The Arizona Cardinals made little effort to run the ball Sunday, so much so that they nearly set an NFL record. Plus, get more than three dozen game notes that help tell the tale of the Vikings' 35-14 blowout.
Heading into Sunday's game, three teams in the history of the NFL had only rushed six times in a game to share the record for fewest rushing attempts in a single contest. One of those came in the 2006 – the last time the Vikings played the Arizona Cardinals
. In that game, a 31-26 Vikings win at the Metrodome on Nov. 26, 2006, the Cardinals ran the ball six times for just 17 yards while throwing the ball 51 times and being sacked once.
With just a couple of minutes remaining in Sunday's game, the Cardinals were in line to break that record. If not for two runs in the final 2:26 as the Cardinals looked to run out the clock without any further damage, the Cardinals would have set the record. Eerily similar to the last meeting, the Cardinals dropped to pass 54 times Sunday, throwing the ball 50 times and having four sacks recorded by the Vikings.
While an early deficit did a lot to change things for Arizona's offense, at no time did the Cardinals even give the look of a willingness to run the ball. In the first quarter, 10 of Arizona's 11 offensive plays were passes. What made their lack of rushing numbers even more compelling was that, on their first drive of the second quarter, the Cardinals ran on the first three plays. After that – for final 13 minutes of the second quarter and all the way until the final play of the third quarter – all 20 of the Cardinals' offensive plays were passes. After running once on the final play of the third quarter, the next 18 plays executed by the Arizona offense were pass plays.
There is a belief among most NFL insiders that if a team is to be successful, it has to be able to run the ball effectively on offense and stop the run defensively. If that's the case, the Cardinals may be the division champions of the NFC West, but they won't last long in the playoffs.
Adrian Peterson continued to re-write the record books for the Vikings on Sunday. With 165 yards Sunday, he now has 1,581 on the season and broke a pair of franchise records in the process. In the second quarter, he topped 100 yards rushing – his ninth 100-yard game of the season – breaking the team record of eight held by Robert Smith in 2000. With his first carry of the second half, he broke Smith's single-season rushing record of 1,521 yards.
Peterson also recorded the fifth game of his career with 150 or more rushing yards.
The Vikings outgained the Cardinals 396-316. The Vikings had 239 yards rushing on 44 carries and threw for 157 yards. The Cardinals had 273 yards passing and just 43 yards rushing.
The Vikings have struggled on third downs badly this year, but converted 10 of 15 third-down attempts on Sunday and essentially gave away a couple of third down plays late in the game to kill clock time. The Cardinals made good on just four of 13 third downs.
The Vikings held a time of possession edge of 34:34 to 25:26.
Tarvaris Jackson threw just 17 passes, but four of his 11 completions were for touchdowns. He threw for 163 yards and had a passer rating of 135.5 – the best of any quarterback who played on Sunday.
Jackson's four TD passes marked the first time a Vikings quarterback had done that since Daunte Culpepper threw four TDs against Green Bay in 2004.
Chester Taylor put in another strong performance, rushing 10 times for 66 yards and leading the team with four receptions – good for 37 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings were able to keep the dynamic receiver duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in check. Coming into Sunday's game, the two were averaging 166 receiving yards per game. On Sunday, they combined for just 86 yards.
With two games to play, Bobby Wade continues to lead the Vikings in receptions with 44. He had just two catches, but one of them was a 59-yard touchdown. Bernard Berrian has 42 catches, and his only reception Sunday was a 41-yard TD in the first quarter. Taylor is closing in on both of them with 39 receptions.
Jared Allen added two more sacks Sunday, giving him 14.5 for the season. That is the highest total since John Randle had 15.5 sacks in 1997.
The Cardinals didn't do themselves any favors in trying to cut into the Vikings lead in the fourth quarter. Taking over with 17 seconds left in the third quarter, Arizona took 7:34 off the clock on their next drive and came away with no points.
Pat Williams was taken off the field in the second half with what was initially diagnosed as a shoulder injury.
Allen looked to be injured early in the fourth quarter, but he not only returned to action, he got both of his sacks in the fourth quarter.
The special teams of the Vikings had another serious gaffe, as it allowed a blocked field goal to be returned for a touchdown. The Vikings have allowed opponents to score 10 touchdowns this year on returns – one more TD than they have allowed rushing. They set an NFL record by giving up their seventh special-teams touchdown of the season.
The Cardinals had gone 211 games without returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown.
Brian Robison returned to action less than two weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee and it appeared to lock up on him in the third quarter. He would return to action, however, and finished the game with a sack.
Kurt Warner took a beating much of the game Sunday and appeared to injure his throwing hand in the second half.
With the Vikings up 28-14 in the third quarter, the officials picked up a 50-yard pass interference penalty flag on Antoine Winfield that could have changed the complexion of the game.
In the first half, the Cardinals ran 22 pass plays and just four runs.
The Vikings dominated the first-half statistics. They outgained the Cardinals 234-111, with the Vikings having 25 rushes for 156 yards and throwing for 78 yards, while Arizona threw for 83 yards and rushed for 28 yards. The Vikings had 12 first downs, while Arizona managed only four. Perhaps most impressive was that the Vikings converted eight of nine third-down opportunities, while Arizona was good on just two of six. The Vikings held the ball for 19 minutes even in the first half; Arizona had it for 11 minutes.
Individually, Jackson completed six of nine passes for 83 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Peterson had 15 carries for 104 yards, while Taylor added 46 yards on six carries. Taylor had three receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown, while Berrian was the yardage leader with 41 yards on his TD catch.
For Arizona, Warner completed 11 of 20 passes for 98 yards in the first half with an interception. J.J. Arrington was the leading rusher with two carries for 23 yards and Arrington and Boldin each caught four passes.
Bryant McKinnie was knocked out of action late in the first half but did return in the second half and played the remainder of the game.
On the Vikings' second-quarter scoring drive, they marched 91 yards on 12 plays – 10 rushes and two passes. Thanks to three false-start penalties, the team actually gained 105 yards on the drive, including 94 yards rushing.
Sunday marked the fifth time this year that Peterson has had 100 yards rushing before halftime.
On two consecutive rushing plays in the second quarter, Peterson took a carry for 34 yards and Taylor broke off a 20-yarder.
Early in the second quarter, Boldin caught his 500th career pass. In just his 80th game, he is the fastest to 500 catches in NFL history.
After opening the game on their own 20-yard line, the next three Vikings possessions started at the Arizona 47, the Arizona 23 and the Minnesota 48-yard lines.
The Vikings might have been able to salt the game away earlier than they did. Already ahead 21-0, Taylor fumbled on the Arizona 9-yard line to prevent another score.
In the first quarter, the Vikings held a huge statistical edge in just about every category. They had six first downs to just one by the Cardinals, had 117 total yards (60 rushing, 57 passing) to 56 for Arizona (49 passing, seven rushing). The Vikings were six of seven on third-down conversions while Arizona was 0-for-2. The Vikings held the ball for 10:15 of the quarter.
While Berrian's 82-yard punt return stole most of the thunder Sunday, Wade had a 20-yard punt return of his own on the next Arizona punt.
In the first 13 games of the season, Arizona allowed just 42 points in the first quarter. In Sunday's game, they allowed 21 points.Darren Sharper got his league-best 61st career takeaway in the first quarter with a fumble recovery. For his career, he has 54 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
Arizona burned both of its challenges in the first quarter, losing on both and having two timeouts taken away. The Vikings would also make two challenges during the game – winning one and losing one.
Berrian's punt return for a touchdown was the first by a Viking since Mewelde Moore took one back on Oct. 30, 2006 against the Patriots.
Maurice Hicks was back returning kickoffs for the first time in a month on Sunday. Rookie Darius Reynaud was inactive with a foot injury.
Artis Hicks was deactivated Sunday with an elbow injury, which put former starter Ryan Cook back in the starting lineup.