Win Gives Vikings Some Momentum

Entering a key stretch of games in their fight to get back in the playoff picture, a win over Arizona, an NFC team, is a good start for the Vikings.

The Vikings figure to enter Sunday's game at NFC North rival Chicago as heavy underdogs, but at least Brad Childress' team will have the momentum of its first victory in more than a month.

Minnesota (5-6) put an end to a four-game losing streak with a 31-26 victory over Arizona on Sunday at the Metrodome and is within one game of pulling to .500. While the Vikings certainly remain long shots for a playoff berth, Childress is trying to keep his players focused on that goal.

"I told the guys before this game, six games to go, five NFC games, three division games, so all that factors in," he said. "We just need to press on, enjoy this one and then get ready for the Chicago Bears."

The Vikings' lost 19-16 to Chicago in their third game of the season, but actually were in a position to win that game and raise their record to 3-0 at the time. Minnesota was leading 16-12 with three minutes, 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter when quarterback Brad Johnson fumbled on a handoff exchange with Chester Taylor.

Chicago recovered the ball at the Vikings' 37 and five plays later Bears quarterback Rex Grossman threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to put the Bears ahead.

That game, however, seems as if it was played in a different season considering the Vikings' struggles leading up to last Sunday. Minnesota's rough stretch included losses to New England, San Francisco, Green Bay and Miami.

One of the main reasons for this was that the Patriots exposed some big weaknesses in the Vikings' pass defense by spreading them out. That unit went into Sunday's game against Arizona ranked 26th in the NFL, while the Vikings' run defense was the best in the league.

The Cardinals became the latest team to scrap the run and concentrate on the pass. Quarterback Matt Leinart completed 31 of 51 passes for 405 yards, while Arizona attempted six running plays. That tied a record set by the 1933 Chicago Cardinals and equaled by the Patriots in 2004.

The previous week the Dolphins had attempted only 14 rushes and gained 4 yards. So what does this mean for the Vikings as they prepare for their meeting with the Bears? Likely the fact they can bank on Grossman going to the air for much of the afternoon.

It also means that defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin and his staff can watch film all day long but odds are they will see a much different look than what they end up getting. Arizona, for instance, had not attempted fewer than 20 rushes in a game before last Sunday.

"It seems like every week I'm seeing something new (from offenses)," Tomlin said. "That's the beauty of this. I can't wait to see what happens next week."

Tomlin is being forced to make some adjustments in order to keep his best personnel on the field and also attempt to slow the success opponents have through the air.

Sunday, he debuted a look that featured three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs. This package was used for about 20 snaps and enabled him to keep strong-side linebacker Ben Leber on the field.

Leber had been coming out in the nickel defense, but with opponents using so many multiple receiver sets that meant he was spending more and more time on the sideline. Against the Dolphins, for instance, Leber was in for 18 snaps.

"That's ridiculous, he's too good of a player (not to be in more," Tomlin said. "He brings some unique skills to the table. ... We just try to find ways to keep him on the field."

Using Leber more often against the Cardinals proved to be wise, as he forced two fumbles that the Vikings recovered.


  • CB Cedric Griffin took over as the starter for slumping veteran Fred Smoot. Smoot, though, still saw extensive action in the nickel package. While Smoot technically lost his job as the starting right corner, he still remained at that spot in the nickel. Griffin would then move to left corner and Antoine Winfield moves into the slot.

  • Griffin played last Sunday despite having a neck and shoulder injury that obviously caused him some pain. He also dislocated a finger in the victory and had it put back in place on the field before returning. Smoot, meanwhile, suffered a shoulder contusion late in the fourth quarter but returned to the game.

  • RG Jason Whittle and RT Mike Rosenthal made their first starts of the season Sunday in place of injured Artis Hicks and Marcus Johnson. Both have sprained ankles and were inactive for the game. It's unclear if one or both will return Sunday at Chicago. Hicks' ankle sprain is believed to be the more severe.

  • Rookie RT Ryan Cook, a surprise second-round pick, was used for four series in place of Mike Rosenthal as part of a rotation the Vikings set up. The move came as a surprise to all but the players. Cook, a center in college, had been inactive for the first 10 games of the season. "It's time for (Cook) to get up there and take a swing," coach Brad Childress said.

  • WR Troy Williamson, who had another deep pass go through his hands against the Cardinals, has seen little playing time in the past two games. Williamson entered Sunday leading the NFL with 10 dropped passes. Coach Brad Childress made it clear he wants to see how Williamson reacts to being benched. "You have to have confidence that the guy is going to do the right thing in practice," he said. "Catch the ball in practice and continue to compete. One of the prime things is that you don't fold up. You're not happy that you're not playing. You want to get out there on the football field. That's what I expect to see from him."

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