Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes came up with the play of the game, intercepting Carson Palmer and returning it 100 yards for a touchdown.
MINNEAPOLIS -- There were enough ups and downs to exhaust an elevator Sunday afternoon, but Bruce Arians' postgame explanation for the 30-24 loss to the Vikings was succinct.
"Three plays dictated the game," the Cardinals' coach said.
They were: Minnesota's flea-flicker which drew a pass interference penalty on safety Tony Jefferson at the 2-yard-line; the backbreaking 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes; and, finally, the 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
"Other than that, we played a heck of a ballgame, and still had a chance to win," Arians said.
The Cardinals moved the ball well on a stingy defense but it mattered naught because of the explosive plays for Minnesota. The pair of 100-yard scores was the first time the Vikings had accomplished the feat in their history, and the first time it happened in an NFL game since the Cowboys pulled the feat in 1962.
Rhodes' play was the biggest blow, as the Cardinals would have kicked a chip-shot field goal on the next play to knot the game at 13 late in the second quarter.
Instead, Palmer threw left for John Brown, anticipating he would be further toward the sideline. Brown never made it there, allowing Rhodes to step in for an easy pick and run back.
"It looked like an obvious holding penalty," Palmer said. "Smokey's trying to run an out route. It looked like he was trying to run out and couldn't get out of the grasp of the defender (Captain Munnerlyn). I'm sure we'll turn that in to the league, and I'm sure they'll come back and say, 'Yeah, it was holding.' And that's that."
The Cardinals put together a great drive to answer that mistake, as tight end Jermaine Gresham caught a 29-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 20-17 entering the halftime.
The good feelings were short-lived, as Patterson took back the opening kick of the second half to the house to push the lead back to ten.
"I can't really tell you what happened on that play, but it looked like it was a bounce play that they started everybody out to the left to get everybody flowing that way and then come back to our right," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "They did it, and it just wiped everybody out. Me and Justin (Bethel) had outside containment, and those guys just pushed us out. It was down to the safeties and the kicker, and the rest is history after that."
The Cardinals have lost some of their better special teams players to injury this season, including wide receiver Jaron Brown, linebacker Alani Fua, tight end Ifeanyi Momah and linebacker Gabe Martin.
"We've just got to find bodies that can run down there and tackle," Arians said.
The Cardinals defense only allowed 217 total yards and clamped down late, but the 2-yard touchdown run by Matt Asiata following the flea-flicker took away their only lead of the contest.
"You've got to stay on your guy," Arians said. "We're playing man-to-man, basically cover zero, until they get the ball back in the quarterback's hands. And we should have had some people getting to him faster."
The gaffes continued a familiar theme for the Cardinals in 2016, as they gained more yards than their opponent but lost another close one because of huge errors.
"Every week, there are four or five plays," Arians said. "You never know when they are going to happen, but it's always four or five plays."