The Vikings got off to great starts on offense, defense and special teams. After forcing a three-and-out by Arizona to start the game, Marcus Sherels returned the punt 23 yards to the Cardinals 44-yard line. Sam Bradford went to work and found Adam Thielen for 22 yards and appeared to have a touchdown to Kyle Rudolph from 12 yards out, but a hands-to-the-face penalty brought that back. One play later, Bradford found Theilen for a 16-yard touchdown and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
However, the Cardinals responded with an 11-play touchdown drive in which Carson Palmer found the holes in the Vikings’ zones, hitting Larry Fitzgerald for 16 yards, Daniel Fells for 22 and Michael Floyd for 10 before David Johnson punched it in from 1 yard out to tie the game 7-7 with 4:07 left in the first quarter.
While the Cardinals passing game was on point in the first quarter, David Johnson did most of the damage as the game moved to the second quarter. Johnson started the drive with five straight runs for 43 yards and moved Arizona into scoring position before Chandler Catanzaro kicked the Cardinals into the lead with a 34-yard field goal five minutes into the second quarter.
The Wildcat was in style on the Vikings’ next drive. Before that, however, third-and-1 called for a passing play and Cordarrelle Patterson delivered with a 30-yard reception into Arizona territory. Jerick McKinnon took a direct snap and ran 5 yards. On the next play, McKinnon lined up in the Wildcat again. He handed off to Patterson on the end around, who flipped the ball back to Bradford, who then lofted it toward Thielen at the goal line. The pass fell incomplete, but Thielen drew pass interference on Tony Jefferson. With the ball on the 2-yard line, Matt Asiata punched it in for a touchdown and 13-10 lead after Kai Forbath’s extra-point attempt was blocked.
The Cardinals started the ensuing possession in Vikings territory after a 49-yard return, but after driving inside the 10-yard line, Xavier Rhodes stepped in front of a Palmer pass and returned the interception 100 yards – a franchise record – for the touchdown and a 20-10 Minnesota lead.
The Cardinals countered with an efficient drive that went 75 yards in seven plays, capped with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham to cut Minnesota’s lead to 20-17 as the game moved to halftime.
FIRST-HALF STATS: The Cardinals dominated the offensive stats, racking up 19 first downs, 263 yards and nearly 21 minutes in time of possession. Palmer was 11 of 19 for 153 yards and Johnson ran 17 times for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Bradford finished the half 7 of 9 for 87 yards with a touchdown, but Arizona’s dominance in time of possession, along with a struggling Vikings running game, limited the Vikings’ chances.
Patterson opened the second half with a bang, returning the opening kick 104 yards for a touchdown and a 27-17 lead.
The teams traded punts, but Rhodes got his second interception of the game to end the Cardinals’ third drive of the second half and the Vikings took advantage.
Thanks to three personal fouls on the Cardinals on the ensuing drive, the Vikings moved into scoring position and Forbath converted a 27-yard field goal for a 30-17 lead as the third quarter came to a close.
The Cardinals took advantage of T.J. Clemmings for one of the biggest plays of the fourth quarter. With the Vikings facing third-and-12, Chandler Jones got past a chip block from Rudolph and beat Clemmings around the edge and hooked Bradford’s arm, forcing a fumble that Deone Bucannon recovered on the Minnesota 27-yard line. From there, Johnson did the damage with a 14-yard reception on third down, then a 4-yard reception for a touchdown to cut the Vikings’ lead to 30-24 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Vikings offense couldn’t do much to milk the clock on their next two possessions, but a 72-yard punt by Jeff Locke pinned the Cardinals back on their own 13-yard line for the game’s final drive.
The Vikings looked to have the Cardinals stopped early after a Harrison Smith sack on third down and an incomplete pass on fourth down, but Tom Johnson was called for roughing the passer, giving Arizona new life.
Arizona converted one more first down, but Danielle Hunter ended it with a 19-yard sack of Palmer on fourth down, ending Minnesota’s four-game losing streak with a 30-24 win.
STATS: Bradford finished completing 20 of 28 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Diggs led with six receptions for 37 yards and Thielen added five catches for 65 yards. Hunter had two sacks, Robison one and Smith one.
Palmer completed 20 of 38 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Johnson had 103 yards on 22 carries.
T.J. Clemmings made the start at left tackle and Jeremiah Sirles at right tackle after the season-ending injury to Jake Long at left tackle. Alex Boone remained at left guard.
Terence Newman was playing in his 200th career game and Chad Greenway in his 150th.
The Vikings honored the late Dennis Green prior to the game, presenting his family with an artist rendering of him coaching in a Vikings game.