Cardinals present opportunity for run defense

The Vikings' run defense failed in the second half of the Patriots game, but the Vikings face a Cardinals rushing attack that hasn't found its rhythm.

Running back Tim Hightower not only lost his starting job, but he became just a small role player last week against the Bucs.

Hightower touched the ball just twice, once on a rush and once on a reception. He gained a total of one yard.

If coach Ken Whisenhunt's intent was to send a message that Hightower needs to hang on to the ball, it was received.

Asked about his limited role, Hightower cracked a little smile.

"Limited?" he said. "Was it frustrating? Yeah, it was frustrating. You work hard all week, practice hard, prepare play a football game. I don't think it was something that caught me completely off guard.

"We're trying to stress the importance of ball security and us limiting our turnovers. A competitor wants to be on the football field making plays, especially when you feel like your team is struggling out there."

Hightower has lost three fumbles this season, including one against Seattle two weeks ago that ended a promising drive.

Over the past two years, Hightower has lost seven fumbles and dropped several more that either he or a teammate recovered.

Beanie Wells started in his place but carried only 50 yards on 16 carries. Three weeks ago, Wells complained about his playing time. Since then, he has averaged 2.78 yards a carry.

NOTES

  • Rookie linebacker O'Brien Schofield played in his first NFL game Sunday after being activated from the non-football injury list. Schofield played on special teams.

    "The game speed is definitely a lot different than practice," said Schofield, a fourth-round pick from Wisconsin. "On my first play, I kind of got a little beat on a kickoff return, and after that, I'm like, 'OK, I'm ready to go.' I got my speed up, and I think I did some good things out there."

  • Receiver Steve Breaston had a career-high 147 yards receiving against the Bucs but wasn't celebrating afterward. "It all gets washed out in the loss," Breaston said. "You just have to win the game. That is all I really cared about."

  • OLB Clark Haggans could miss a second consecutive game with a groin strain. Will Davis started in his place last week and had a sack.

  • QB Max Hall could return to his backup role after three starts. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is mulling returning Derek Anderson to the starting job. A decision likely will come on Wednesday.

  • WR Steve Breaston had a career-high 147 receiving yard in his first game back from knee surgery. Breaston missed three games.

  • ILB Gerald Hayes could move into the starting lineup. Hayes played for the first time this season last week after being on the PUP list due to a back problem. Hayes could start at the "Mike" position with Paris Lenon moving to "Will". That would put rookie Daryl Washington on the bench.


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