drama category. They're
2 & 5 (which, according to past trends) all but eliminates them from the
playoffs. In addition to being good old diva, Brett Favre, the Vikings'
aging star QB is suffering from ankle fractures and a banged up jaw. He's
also said to have had "issues" with head coach Brad Childress. Speaking of
Childress, the Viking HC abitrarily whacked star wide receive Randy Moss,
apparently without clueing in General Management or Ownership or for that
matter, Viking players (many of whom publically expressed their distress).
Minnesota fandom can't be all that thrilled either - which may take a bit of
the sting out of the usually loud, hostile Viking crowd. (They may remain
hostile - but toward who)? There has been public speculation about
Childress's future with the Vikes. All of this could serve as a distraction
to Viking players if not a dividing wedge in the lockerroom. Or, conversely,
it could serve to rally the team together.
Moving back to the issue of "football", the Cardinal passing attack,. while
showing glimmers of effectiveness last week vs. TB, is still too
turnover-prone. Until Anderson and/or Hall get their mojo together, the
defense is being asked to carry the load (They've shown they're capable, but
do they have the "wanna")? Meanwhile, the Vikes (already sans Moss) will hit
the field with 2 other iffy wide receivers (Percy Harvin and Bernard
Berrian). Add to this, the banged up Favre and we may see a considerably
larger dose of Adrian Peterson. (Or - if the Vikes want to exploit the
Cardinal defense's reputation for having trouble stopping physical
smashmouth running attacks - Childress could resort to handing the ball to
rookie thumper, Toby Gerhart to pound away at the Cardinal interior.
This game could go either way.
The Bottom Line:
The Cardinals blew a 14 point lead with 4:39 left in the 4Q
to lose in OT 27 - 24. They started slowly - leaving 7
early points on the field when Kerry Rhodes, intercepted a Brett Favre pass,
threaded his way almost to the end zone before he had the ball stripped &
recovered by the Vikings in the end zone for a touchback.
The game then settled into a war of attrition with the
teams tied 0 - 0 at the end of the 1st quarter. Minnesota scored a TD early
in the 2Q but the Cardinals answered right back on the ensuing kickoff with
LSH taking it 96 yards to the house. Longwell's FG on the next Minny drive
made it 10 - 7 Vikes. Not much happened til the Cards got the ball back with
1:30 left til halftime. A nifty run and catch by Andre Roberts off a pass
from Anderson made it 14 - 10 Cards at halftime.
On the opening 2H kickoff, O Brien Schofield
stripped the ball from Percy Harvin. Michael Adams scooped it up before a
stunned Minnesota crowd and ran it in 4 a 30 yard TD. Cards were up 21 - 10,
hung on with a couple of unbelievable red zone defensive stands and
stretched their lead to 24 - 10 with 12:40 left to play. Another red zone
stand kept the 24 - 10 margin with just 4:39 to play.
After that, it was all Favre, his receivers and his
O-line making correct split-second decisions after split-second decisions on
play after play. Favre hit Shianco at the 4 and Peterson ran it in to make
the score 24 - 17 with 3:34 left to play. The Cards tried to run some time
off the clock (predicable and leading to nowhere). Vikes got the ball back
with 2:24 left on the clock. Favre and his receivers continued their heroics
and tied the game on a 25-yard TD pass over the middle (and past the ear of
Adrian Wilson - who turned the wrong way) to Shianco.
The Cards received in OT but - with Anderson looking
utterly not in command - went 3 & out. Vikes rode Peterson's back into FG
territory, Longwell booted a 35-yarder. End of story.
Except to say that writing about Cardinal games is like
covering funerals. No fun at all.
PS Thank God the Giants took care of Seattle. The NFC
West is still there for the taking (i.e. some team has to win it;
why not us)?
First quarter was chock full of action,
but no scoring. Cards received and started from their own 21. A 7-yard
gain off RT by Hightower was nullified by a holding call on Patrick.
Anderson was sacked for minus-0 on the next play. Cards wound up going 3
& out. Vikes (who had terrific field position all day) got the ball back
on their own 44, but (a couple of plays after Porter sacked Favre for
minus-5) & on the fourth play of the series, Kerry Rhodes picked off a
Favre pass at the Cardinal 31 and ran it all the way back to the end
zone...well...er...almost. As he passed the Viking 3, he had the
ball stripped out by a Viking defender. Ball rolled through the end zone
for a touchback.
Viking ball on the Cardinal 20. After a
quick +28 on a completion to Harvin, Favre got sacked by Dockett for
minus-8, and the Vikes had to punt. Cards got the ball back on their own
15. On the second play of the series, Anderson aimed a pass directly at
Greenway who intercepted it, but a Cardinal challenge confirmed it was a
trap. But the Cards eventually punted from their own 24 anyway.Minnesota
couldn't get anything going and punted from their own 48. Ball was
downed on the Cardinal one yard line.
Although a 14-yard completion to Fitz
picked up a first down and bought some room, the Cards punted from their
own 23 as the quarter ended. First Quarter Score: Cardinals 0 -
Vikes started from their own 48. Completions to
Berrian (+18) and Harvin (+25) set up a 12-yard completion to Peterson
for a TD. Vikings 7 - Cardinals 0.
But LaRod Stephens-Howling (aka LSH or "The Hyphen")
fielded the ensuing kickoff at the Cardinal 4 and ran it straight up the
field 96 yards for a game-tying touchdown. (Whew! That
was quick). Vikings 7 - Cardinals 7.
Cards kicked off short, and the Vikes ran it back to
their own 36. Favre mixed in a bunch of short passes and running plays
to move his team to the Cardinal 4, where the Cardinal red-zone defense
made its first of several stands and forced Longwell to boot a 21-yard
FG. Vikings 10 - Cardinals 7.
A 17-yard completion to Fitz on the next series,
helped move the ball to the Cardinal 42, but that's as far as we got. We
had to punt, and the Vikes took over on theri own 24 with 2:54 left til
halftime. A false start penalty stalled any semblance of a drive, and
the Cardinals got the ball back on their own 19 with 1:30 to go and
executed the first of the 2 best Cardinal drives of the day. Anderson
completed a couple of passes to Fitzgerald for (+30 and +14), picked up
another +11 on a nifty scramble (where he made the defender have to
decide whether to cover an open receiver or come up to tackle Derek) and
capped it off with a pretty 30-yard catch & broken field run by Andre
Roberts with 0:37 still left on the clock. Cards had the lead for the
first time. Cardinals 14 - Vikings 10.
Kickoff. One knee by Favre (amid boos by the fans).
Second Half Score: Cardinals 14 - Vikings 10.
Vikes received the 2H kickoff and could
easily retake the lead; but O Brien Schofield (making his presence felt
in only his second game as a rookie) stripped the ball from Percy
Harvin. Michael Adams picked up the loose ball at the 30 (while some
Viking players were already walking off the field) and ran it in for a
TD that sent waves of shock through the boistrous Minnesota crowd. Cards
surprisingly up by 11. Cardinals 21 - Vikings 10.
Vikes could only move the ball from
their own 22 to midfield before punting it. Cards took over on their own
18 and punted from their own 30. Camarillo returned it 21 yards. Another
5 yards tacked on gave the Vikes the ball at their own 40.
Completions to Harvin (+22). and Camarillo (+31) put the ball on the
Cardinal 2-yard line, but for the second time in the game, the Cardinal
defense kept the Vikes from scoring. This time it was an interception by
Rashad Johnson after Favre's arm was hit. Cards took over on their
own 7 and mounted a 14-play drive that extended into the fourth quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 21 - Vikings 10.
Cards made it to the Viking 8-yard line and then the
4, but could not punch it in there. Feely's 22 FG opened up a 14-point
Cardinal lead. Cardinals 24 - Vikings 10.
Too much time (12:40) left to get complacent about.
Starting from their own 17, the Vikings mounted a long drive of their
own; reaching the Cardinal one-yard line in 16 plays (using up 6:22).
But Favre threw incomplete to Dugan on 4th & Goal, and the Cards had the
ball back with 6:40 left to play.
The bad news was that they had the ball on their own
one-yard line. A sneak, a one-yard run an incompletion forced the Cards
to punt away. Vikes got the ball back with a short field (at the
Cardinal 40) with 4:39 left to play and the Vikes down by 2 touchdowns.
Favre went to work: He hit Berrian (for +11) and Shianco (for +20 ) to
set up a 4-yard Peterson TD run. Cardinals 24 - Vikings 17.
Cards returned the kickoff to their own 24 with 3:34
still left on the clock. (This is where good teams put away their
opponents). They gained a yard and lost a yard on two running plays. The
third play was classic Derek Anderson in the clutch - He hit Fitz
4-yards short of a first down. Cards punted.
Vikes got the ball back on their own 23, with 2:24
(& no time outs) left on the clock (all the time in the world). The play
sequence was as follows: Favre to Berrian for +15. Favre sacked by
Porter for minus-6. Favre to Shianco for +15 (one yard short of a 1st
down). Favre scramble up middle for +1 and a first down. Penalty for
minus-5. Touchdown Pass - Favre to Shiancoe for +25 with 0:27 still left
to play. (The ball whizzed by the right ear of Adrian Wilson (who lately
has seemed to give up more big plays than he makes & who turned the
wrong way) and into the arms of the Viking TE. Cardinals 24 -
- Starting from his own 37, Anderson was sacked,
threw an incompletion and was sacked again to end regulation. Score
- End of Regulation: Cardinals 24 - Vikings 24.
Cards won the toss and went 3 & out, with Anderson
sacked for minus-6 and zero yards along the way. Cards punted from their
own 21 to the Viking 31. Peterson immediately circled right end for
30-yards (through what seemed to be putrid tackling). Despite being
penalized 10-yards on a holding call, Favre hit Berrian for +22 to put
the ball in field goal range at the Cardinal 27. After a few more plays
designed to pick up a few more yards, Longwell kicked a 35-yard FG to
end the game. Final Score: Vikings 27- Cardinals 24.
Vikes picked up 507 net yards.
Favre threw for 427 net yards.
Vikings' offense ran off 67 plays(vs. the Cardinals'
They gained an average of 7.2 yards per offensive
The vaunted Hightower running attack picked up 39
yards on 13 carries.
Peterson picked up 81 yards on 15 carries.
Anderson actually wound up with a 91.5 passer rating
(15 for 26 and 179 yards, a TD and no interceptions.
Unfortunately, Derek was sacked 6 times (twice the
number of sacks the Cards inflicted on Favre).
What isn't reflected in the stats are (a) the number
of QB pressures and (b) what each QB did against those pressures. Time
after time, Favre turned lemons into lemon-aide whereas Anderson - under
pressure - invariably stumbled, tripped, stepped on somebody or backed
into a blocker.
Fitz caught 7 for 10, picking up 107 yards but no
Harvin and Berrian racked up 9 catches apiece.
Rhodes and Johnson were each credited with a pick.
Graham's net punting average was 10 yards less than
his 47.0 gross yards; whereas Kluew's net was virtually the same as his
Cards only committed 1 turnover (one fumble by
Rhodes but no interceptions thrown by Anderson).
By contrast, they executed three take-aways (2 picks
plus a fumble recovery)
Cards were penalized 7 times (but the Vikes were
Vikes won time of possession: 38:05 to 27:13.
Toler led the defense with 9 tackles. Lenin had 7.
Porter 6 and four other guys had 5.
Sacks: Porter 2 and Dockett 1. Porter had 5 QB
hurries (Dockett 3).
Our red zone defense repelled the Vikes on several
occasions to keep us in the football game.
Big plays by the young 'uns - the strip of the ball
by Schofield and the TD saving interception by Rashad Johnson.
LSH has stepped up consistently enough as a returner
to be considered a "star in the making" (if not already one).
Joey Porter had a couple of sacks and 5 QB hurries.
Fitz looked more comfortable than he has in quite
awhile. The passing attack is at least starting to look almost
The Dark Side
Anderson did OK when he wasn't under pressure, but
continually failed to deliver in clutch situations. He didn't look in
command and, when under pressure, continually would back into one of his
blockers and often into a tackler.
What's with A-Dub? Lately he seems to be more victim
Late 4Q and OT tackling was atrocious
Late 4Q and OT play calling lacked "pop."
Hightower's failure to catch Anderson's pass in the
flat when we were boxed in at our goal line probably cost us the game.
(Not to point fingers at THT - plenty of other miscues - like Kerry
losing the ball after his interception - also represented single things
that cost us the game.
Our CB's had big league trouble staying with Harvin
and Berrian - could we have jammed them better to disrupt their timing?
The Cards are beginning to
represent the platoon in the movie, Presidio, that was supposed to
always lose battles in war games. The Cardinals seem to set themselves
up perfectly to be foils for other teams to look terrific against - the
"other team" that East Dillon comes back to win on the last play of the
game. We were "the other guys" when Britt caught the TD pass in last
year's Titan game. We were "the other guys" a week ago when we made Josh
Freeman and TB look good late in the game. And here we are again - "the
other guys" who Minnesota and Favre pulled late-game heroics out their
I don't want us to be "the other team" any more.
It sucks. It's up to the Cardinal players to say "enough is enough" and
make it stop.
Bottom line of this game is that Anderson played
sufficiently well enough for the rest of the team to win more than its
share of "normal" football games. Unfortunately we ran into a white-hot
Brett Favre in the final minutes, and the Vikes made more big plays at
the end than we did (if we made any big plays at all).
can also be said that a realistic take on this Cardinal team is that
"Anderson hasn't shown he's good enough to pull out games at crunch
time." It all boils down to: If everyone continues to hang in there,
this Cardinal team under Anderson's quarterbacking is good enough to
make the playoffs. But if we need last-minute heroics to pull out close
games (as we'll need to do at least once or twice in any set of playoff
games), I'm not so sure DA can do it.