It had been 42 days since the Minnesota Vikings had won their last game – a 31-13 pounding of the Houston Texans Oct. 9 and the team had gone from being viewed as the best team in the NFL to potentially a casualty along the way after four straight losses.
But, on a day when the offense, defense and special teams all created big plays, the Vikings snapped their four-game losing streak with a 30-24 dagger in the heart of the Arizona Cardinals, ending a winless drought that had a lot of people questioning themselves.
“It’s been a long month,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “A long, long, long month. It’s good to feel this again. It’s good to see the fight the players had, to see that hard work. I talked to the team a lot the past few days about, it’s a long season, there are going to be a lot of ups and downs. There are going to be a lot of different things that can go on. If you just keep fighting and keep your nose to the grindstone, keep going, keep working and paying attention to the little details of your work, we can pull out of this.”
It wasn’t always pretty. In the first half, the Cardinals pounded the Vikings defense for 263 yards and running back David Johnson had nearly 100 yards in the first half alone.
But, thanks to a 100-yard interception return by Xavier Rhodes, a 104-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson and a 72-yard punt by Jeff Locke with 2:20 to play and a defense that allowed Arizona just 27 second-half yards of offense, the Vikings overcame the issues that plagued the team over the last month.
“Those last couple of games wasn’t what we do,” linebacker Anthony Barr said. “We needed to get back on track and get a win and get back to playing the way we play.”
The win couldn’t have come soon enough for the Vikings, who fell out of first place due to a tie-breaker loss to the Lions. But, when the game hung in the balance, everyone did their job to lock down the victory.
“It’s got our confidence back to where it should be,” Barr said. “I don’t think we ever wavered, but you lose four in a row, you’re kind of walking on egg shells a little bit. There were situations throughout the game that, for whatever reason the last four weeks, we weren’t executing that. Today, it kind of came together for us. The first half defensively was poor, but after that, we picked it up and played a pretty decent game.”
For quarterback Sam Bradford, it was a sigh of relief for an offense that has been feeling its way with multiple line combinations for much of the season and didn’t allow the Cardinals defense to take charge of the game, even though the offense accounted for just two of the team’s four touchdowns. A win was a win no matter how it materialized and it was long overdue for the Vikings locker room.
“We had to go how many weeks in row, four straight, I think it was weighing on everyone,” Bradford said. “You could feel it in practice and in the locker room. The joy of winning, it’s a great feeling.”
For the much-maligned offensive line of the Vikings, it was a vindication that they were able to keep Bradford from taking too many shots and providing him time to make plays downfield.
“We never lost our confidence, but it was getting to be a little much,” guard Brandon Fusco said. “We’ve still got a lot of things to clean up, but I thought overall we did a pretty decent job. Every guy was sticking to what he had to do and we made plays when we had to in all three aspects of the game – offense, defense and special teams. That’s what we needed and we got the job done in the second half to close it out.”
The Vikings now move on to Detroit Thanksgiving Day looking to start a winning streak and get the team back rolling toward the playoffs.
For the players, the best part of the game might have been the postgame celebration, where the 42-day monkey was finally pulled off their backs. It was a troubling time for the Vikings, but they feel like they’ve turned a corner and can put the adversity behind them.
“Losing four straight, it was humbling,” Rhodes said. “We needed to end that streak and get back on a roll, a winning streak. We were really determined to get that over. ”