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Making Catches Matter, And Vikings Aftermath

The highlight was spectacular. There is no getting around that. And the play itself was crucial, turning a 14-3 deficit into a one-score game and giving the Cardinals life they didn't have previous. But the one-handed TD stab by DeAndre Hopkins was in the first half of a game that ended up with a bunch more touchdowns, and not enough of them were on the Cardinals' ledger.

So DeAndre Hopkins, author of said one-handed reception, was blunt when asked about it afterward.

"We lost the game," Hopkins said, "so that catch don't matter."

Highlights seem hollow after a loss, and certainly the way Sunday's game went in Minnesota. The Cardinals looked dead for a while and then took a lead in the second half and again looked better on offense for most of the time.

But not all, and not when Kyler Murray was intercepted. Missed opportunity games happen. But the Cardinals have ended up with less room for error halfway through the season.

The next three games are home against the Seahawks, at the Rams and against the 49ers in Mexico City. This is, in many ways, the last stand. The Cardinals need to make a serious push against three teams all ahead of them in the division and the conference.

The Cardinals need to make sure Hop's catches matter.

-- Hop did make the 800th catch of his career, and after not accomplishing a 100-yard game all of 2021, Hop is now 2-for-2 this season.

-- Rondale Moore looked pretty good too, especially on that 38-yard touchdown catch-and-run. He's got moves when he has a little open space to work with.

-- That 38-yard pass was the Cardinals' longest pass play of the season.

-- The interceptions – and the muffed punt – weren't the only things that hurt. On third-and-8 from the Minnesota 11 (and trailing by five) the Cardinals first had to call a timeout with the clock winding down and then had center Billy Price prematurely snap the ball when Murray wasn't ready. Murray had to fall on the ball and the Cardinals were forced to kick the field goal, and weren't able to score again.

"He hasn't been here long," Murray said of his center, starting in place of the injured Rodney Hudson. "I'm not going to fault him. We've got to be better."

-- Kliff Kingsbury praised the effort of his offensive line, but with the Cardinals missing Hudson, left guard Justin Pugh and left tackle D.J. Humphries, it made a difference. Not having Hump, which has been rare since 2019 – he's only missed one other game – is never good.

-- J.J. Watt had two sacks in his first game since his son Koa was born, honoring his kid not only with cleats that bore his name but also with a rock-a-baby celebration after a sack.

-- Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald was at the game, visiting some of his former Cardinals co-workers in the press box in the second half (yes, including me) and getting emotionally into some of the Cardinals' plays himself. You can take the player out of the locker room but you can't take the locker room out of the player.

-- Patrick Peterson was clearly enjoying the game against his former team – he was mic'd up, so he clearly he played into that a lot of the time – and he took a shot at Murray in one post-pick celebration, pretending to play video games. He was talking to the Cardinals the whole game, not surprisingly.

"He loves the game, we love the game," Hopkins said. "We don't look into it that much like you guys do. Pat P is a competitor."

-- Hopkins had 159 yards on 12 catches, his second-best yardage total as a Cardinal. He had 169 yards against the Eagles in 2020.

-- Dalvin Cook rushed for 111 yards although he had 75 with 13 minutes to go in the first half. It's the first time the Cardinals have allowed a 100-yard rusher and the most rushing yards total (173) they have surrendered this season.

-- Murray wore a wristband with the plays on it, something he hasn't done in the past. "As we work through the huddling we will continue to try different things to smooth it out and make it as efficient as possible," Kingsbury said.

-- The Cardinals used two kickers. Rodrigo Blankenship kicked off, Matt Prater handled extra points and field goals, converting two of each.

"It felt pretty good," Prater said. "More than anything it's getting my confidence back."

Prater said he wants to get back to kicking off, but he and the team want to make sure there will be no recurrence of the hip problem.

-- Leki Fotu came up with the unusual face-block of the Vikings' 56-yard field goal try at the end of the first half. That's why you have a facemask, I suppose. It was the first time the Cardinals blocked a field goal since defensive lineman Rodney Gunter got one in Seattle on Christmas Eve in 2016.

That's enough for today. Signing off from 30,000 feet (or so).