Sidney Rice credits offseason workouts with Cris Carter and Larry Fitzgerald for helping improve his work ethic. Fitzgerald is happy to see Rice emerge as one of the better receivers in the league. Plus, get dozens of rankings and statistics stacking the Vikings against the Cardinals.
There are a lot of new fans of Sidney Rice
. With just 36 yards tonight against the Cardinals, Rice will be the first Viking in five years to have 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
But someone who has been a fan of Rice's for some time is Larry Fitzgerald
of the Cardinals. As they meet up tonight, Fitzgerald said he has been pleased to see Rice enjoying a breakout season.
"I've really been happy to see the things that Sidney has been doing – the confidence that he's playing with, the way he's running his routes, the way he is attacking the football," Fitzgerald said. "You know how when you see a friend do something and you are just genuinely happy to see him do it? That's kind of how I feel. I saw him working. He really wanted to get better at it and he has. I'm just really happy for him. I want to see him just consistently continue to do it and have big years to come."
Fitzgerald and Rice worked out together this summer at a camp that had former Vikings great Cris Carter
as one of its instructors. To some, Carter was overly harsh to Rice – who was competing with some of the top names in the NFL at the camp. But Rice took the tough love to heart and impressed everyone he worked out with.
Rice said he expected no less from one of the game's all-time greats and he took the tough talk to heart.
"I knew what kind of guy he was. He's going to tell the truth and that's basically how he felt at the moment. I took that and used it as motivation," Rice said.
Fitzgerald says he could sympathize with Rice's spot. A few years back, he was in an eerily similar position, going from former ballboy to workout mate of Carter's.
"I was in his shoes not too long ago," Fitzgerald said. "When I was in college and I went down to work out with him for the first time when I got to school he ripped me a new one in front of all my peers, kind of how he did to Sidney. I just wanted to make sure I responded, so every day I came back with passion, and I came back with work ethic and an open mind to learn. Sidney did the same thing. A lot of guys would have just said, ‘Forget it. I'm already in the NFL. I'm here already. Who's this guy to talk to me like that?' But Sidney is a fighter. He is a competitor. He wants to be the best. He wants to get better every day and that showed by the way he came out and worked every day."
With Rice's continued maturation as a dominating NFL receiver, the Class of 2007 may well be remembered for much more than just Adrian Peterson
VIKINGS-CARDINALS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 5th-rated offense in the NFL (9th rushing, 7th passing) and the 8th-rated defense (2nd rushing, 19th passing). The Cardinals have the 10th-ranked offense (27th rushing, 5th passing) and the 24th-ranked defense (14th rushing, 29th passing).
Both teams have done a solid job protecting their veteran quarterbacks. The Cardinals ranked fifth in the league in sacks allowed per pass play. The Vikings are 11th.
Both teams move the chains consistently. The Vikings offense is fourth in the league in first downs per game, while Arizona is tied for eighth.
The Vikings excel on third downs offensively. They rank second in third-down conversions, making good on 77 of 158 chances (48.7 percent). The Cardinals rank 25th, converting just 48 of 135 third downs (35.6 percent). The league average is 38.6 percent.
The Vikings defense is first in sack percentage, while the Cardinals are ranked eighth.
The two defenses are the best in the league in getting off the field on third downs. The Vikings are first in third-down defense at 32.8 percent (45 of 137). The Cardinals are third at 33.1 percent (53 of 160).
The Vikings are tied for fifth in the league in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-8 (19 takeaways, 11 giveaways). Arizona is tied for 21st at minus-4 (17 takeaways, 21 giveaways).
The Vikings' 11 giveaways are second fewest in the NFL, behind only Green Bay with 10.
The Vikings offense is averaging 390 yards a game (260.8 passing, 129.2 rushing). The Cardinals are averaging 357.5 yards a game (265.2 passing, 92.4 rushing).
The Vikings defense is allowing 303.5 yards a game (221.9 passing, 81.6 rushing). The Cardinals are averaging 366.9 yards a game (258.3 passing, 108.6 rushing).
Arizona has the best red zone offense in the NFL. Of its 38 trips into the red zone, they have scored 27 touchdowns (71.1 percent). The Vikings are seventh at 60.4 percent – scoring touchdowns on 29 of 48 red zone chances.
The Vikings are second in the league in red zone defense, having allowed just 10 touchdowns in 27 red zone chances (37 percent). Surprisingly, the only team better is Washington, which has allowed just eight touchdowns in 25 red zone possessions. The Cardinals are tied for ninth at 45.5 percent – 15 touchdowns allowed in 33 red zone trips.
The average starting position following a kickoff return in the NFL is the 26.1-yard line. The Vikings remain first in the league in average starting position (the 32.8-yard line). The Cardinals are 22nd, with an average start position of the 24.7-yard line.
Brett Favre has four 300-yard games this season, one more than Kurt Warner.
The Cardinals have allowed five quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards in a game. The Vikings have allowed two.
The Cardinals have had five 100-yard receiving games – two from Larry Fitzgerald, two from Anquan Boldin and one from running back Tim Hightower. The Vikings have had four 100-yard receiving games – three from Sidney Rice and one from Percy Harvin.
After having four 100-yard games in his first 12 games as a Viking, Bernard Berrian hasn't had a 100-yard game in the last 15 games the Vikings have played.
The Cardinals have allowed five 100-yard receivers. The Vikings have allowed three – one to a wide receiver (Nate Burleson), one to a tight end (Jermichael Finley) and one to a running back (Ray Rice).
Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard games. The Cardinals' only 100-yard game came from Hightower.
The Cardinals have allowed four 100-yard runners this year. The Vikings haven't allowed a 100-yard runner since November 2007.
The Vikings rush defense has been steadily climbing the charts the last few weeks – moving from sixth to third to second in the last three weeks and closing the gap between themselves and league-leading Pittsburgh. They trail the Steelers by just 74 rushing yards allowed.
Favre continues to work his way higher up the passing charts, despite falling out of first place in passer rating to Drew Brees. Favre is tied for ninth in attempts (358), seventh in completions (248), second in completion percentage (69.3), eighth in yards (2,874), seventh in average gain (8.03), tied for second in touchdowns (24), second in touchdown percentage (6.7), second in interceptions (3), first in interception percentage (0.8) and second in passer rating (112.1).
No other quarterback in the league has an interception percentage lower than 1.3. Favre is at Favre's 0.8. He has thrown one interception per every 119 passes. The only reason he is second in the league in interceptions is that San Francisco's Shaun Hill has thrown enough passes to still qualify on the leader boards. He has thrown two interceptions in 155 passes, but was yanked in favor of Alex Smith.
Warner's numbers vary greatly in different categories. He is sixth in attempts (372), fifth in completions (251), sixth in completion percentage (67.5), 11th in yardage (2,718), tied for sixth in touchdowns (20), seventh in touchdown percentage (5.4), tied for 25th in interceptions (11), 22nd in interception percentage (3.0) and ninth in passer rating (94.4).
Favre has been brilliant late in games, posting a fourth-quarter passer rating of 119.0 – second only to Drew Brees (123.2). Warner has been brutal. His passer rating of 57.6 in the fourth quarter is 34th in the league.
Favre has been excellent on third downs as well. His passer rating of 113.7 trails only Aaron Rodgers of the Packers (an incredible 135.5). Warner is ranked 14th with a rating of 85.2.
Peterson is third in the league in rushing with 1,084 yards. He is 36 yards behind Steven Jackson of St. Louis for second place and trails Chris Johnson of Tennessee by a whopping 312 yards – dimming the chances of a repeat rushing title for A.D. The Cardinals twosome of Beanie Wells and Hightower are within four yards of each other – Wells tied for 31st with 489 yards and Hightower in 33rd with 485 yards.
Peterson has converted 11 of 12 third-and-1 runs – both of which lead the NFL. Wells has converted just four of nine third-and-1 runs.
Each team has three players in the top 45 in the league in receptions. Fitzgerald is third with 75, followed by Sidney Rice (tied for 15th, 56), Anquan Boldin (T-15, 56), Hightower (29th, 50), Steve Breaston (tied for 41st, 43) and Percy Harvin (tied for 44th, 42).
Rice needs just 36 yards to record his first 1,000-yard receiving season and the first for the Vikings since 2004.
Rice is third in the league with 964 receiving yards, just 23 yards behind Reggie Wayne for second place and 28 yards behind league leader Randy Moss. Fitzgerald leads the Cardinals with 826 yards, good for 12th place.
The Vikings have three players in the top 15 in third-down receptions. Harvin is fifth with 21 catches, Chester Taylor is tied for sixth with 19 and Rice is tied for 15th with 16. Fitzgerald has 17, which ties him for 11th place.
Peterson is second in the league with 12 touchdowns, behind only Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew (13). Fitzgerald is tied for seventh with nine TDs, Visanthe Shiancoe is tied for 13th with eight and Harvin is tied for 21st with seven (five receiving, two on kick returns).
Ryan Longwell needs just six points to record the 10th 100-point season of his career. He is fifth in the league in scoring with 94 points and trails league leader David Akers by just seven points. Neil Rackers of Arizona is tied for 17th with 69 points.
Peterson is fourth in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 1,317 (1,084 rushing, 233 receiving). He trails Jackson by 61, Ray Rice of Baltimore by 86 and Johnson of the Titans by 373.
Rice is 14th in the league in total yards with 964 – all receiving. Hightower leads the Cardinals with 851 yards (485 rushing, 366 receiving) – good for 26th in the league.
Peterson leads the league in first downs with 66 (55 rushing, 11 receiving) – six more than his closest competition – Reggie Wayne of the Colts and DeAngelo Williams of Carolina. Fitgerald is ninth with 52 (all receiving) and Hightower is 13th with 47 (27 rushing, 20 receiving).
Darius Reynaud is fifth in the league in punt return average at 11.6 yards.
Harvin regained the lead in kickoff return average from Ted Ginn Jr. last week, despite not having a return. His 29.8-yard average leads the league and, thanks to a huge return against the Vikings last week, Johnny Knox of the Bears is second with a 29.4 yard average.
Arizona's Antrel Rolle is tied for eighth in the league with four interceptions.
Jared Allen remains second in the league in sacks with 12.5 – 1.5 sacks behind Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos. Darnell Dockett of the Cardinals is tied for 12th with seven, Ray Edwards is 15th with 6.5 and Kevin Williams is tied for 16th with six.
Three Vikings and two Cardinals are tied for eighth place with two defensive fumble recoveries – Minnesota's Allen, Chad Greenway and Heath Farwell and Arizona's Bertrand Berry and Adrian Wilson.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.