The Vikings stopped the Detroit Lions' running game, holding them to a 2.8-yard average on 27 rushing plays, but the Vikings never assumed a big enough lead until the final minutes to make Detroit rely solely on its passing game. When the Lions became desperate, the Vikings ended up with two sacks on the final two plays.
Lions QB Daunte Culpepper finished with 220 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Detroit's only legitimate threat in the passing game, Calvin Johnson.
This Sunday, the Vikings won't be playing in a dome, they won't be playing before a generally apathetic crowd that is far from capacity, they won't be facing the 30th-ranked offense, and they won't be able to focus on only one good receiver. The differences between the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals are night and day, north and south, losing and winning. And, most of all, the differences are dangerous in the passing game.
Vikings safety Darren Sharper was informed Monday that the Vikings' leading receivers – Bobby Wade with 42 catches and Bernard Berrian with 824 yards – would pale in comparison to Arizona's receiving triple threat.
"Our leading guy would be fourth on their list. They have two guys that have 80 catches and the other guy, I guess he's around 50 or 60. Wow, I don't think I've ever faced a team that's had that many number of catches," Sharper said. "They air the ball out a lot, so you know that's what we're going to see. You know we're going to definitely have to be prepared for it. Most teams try to attack us through the air because we're so strong against the run, so we have to definitely be tight on the back end."
Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald leads the Cardinals with 83 catches for 1,148 yards. Anquan Boldin is second with 83 for 1,255 and Steve Breaston adds 67 receptions for 863 yards. The Vikings' top player in catches (Wade) and yardage (Berrian) would indeed finish fourth on the Cardinals in both those categories.
Boldin is one of the strongest receivers in the league, but Fitzgerald might be the most athletic.
"He's a big body. Goes up and gets the football. Catches everything that's in his vicinity. Long wing span. Runs good routes. Is physical," Sharper said of Fitzgerald. "Runs every route – go across the middle, go deep. The main thing why he's able to have the numbers that he always has is that he catches the football and you can throw it to him even when he's covered. He knows how to go up and get the ball at the highest point. He knows how to make catches, behind him, in front of him, when guys are all over him. Just an all-around good receiver. He doesn't get the recognition that I think he deserves. He is actually probably the top – maybe you could say the top receiver. You put him in a different league or team where he gets a little bit more recognition, but he's definitely a top-three receiver in this league."
Indianapolis is the only team that the Vikings have faced so far this season that might compare to Arizona's passing attack. The Colts weren't firing on all cylinders when they beat the Vikings 18-15 at the Metrodome, but QB Peyton Manning still had 311 yards passing.
"You have to put them up with Indy. Indy this year didn't have everybody like they did in the past and I've seen when they've had like four or five guys that can get the football and a running back. This is similar to what Arizona can do, so comparing them to them," said Sharper, who also compared the Arizona passing attack to the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" days around the turn of the century. "(The Rams) won a Super Bowl, so you really can't put Arizona up there with them. But the amount of weapons that they have compares to St. Louis back then."
One positive, Sharper said, is that the Cardinals don't have anyone that runs a 4.2-second 40-yard dash, like the speed Johnson used to burn the Vikings defense for their only touchdown allowed last Sunday.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he was touched that owner Zygi Wilf presented the game ball to him after the Vikings' win. Wilf gave Childress the game ball to honor the fact that Childress' son, Andrew, was deploying to San Diego the next morning to join the Marine Corps.
"My wildest dreams, I didn't think that that was what that was about – why Zygi had a game ball in his hand and who he was going to give it to," Childress said. "But (I'm) very grateful and my family is very grateful. It was touching to my son and I know that he's going to fight to keep all of us free here."
Childress had the opportunity to watch Andrew be sworn in before leaving Monday morning.
"It's heart-wrenching because it's against every instinct that you have as a parent to allow your child to be put in harm's way," Childress said. "But it was a decision he wanted and he's wanted to do it for a very long time. I have no doubt that he'll be good at it and he'll serve our country very well."
Andrew wasn't allowed to bring the ball with him.
James said during training camp with the Redskins that the Vikings weren't patient with him in dealing with his injuries.
"I have been excited with the way the Redskins have handled it. They have been patient with me, and that is something that didn't happen in Minnesota," he said in August. "I am very happy and fortunate that it happened here this way. The athletic trainers have done a phenomenal job of getting back, and now I am ready and feeling great."