After getting absolutely mauled by the Seattle Seahawks last week, the Minnesota Vikings faced a stiff test as they race toward the playoffs on Thursday night as they went to the desert to face the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals possess the most potent offense in the NFC and one of the best defenses in the league to go along with it. Despite missing defensive standouts Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith, the Vikings put forth a valiant effort but fell to the Cardinals 23-20.
The Cardinals got the ball first, and drove the ball downfield in a workman like fashion; taking over half the quarter before getting on the board with a 27-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro.
The Vikings answered quickly as they drove 80 yards in 3:26 to go up 7-3. Adrian Peterson carried the ball four times for 38 yards on the drive, but would finish with just 69 yards on the night. He scored on the opening possession on a nine-yard scamper to the end zone. But the Cardinals wasted no time getting back in front.
On the Cardinals second possession, John Brown caught two passes for 73 yards; both crucial plays. An eight-yard catch converted a third down to keep the drive going, and two plays later Brown got open deep and took the pass down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. The Cardinals were up 10-7, but the Vikings got a field goal before the break to tie it at 10-10 going into half.
On the first drive of the second half, Peterson fumbled on what looked like a miscommunication on a reverse play call and the Cardinals recovered. Six plays later on a third and eight, Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd for a 42-yard touchdown run. Much like Brown, he outran the defense down the sideline to hit pay dirt.
After a punt, the Cardinals got the ball back and drove down to the Vikings two yard line on a first and goal, looking to break the game open. But a sack on second and goal derailed the drive and the Cardinals had to settle for a field goal to go up 20-10. But the Vikings were unfazed.
On the next drive, Blair Walsh hit a 54-yard field goal to cut the lead to seven. After Minnesota forced a punt, they drove 88 yards, with two completions to the sparingly used Mike Wallace, including the touchdown to tie the game.
Arizona got the ball back and kicked the winning field goal from 47 yards away, but due to an incomplete pass on third down they stopped the clock with 1:27 left, giving the Vikings one last chance.
The Vikings drove to the Cardinals 31 yard line with just over ten seconds to play. Minnesota was without a timeout but they had a chance to set up a field goal. However, as he has so often in his career, Dwight Freeney stripped the quarterback as he knocked the ball from Teddy Bridgewater and sealed the win for the Cardinals.
With this win the Cardinals are 11-2 and in second place in the NFC. The Vikings drop to 8-5 and are now on much thinner ice in the wild card race.