Trips to Minnesota since I’ve been covering the Cardinals have frequently ended poorly. OK, not frequently. Always. My first trip there was for a 2000 preseason game, where four or five Cardinals suffered serious injuries on the one-time crappy turf, including the ACL tear for wide receiver Rob Moore. There were not very close losses in 2000 and 2006 (although the Cards were a Hail Mary away at the end to get an amazing comeback). There was the 2010 loss, which looked like it was in the bag with a two-touchdown lead with six minutes left (Favred!) and then last year, when the Cards simply melted down in the first quarter.
Year-to-year doesn’t matter – it’s a new team here, the Vikings are a new team, and for the most part, nothing carries over – but that’s at least the backdrop for the Cards this weekend. I don’t need to get into the schedule again (but if you forgot, it’s Niners, Packers, Falcons in the next three games) but this is important. The coaches know it. So do the players.
— This is an early game, kickoff 10 a.m. Arizona time. The Cards had one of those in New England, but that was after flying in on a Friday. The Cards don’t fly to Minnesota until tomorrow. They can’t afford to sleepwalk through the first quarter.
— I watched the video of Vikings defensive end Jared Allen meeting with the Minnesota media. Not surprisingly, he was asked multiple times about the Cards surrendering 22 sacks the past three games and the opportunity he had. Not surprisingly, he dodged bulletin-board material. Who knows? Maybe he actually made a good point:
“I’ve been in this league for so long, I’ve played teams where they’ve given up … I always go back to the Texans, who had given up, like, 50 sacks and we came in there like Week 10 or Week 11 (when he was with the Chiefs),” Allen said. “All we saw were bootlegs. Teams also know that. So you can’t sit there and say, ‘We’re going to lick our chops and get after the quarterback,’ because you’re going to get burned in the run.”
The Allen pass rush – he’s only got four sacks this season, below expectations — will be under the microscope Sunday, whether it is against D’Anthony Batiste or Bobby Massie.
— Linebacker Daryl Washington repeated the same message over and over: We have to stop 12 and 28. That’s Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson, in case you weren’t sure. Obvious, yes. But last year, quarterback Donovan McNabb was god-awful against the Cards (another reason why it confounds me a Cardinals fan would suggest signing McNabb) and yet the Vikings rolled. Peterson was awesome (three first-quarter TDs) and Harvin is a Swiss knife of a playmaker.
— Speaking of Peterson, it is still amazing he has returned from ACL surgery so quickly (he blew out his knee Christmas Eve 2011). He already has 499 yards rushing. “He’s not quite as bombastic in what he used to do,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said, “but he still has our full respect.”
“He just never ever doubted,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “The only time he showed any doubt was when we were flying back from the game when he was injured in Washington. But after that it was full speed ahead from a mental standpoint and he’s never regressed.”
— The Cards are allowing just 16.2 points a game, fourth in the NFL behind the Bears, 49ers and Seahawks. Whatever the rest of the stats say, that works for Horton. “That’s the only stat that should be measured,” Horton said.
— It hurts to be missing safety Kerry Rhodes, down with the bad back. That means the Cards will have gone through a game without Rhodes, Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett so far. It’d be nice to have all the key pieces in place, and Rhodes is having a pretty good year. Horton more or less shrugged it off. “Hopefully we’re not built like a house of cards where one guy gets hurt it is doom and gloom,” he said. “I don’t think we are built that way.”
— In case you missed it, my visit this summer to Minnesota turned into this story about how Larry Fitzgerald loves his home state. (But don’t worry, he loves being in Arizona too.)
— Minnesota native Michael Floyd isn’t getting the kind of work he was hoping – 7 catches, 84 yards – but he’s hanging in there. “The ball doesn’t come that way often, so when it does, you have to make the play,” he said. Floyd made the spectacular catch against the Bills after failing to come down with one a couple of weeks previous. Both Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Mike Miller say Floyd is doing fine in his steps forward.
“If we were doing better offensively (overall), he’d probably be more involved, have more statistics,” Whisenhunt said.
John Skelton, you’re up.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bobby Massie, D'Anthony Batiste, Daryl Washington, Jared Allen, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Percy Harvin, Ray Horton, Rob Moore, Vikings
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I had tweeted yesterday that tackle Chris Williams, released by the Bears this week, was on the Cardinals’ radar. Today they brought him in for a visit. He also visited the Eagles and so there’s no way to know if his signing is a slam dunk, or even if the Cards want him after seeing him live and in person. One report out of Chicago suggests he could be OK in the right environment. Clearly, with the Williams interest and the bringing back of Pat McQuistan, the Cards are considering options with struggling tackles D’Anthony Batiste and/or Bobby Massie.
— Darnell Dockett was back to practicing fully Thursday, the first time he has done so since hurting his hamstring against the
Dolphins Eagles a few weeks ago. Linebacker O’Brien Schofield, who has been limited almost all season with his sore knee, was back at full for the first time Thursday as well.
— Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Jared Allen sat out Thursday nursing ankle and groin issues, respectively, but both are expected to play against the Cardinals and reports are that some of the practice caution has to do with the fact the Vikings play the Buccaneers a week from today, so a short week is coming up.
— Running back William Powell gets some love from profootballfocus.com.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chris Williams, Darnell Dockett, Jared Allen, O'Brien Schofield, William Powell
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Larry Fitzgerald isn’t going to be a Viking, much to the chagrin of many Minnesota fans who were hoping otherwise when Fitz had yet to sign his contract extension. Still, playing in Minnesota is “extra special” to Fitz, who has so many family members, friends and fans who love him in his hometown.
You know what would be extra extra special? Winning there. “I want to walk off that field victorious,” said Fitzgerald, the one-time Vikings ballboy. “Never done it before.”
This will be Fitz’s third regular-season trip to Minny. He dominated back in 2006, when Matt Leinart threw for a then-rookie record 405 yards and the Cards came up short, 31-26. He should have gotten the win last year, when the Cards had a 14-point lead with six minutes left before blowing it in overtime.
(Hard to forget Fitz, who already had 100 yards receiving, wide open on the first play of overtime in one-on-one coverage. If Derek Anderson, who had time, hits Fitz, the Cards are likely in field-goal range right then. Instead, a throw behind Fitz at his feet. Ugh.)
Now Fitzgerald will go home knowing the Vikings’ top cornerback, Antoine Winfield, probably won’t play with a neck injury. If the Cards can protect Kevin Kolb long enough, it’s hard not to sense Fitz having a big day.
— As if it didn’t already seem like it was headed this way, defensive coordinator Ray Horton acknowledged Friday the Cardinals will get second-year linebacker O’Brien Schofield on the field more in Minnesota this weekend.
“We definitely are,” Horton said. “We need to generate some pressure. “You look at everything around the league, you have to have pressure. We didn’t get enough pressure on Eli (Manning last weekend).”
Horton said Schofield’s progress since getting the wristband with the plays has been “remarkable.” Horton took responsibility of getting the “right” personnel and the right plays called in the game. The idea with the 10-point lead wasn’t to come after Manning but instead make Manning throw shorter and eat up more time on the clock. Didn’t work out that way.
— I think Beanie Wells will play, and, in theory, play well. Is he going to have another 138 yards rushing? Let’s not go overboard. Another 100 would be nice. Just an effective running game would be nice. Wells didn’t want to dwell on rushing stats this week anyway, not in light of the losing streak.
“All in all, if we pass the ball for 500 yards and we get the win, who’s complaining?” Wells asked rhetorically. Well, no one, actually.
— Cornerback Patrick Peterson got dinged for his first NFL fine this week. He was docked $5,000 for roughing Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes on Tynes’ end-of-the-first-half field goal last weekend.
— After Todd Heap missed the final two days of practice with a sore hamstring, those hoping to see more of rookie Rob Housler at tight end are looking like they will get their wish.
— Speaking of game-day decisions like Heap, it will be interesting to see what the Cards do at right tackle. If Brandon Keith is still dealing with soreness/possible swelling in his surgically repaired knee, it makes a lot of sense to go with Jeremy Bridges – especially since Bridges has played pretty well when he is in there.
— Fitzgerald and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen – who lives in the Valley in the offseason – have become good friends. Allen joked earlier this week that he told the Minny DBs how to stop Fitz: “Poke him in the eye or something.”
Allen has 6½ sacks in four games. Said Fitz, “I am happy to see him playing as well as he is. I told him we need him to take a week off against us, he was like, ‘Fitz no, this is a big week I have to get it going, I’m on a roll.’ I’m like, ‘Crap, that’s never a good sign when you hear that.’ ”
— It’ll be a big job for left tackle Levi Brown, who had his Allen issues last year. I’d assume the Cards will help with chip blocking.
This is a big game. Go into the bye with a 2-3 record and two weeks to prepare for a reeling Steelers team that has to come to Arizona, the Cards can deal with that. Drop to 1-4 and lose to a winless team – especially after last week – and it’ll be a long two weeks.
Besides, Fitz needs that win in Minny.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Brandon Keith, Jared Allen, Jeremy Bridges, Larry Fitzgerald, O'Brien Schofield, Ray Horton, Rob Housler, Todd Heap, Vikings
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