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Heartbreak In Minnesota

Cardinals can't hold on to fourth-quarter lead in 27-24 overtime loss


Receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes a diving catch at the end of the first half during Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to the Vikings in Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS – Larry Fitzgerald had come home. He had his first 100-yard receiving game of the season. His offense didn't turn the ball over.

But the Pro Bowl wide receiver looked weary after the Cardinals suffered through a second straight crushing loss, this time 27-24 in overtime against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field.

"When you lose in the NFL," Fitzgerald said, "there's nothing positive about it."

It didn't look like the Cardinals (3-5) would lose, not after draining the clock of almost eight minutes before kicking a field goal to go up 24-10 early in the fourth quarter. It didn't look like a problem when linebacker Paris Lenon knocked down Minnesota's fourth-down pass with a little more than six minutes left to preserve the same lead.

But the hobbled, aging Brett Favre, who threw for a career-high 446 yards, wouldn't let it go. The Cardinals' offense couldn't generate another first down the rest of the game. And the crowd, ready to run Vikings coach Brad Childress out of town most of the game, realized in the end they'd rather save their emotion to cheer its team.

"I'd like to think we could finish the game off up 14 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter," said quarterback Derek Anderson, who completed 15 of 27 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in his highest-rated performance of the season.

Anderson was sacked six times, however, run down by an inspired Vikings rush that brought him down four times on the final possession of regulation and the lone possession of overtime.

By then, the Vikings (3-5) had all the momentum, quickly moving into field goal range from their own 31-yard line when running back Adrian Peterson broke off a 30-yard run and Favre hit Bernard Berrian for another 22 yards.

It wasn't a surprise after Favre had driven Minnesota for two touchdowns in those final six minutes, including the game-tying 25-yarder to tight end Visanthe Sciancoe with 27 seconds left when he beat safety Adrian Wilson.

"I counted us out myself," Favre said. "I am sort of joking there. Up until four, five minutes left in the fourth quarter, by that time, what had we done to prove otherwise?"

The defense had done well much of the game, picking off Favre twice. "We made some plays," said safety Rashad Johnson, who had his first career interception in his own end zone to thwart one Vikings' drive. "But not when it counted."

So lost in the ending was LaRod Stephens-Howling's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, his second of the year that provided a key early spark. Lost was rookie linebacker O'Brien Schofield's strip of Percy Harvin on the second-half kickoff, leading to a return touchdown by Michael Adams – the Cardinals' eighth return touchdown of the season already.

(And that didn't include safety Kerry Rhodes' 66-yard interception return early in the game, which looked like it was going to be a touchdown – until it was knocked out by a Viking inside the Minnesota 5 and through the end zone, giving a touchback to the Vikings.)

It was tough to think about such things in the aftermath of a third straight loss, the first time the Cards have lost three straight since coach Ken Whisenhunt's first season. The Seahawks, the NFC West leaders, lost big Sunday, and that alone helped.

After the Cards were left with two losses over two games they felt afterward they should have won, however, the details were little consolation.

"All we can do it try and look at the positive things that we did and try and correct the mistakes that we made and move forward," Whisenhunt said.

"It was definitely a heartbreaking loss," linebacker Joey Porter said. "It was tough for a defense to lose that way, tough for a team to lose that way. But we have eight more games to go."

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