Grading the Game: Cardinals

The grades improve to a respectable level after the Vikings got their first win in over a month. We take a unit-by-unit analysis of what they did well and what needs improving.

PASSING OFFENSE: B — Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson made the most of going against one of the NFL's worst pass defenses, throwing for a season-high 271 yards and three touchdowns. His 108.9 passer rating marked the first time this season he has had a 100 rating or better. Johnson was sacked twice but certainly received respectable pass protection from a line that included two new starters (right guard Jason Whittle and right guard Mike Rosenthal) and also saw rookie Ryan Cook rotate into the game for four series in place of Rosenthal. Johnson spread the ball around to eight receivers, connecting seven times with Marcus Robinson. Robinson, who returned last week against Miami after missing three games because of a lower-back injury, also caught his team-leading fourth touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — Chester Taylor had his second-biggest rushing day of the season, going for 136 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown. His 5-yard per carry average also was his second best of the season. Despite the Vikings having a revamped right side of the line, Taylor looked comfortable going in that direction. The one negative was that he lost his third fumble in two games, turning over the ball at the goal line in the fourth quarter and having it returned 99 yards for a Cardinals touchdown. Taylor, who has 999 rushing yards this season, now has four fumbles in past three games.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — OK, the Vikings defense only gave up one touchdown, but rookie Matt Leinart still threw for 405 yards (31 of 51) and the Vikings only had one sack despite the high number of drop backs. The pressure simply has to get better in front or the back end is going to continue to struggle. Rookie Cedric Griffin earned passing marks as he took over as a starter for struggling veteran Fred Smoot. Smoot, however, still saw plenty of playing time in a nickel defense that frequently was on the field because the Cardinals used so many multi-receiver packages. The Vikings even unveiled a dime package at one point and also featured a three-down linemen, three-linebacker, five-defensive back set that hadn't been seen.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — This could be an incomplete because opponents have simply given up trying to run the ball against a unit led by dominant tackles Kevin and Pat Williams. Arizona attempted six rushes on Sunday, tying an NFL low. The Cardinals gained 17 yards on the ground, a 2.8 average, with 15 coming from Pro Bowl back Edgerrin James.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D — A 99-yard kickoff return to open the game by J.J. Arrington and a fourth-quarter onside kick by the Cardinals that they recovered are the big reason for this grade. About the only positive was rookie Charles Gordon's strip of punt returner Troy Walters that led to Minnesota recovering the ball. Arrington also had returns of 41 and 33 yards in what probably qualifies as the Vikings' worst game of the season on special teams. This should be enough to get special-teams ace Will Hunter off the inactive list after a two-week absence.

COACHING: C-plus — Brad Childress deserves credit for loosening up his play calling and taking some downfield shots against the Cardinals defense. But, considering this came against the Cardinals, it's too early to say if this is any sort of trend. Coordinator Mike Tomlin's defense bent, bent, bent but didn't break at the end when Leinart's Hail Mary pass was intercepted in the end zone by Dwight Smith to end the game. Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro, however, had little to be happy about.

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