The defense swarms running back Adrian Peterson Sunday during the Cards' 21-14 loss.
MINNEAPOLIS – Early in the second quarter, Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder found Percy Harvin for a 14-yard pass as the Vikings closed in on a go-ahead touchdown.
That catch was the fourth in a stretch of five plays that went for 12 yards or more. The Vikings should've savored the moment. They had just one more play for more than eight yards for the rest of Minnesota's 21-14 win Sunday at the Metrodome.
The difference between the first and second halves was stark. But the changes, the Cardinals' defense insists, were minor.
"We didn't make any changes," linebacker Sam Acho said. "We just did it the right away. It wasn't like we said, 'Let's do this or do that.' We just did it the way it was supposed to be done. It's as simple as that."
Sunday proved that even the smallest tweaks can yield big results.
The Vikings gained just 58 net yards in the second half while the Cardinals limited running back Adrian Peterson to 61 rushing yards in the final two quarters.
"I don't want to say (we were) pressing too much – maybe a little pressure," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "Just a lot of missed tackles, including myself. I could've made some plays that I should've made.
"Overall, I thought we played well for a defense. We could've played better in the first half. Second half, we definitely came out with a different mindset in stopping the run, stopping those guys (Peterson and Harvin), getting those guys off the field, putting the offense in a short field."
Acho said the issues that plagued the defense in the first half – missed tackles, not reading the run correctly and giving up big plays – were all self-inflicted mishaps.
The Cardinals didn't panic at halftime. They didn't revamp the game plan or change their style. They just came out and played.
"Not to take anything away from Minnesota, (but in the) first half of that game we gave them pretty much everything they got," linebacker Paris Lenon said. "Just not playing with proper technique. We just kinda settled in and played with our technique in the second half and we were able to contain them."
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Even though the Cardinals returned to Arizona without the "first" they wanted – a first win over the Vikings in the Metrodome – the defense celebrated a handful of inaugural milestones.
Acho recorded his first career interception late in the second quarter. The play was reviewed but the play was upheld.
"It was a good play," Acho said. "I'm happy about it, I'm excited about it. I wanted to make it a great play by running it back. It was a blessing."
Washington's two sacks Sunday was the first time he had a multi-sack game. Sounds familiar? The Elias Sports Bureau rescinded Washington's second sack against Philadelphia a couple of days after the Eagles' game, ruling it a running play instead. It made this weekend's feat a career first.
Lenon's interception to start the second quarter was his first since Oct. 10, 2010 against New Orleans. It set up the Cardinals' first touchdown.
"Anytime you can make a play and help your team and put your team in a situation where they can score, that's what I'm here to do," Lenon said.
CAREER DAY FOR HOUSLER
Tight end Rob Housler continued his solid season Sunday, finishing with 54 yards on five receptions, both career-highs for the second-year player. He downplayed his involvement in the offense, saying the Cardinals don't want to be in "passing down" situations. Four of Housler's five receptions were on downs with nine or more yards to go and featured a 22-yard gain in the second quarter.
"We try to take advantage of what they're giving us and try to find a spot in the zone," Housler said.
Housler's previous career high was 48 yards against Miami on Sept. 30 and three receptions against St. Louis on Oct. 4.
OHRNBERGER ON CALL
Rich Ohrnberger knew he had big shoes to fill when right guard Adam Snyder left the game in the second quarter with a quadriceps contusion. He stood his ground, allowing just one sack in the fourth quarter.
"I was just going out there and doing my job and trying to earn a paycheck," Ohrnberger said.
Ohrnberger played the entire second half and the last two series' of the first in place of Snyder, whose return was announced as questionable. There was not an update on his condition after the game.
Sunday was the most action Ohrnberger has seen in his first year with the Cardinals, and he believes it may be his most playing time in his four years in the NFL.
"Going out there, I was just trying to do my job on every play and I think I accomplished it for the most part," he said. "Obviously, this is what I love to do so I was happy to be out there."