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Cardinals Can't Come Back Against Vikings

Posted Nov 20, 2016

Interception return, kickoff return dooms team in 30-24 loss

Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham stretches to score on a 29-yard touchdown pass during Sunday's 30-24 loss in Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The locker room was quiet, not unexpected.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the way Sunday’s game played out at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Vikings also had an as-expected feel to it, the way this season has gone. Statistically, a better team much of the day but not reflected on the scoreboard.

“I feel like a broken record,” linebacker Kevin Minter said after the Cardinals absorbed the 30-24 loss. “We’re not making the plays we should. We’re either going to make this (playoff) push or we’re not. Step up or shut up.”

The Cardinals (4-5-1) still haven’t won in Minnesota since 1977 – nine straight fruitless trips – but it is only Sunday’s setback that means anything now. The Vikings (6-4) snapped their four-game losing streak and gathered a key win against a team against whom they are battling for a playoff spot.

Now comes a trip to Atlanta, one the Cardinals desperately need to stay in the postseason chase.

“The season,” coach Bruce Arians insisted, “is not done.”

It was not helped Sunday though, undone in a game Arians said came down to three plays: A 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half by Vikings return man Corderelle Patterson, and a 29-yard pass interference call on safety Tony Jefferson on a flea-flicker that set up a short touchdown run.

All were painful blows, yet the Cardinals twice had the ball in the last five minutes of the game with a chance to drive for the game-winning touchdown. Neither drive went anywhere – the last needing a roughing-the-passer call just to avoid a four-and-out.

With the Cards’ offensive line torn up by injuries and the Vikings’ pass rush knowing what was coming, quarterback Carson Palmer was unable to find much to work with. The Cards netted minus-14 yards on 11 total plays, coming nowhere near the tying score.

“I don’t know what happened,” center A.Q. Shipley said. “I’ll have to look at the film. But every time I looked back, (Palmer) was either hit or on the ground.”

The final drive wasn’t helped when punt returner John Brown didn’t field the Vikings’ last punt, costing the Cardinals at least 20 yards on a 72-yard boot, pinning the offense back on the 13-yard line.

“Just a stupid play by me,” Brown said.

There were plenty of other mistakes the Cardinals will lament.

The interception came when Brown couldn’t get out of his break on the goal line, the Cards trailing only 13-10. Palmer threw expecting Brown to come open. Brown said he was held, but added he needed to be play through it.

“It was a great throw,” Brown said. “It would’ve been a perfect play.”

Instead, the Vikings had their lead balloon. Palmer (20-for-38, 198 yards, 2 touchdowns, two interceptions) led a TD drive before halftime, only to see Patterson race 104 yards with the kickoff to start the second half on deflating special teams play.

“You’ve just got to keep going,” linebacker Chandler Jones said. “Those were huge plays. You just have to keep doing your job.”

Palmer’s other interception came on a deep bomb to Michael Floyd, who slowed up on the route, allowing Rhodes to make a diving pick. Arians said Floyd had been battling the flu, but also said Floyd did not think the ball was going to come to him. The Vikings turned that into a field-goal drive.

The bad plays wiped out another excellent performance by running back Davis Johnson, who rushed for 103 yards, caught another seven passes for 57 yards and scored two touchdowns. The Cards outgained the Vikings in total yards, 290-217.

Now comes a trip to the NFC South-leading Falcons, a game in which a win becomes paramount if it wasn’t already. That was the simple message from Arians when asked how to fix things.

“Just win,” he said. “Come to work and win.”

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