Grading the game: Cardinals

A win on the road against a playoff team doesn't come without solid play from a number of areas, and the Vikings delivered a pretty good all-around victory against the Cardinals.

PASSING OFFENSE: B — Tarvaris Jackson's passing yardage was nothing special. He completed 11 of 17 passes and threw for only 163 yards in his first start since being benched after the Vikings' loss to Indianapolis in Week 2. But Jackson also threw four touchdown passes, no interceptions and had an impressive 135.5 passer rating. These were the type of numbers the Vikings expected from Jackson when the regular season began and perhaps if he had been allowed to remain the starter for a longer period he would have delivered. But an argument also could be made that Jackson benefited from watching veteran Gus Frerotte. Now with Frerotte out because of a broken bone in his back, Jackson is once again atop the depth chart. How long he stays there remains to be seen. There is a chance Frerotte will be ready for Sunday's game against Atlanta, and if that is the case coach Brad Childress is going to have to make a decision. It's going to be tough, however, to sit a guy who threw three first-half touchdown passes and appears to be showing the maturation the Vikings have longed to see. Jackson's two longest touchdown throws were a 59-yarder to Bobby Wade and a 41-yarder to Bernard Berrian.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — Jackson had only 17 pass attempts because the Vikings spent most of the day running the ball against the Cardinals. Running back Adrian Peterson gained 165 yards on 28 carries, making it the ninth time this season he has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. Peterson has surpassed the 100-yard mark in the past three games and now holds the Vikings' single-season rushing record with 1,581 yards. Chester Taylor added 10 carries for 66 yards and caught four passes out of the backfield for 37 yards with one going for a touchdown. The Vikings' total of 239 yards rushing was a season high and marks only the second time this season that Minnesota has surpassed the 200-yard mark.

PASS DEFENSE: B — The Cardinals entered Sunday with the NFL's second-ranked passing offense and figured to present all types of troubles for the Vikings' 20th-ranked pass defense. But defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier came up with a game plan that did not allow the Cardinals to find their rhythm. Arizona passed for 298 yards but the Vikings limited the damage. Minnesota spent much of the first half in its nickel defense, with cornerback Benny Sapp replacing middle linebacker Napoleon Harris, and in the second half the Vikings spent extensive time in the dime defense with cornerback Marcus McCauley serving as the sixth defensive back. The Cardinals only offensive touchdown came on Kurt Warner's 50-yard pass to wide receiver Jerheme Urban but the Cardinals' big three of Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston did not get into the end zone despite combining for 15 catches. Part of the reason Warner was not successful – he was lifted late in the game in favor of Matt Leinart – was because the Vikings got so much pressure on him. Warner was sacked four times, twice by Jared Allen, and the Vikings were credited with 11 quarterback hurries, including four by Allen and three by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus — The Cardinals did not even try to test one of the NFL's best run defenses. Arizona gained 43 yards on only seven attempts as it was clear the Cardinals were going to live and die with the passing game. Nose tackle Pat Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter, did not play as much as usual before getting hurt because he was taken out in several passing situations. Defensive end Brian Robison, who had missed the previous game after having arthroscopic knee surgery, was shifted inside at times because his speed helps on passing downs. The Cardinals were consistent in their disdain for trying to run the ball, attempting four rushes in the first half and three in the second.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Wide receiver Bernard Berrian provided this unit with one of its highlights of the season, returning a punt 82 yards in the first quarter to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead. Berrian made a great play on the return, streaking down the left sideline while somehow managing to avoid going out of bounds. But not everything was positive. The Vikings gave up their NFL record seventh special-teams touchdown of the season on a blocked field goal in the third quarter. Ryan Longwell's 34-yard attempt was blocked by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Roderick Hood returned the ball and went 68 yards for the score. The Vikings had been tied with the 1980 Detroit Lions as the only teams to give up six touchdowns on special teams since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. That was Longwell's only field-goal attempt of the day. Chris Kluwe, meanwhile, averaged 46 yards and 33 yards net on four punts. Bobby Wade also got a chance on punt returns, averaging 14 yards on two of them. Kick returner Maurice Hicks was back on the field after being inactive for three games - rookie Darius Reynaud was out because of a toe injury - but Hicks did not return a kick.

COACHING: B — Brad Childress has now guided his team to four consecutive victories, including three in a row on the road. The Vikings were 1-4 away from the Metrodome at one point this season but now are a .500 club on the road and 5-1 at home. The Vikings' nine victories are one more than they had all of last season and put them on the verge of clinching their first-ever NFC North title. Childress was under pressure when the Vikings were 1-3 and he deserves plenty of credit for getting this team out of its slump and to the top of the division. Always looking to get his players the mental edge, he did so Sunday by pointing out that with numerous Vikings fans at University of Phoenix Stadium that it was going to be almost like playing a home game. The Vikings' schemes both on offense and defense also are credit to the coaching staff. Especially defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who will likely get a head coaching opportunity after this season.


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