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Cardinals Slowly Let Game Slip Away In Minnesota

Missed opportunities for touchdowns costly in 27-17 loss to Vikings

Safety Budda Baker runs back a fumble 36 yards during the Cardinals' loss in Minnesota Sunday.
Safety Budda Baker runs back a fumble 36 yards during the Cardinals' loss in Minnesota Sunday.

MINNEAPOLIS – The pass floated to Larry Fitzgerald down the field, the kind of ball right over his head that he had caught many times in his 15 years.

But the veteran wide receiver couldn't quite pull it in, couldn't quite provide a highlight moment in what will likely be his final game in his home state. And it was one of a string – albeit the most difficult chance – of missed opportunities in what ultimately ended as a 27-17 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"Obviously, I'd love to make that play," Fitzgerald said, noting he lost the pass in the lights.

But one catch wasn't going to wipe away the offensive issues the Cardinals (1-5) continue to have. They finished 0-for-10 on third downs, and twice in the first half couldn't convert touchdowns at the 11-yard line or closer – getting only three points total.

The Cards were able to be within three at halftime, but were outscored 14-0 in the third quarter. The Cardinals have yet to score a point in the third quarter this season.

"Am I concerned? Majorly," coach Steve Wilks said of his offense. "Mystified? I wouldn't use that word. We need to correct it and find ways to get in the end zone. And we need to get it corrected soon."

The door was open. Defensively, the Cardinals harassed Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins all day. Chandler Jones came up with a strip-sack that safety Budda Baker returned for a 36-yard touchdown. Safety Tre Boston had an interception. There were multiple passes batted down.

But the Cardinals never found a way to stop the Vikings from running the ball – more on that later – and offensively, couldn't make the Vikings pay either.

Quarterback Josh Rosen threw his first interception as a starter, but two beautiful passes also set up their potential touchdowns in the first half. Christian Kirk hauled in a 35-yard pass to set up the first drive at the 11, but the Cardinals were relegated to a field goal.

"The opportunities are there," Rosen said. "We find a way to miss them."

But it was a third-and-goal at the Minnesota 1 in the second quarter that stung. Using a three tight-end set, Rosen threw to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on play-action, but it fell incomplete. On fourth down, running back David Johnson was stuffed for no gain.

"I thought it'd be there," Seals-Jones said. "We've got to finish. That could've been a big turning point for us."

The Vikings (3-2-1) pulled away in the third quarter not with the pass but the run. Minnesota, ranked 31st in the league in rushing coming into the game and missing injured starter Dalvin Cook, got 155 yards rushing by backup Latavius Murray.

The Vikings ran for 195 yards total, and more than six yards a carry.

"It's fairly simple to figure out who is making the mistakes each week when we watch tape," defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "At the end of the day, until everybody stands up, all eleven men on the field and say, "This ball is not coming through my gap,' we will have this problem."

"It's unacceptable," Wilks said.

The Cards were down 17 when they went for it on fourth-and-2 and Fitzgerald couldn't hold on to Rosen's pass inside the Minnesota 10, in what amounted to a last gasp. David Johnson scored on a subsequent possession, but the Cardinals never quite challenged the final score. Whenever the Vikings needed a big play, they turned to Murray or wide receiver Adam Thielen (11 catches, 123 yards).

The Cardinals couldn't get that same kind of play. Not enough, and not enough the entire season. Their window to fix things this week is short – they have a home game against the Broncos Thursday night.

"You hope it can change quickly," said Fitzgerald, after his five-catch, 39-yard performance. "But that's all you can do is keep working at it."

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