The Vikings took a beating in the injury department on Sunday. We run down the players who left the field and supply you with more than two dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.
For most of the magic carpet ride that has been the 2009 season for the Vikings, the team has been able to stay healthy. With the exception of Antoine Winfield
, the other 21 starters had been able to stay on the field for the 2009 season.
That changed last week when Anthony Herrera
went down with a concussion late in the Seattle game and was missing in action Sunday night. So was Winfield, who has now missed six straight games since suffering a foot injury against Baltimore in October. However, the Vikings' avoidance of the M*A*S*H list came to an end in a big way Sunday.
Anyone who saw Sunday's game knows the broken left femur suffered by E.J. Henderson
with less than seven minutes to play in the game. A victim of friendly fire from rookie safety Jamarca Sanford
, who himself was an injury replacement, Henderson's left leg was planted when Sanford came at full speed trying to make a tackle on running back Tim Hightower
. When the video was slowed down, it was clear that Henderson suffered a catastrophic leg injury – at one point his leg was positioned straight up-and-down, but his foot was at what appeared to be a 90-degree angle.
Henderson was staying overnight in Phoenix and surgery was expected.
"It's the hard part of the game and I happened to be looking right at it," said Vikings coach Brad Childress, who was on the field shortly after the injury happened. "That's why I was walking to it when it happened. He is a tough guy and he was in discomfort out there. That's why you have backups and those guys have got to answer as well."
Henderson was carted off the field with his younger brother, Erin, who was inactive, holding his hand while he was taken off the field.
Henderson was replaced on the field by rookie Jasper Brinkley
The Vikings secondary was without three of its starters in the second half. Winfield was again de-activated prior to the game, but starting safety Tyrell Johnson
was injured in the third quarter and replaced by Sanford, and starting cornerback Cedric Griffin
suffered what appeared to be a neck injury in a collision with Henderson prior to his leg injury earlier in the fourth quarter. As the game wound down, the Vikings had rookies Sanford, Brinkley and Asher Allen
on the field – more by force than choice.
The offensive line had to do its own bit of shuffling in the first half. Already without Herrera, the team lost both starting tackles for a time in the first quarter. Phil Loadholt
was taken to the locker room on a cart after suffering a shoulder injury and, just minutes later, Bryant McKinnie
went down with an ankle injury. Perhaps the best thing that happened to the Vikings during that time period was that the Cardinals ran a long, time-consuming drive that allowed both of them to be evaluated and return to action.
But losing the two bookend tackles created its own set of problems. Artis Hicks
was playing in place of Herrera and, when Loadholt went out, he was replaced by former starter Ryan Cook
. When McKinnie went down, the Vikings shuffled Hicks from right guard to left tackle and inserted undrafted rookie Jon Cooper
at right guard. At that point, the team was down to its only five healthy linemen and the only Vikings starting linemen on the field were veteran left guard Steve Hutchinson
, who has been battling back pain all season, and center John Sullivan
– in his first year as a starter.
To complicate matters, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe
appeared to re-aggravate his rib injury in the second half and his status isn't clear heading into next week against the Bengals.
We likely won't know the full extent of the growing injury list until the Vikings start practicing Wednesday, but, for a team that has been blessed with few injuries all season, when they came, they came in bunches Sunday night and have suddenly given the powers that be with the team cause for genuine concern.
GAME DAY NOTES
With Sunday's loss, the talk of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is likely out the window and the Vikings may well have to play out the remainder of their regular season games to assure not being caught by the Cardinals. Arizona's final four opponents are at San Francisco, at Detroit and at home against St. Louis and Green Bay. It is clear they will be favored in all of those games, so if they can hold serve, the Vikings can't have any missteps despite still holding a two-game lead because of tie-breaker implications.
The Vikings have a two-game division lead, but that is much less in jeopardy because they swept the 8-4 Packers and Green Bay would have to finish with a better record than the Vikings in order to win the NFC North.
The Vikings allowed 398 yards of total offense to Arizona (285 passing, 113 rushing), while gaining 315 yards of their own (253 passing, 62 rushing).
Heading into Sunday's game, the fewest rushing yards Adrian Peterson had in a game this season was 55 against the Packers in the Monday night game at the Metrodome. On Sunday, he rushed 13 times for just 19 yards and, in the second half, he had five carries for minus-1 yard rushing.
In a ruling that may well be changed after the league stat people go over the game tape, Peterson was listed as third on the team in rushing Sunday night. Percy Harvin was credited with a 13-yard run on what appeared to be a bubble screen and finished the game with two carries for 22 yards. Chester Taylor had five carries for 21 yards, while Peterson had just 19 yards.
The only game of Peterson's three-year career that was worse was as a rookie, when he rushed 14 times for just three yards against the 49ers.
For much of the game, wide receiver Steve Breaston was leading the Cardinals in rushing after taking an end-around for 19 yards. Beanie Wells would pass him with an 11-yard run in the fourth quarter to finish with 13 carries for 28 yards and Hightower, who was behind both for most of the game, finished with six carries for 50 yards – gaining 32 on the carry that ended Henderson's season.
Sidney Rice led the team in receptions with seven (good for 72 yards) and Harvin was the team's yardage leader with 79 yards on six catches. Peterson set a career high with six receptions, picking up 46 yards through the air that was missing on the ground.
Kurt Warner took his foot off the gas in the second half, as the Cardinals ran the ball considerably more to eat up clock, but still finished the game completing 22 of 32 passes for 285 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He had 200 yards and all three TDs in the first half.
Anquan Boldin was the early star, catching seven passes for 98 yards by the midway point of the second quarter. He wouldn't catch another pass the rest of the game.
Despite not making his first catch until two minutes into the second quarter, Larry Fitzgerald showed why he is so dangerous. He finished with eight catches for 143 yards and a touchdown – catching four passes for 71 yards in the first half and four passes for 72 yards in the second half.
Boldin and Fitzgerald combined for 15 catches for 241 yards. The rest of the Cardinals accounted for seven catches for 44 yards.
Tight end Jeff Dugan had as many kickoff returns (three) as Harvin. The Cardinals kicked off seven times. Three times they kick low line drives that bounced their way back to Harvin, three times they pooch-kicked short to Dugan and once Neil Rackers let fly with a kickoff that went through the end zone for a touchback.
The Vikings were held without a sack of Warner, which was one of the defensive keys heading into Sunday's game. What makes that more astonishing was that the Cards were without starting left tackle Mike Gandy, who was replaced by journeyman Jeremy Bridges. However, the Cardinals consistently used tight ends and running backs to chip Jared Allen to keep him from abusing Bridges one-on-one.
It seemed clear the Vikings need a little more work on their on-side kick plan. After scoring a touchdown late in the game, the Vikings attempted an on-side kick, but, not only were they offside, which would have negated a potential recovery, Ryan Longwell kicked the ball about 25 yards before it went out of bounds and no Viking was within 10 yards of it when it rolled harmlessly over the sideline.
Arizona's offense didn't have a three-and-out until midway through the fourth quarter, when they were content to run the ball just to kill time deep in their own end of the field.
The Cardinals had a distinct advantage in the first half, both on the scoreboard and the stat sheet. Despite holding the ball for just 13:42 of the half, they out-gained the Vikings 251-135, had more passing yards (200-92) and more rushing yards (51-43).
Individually, Warner had the more dominant first half than Favre. Warner completed 15 of 20 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns, while Favre completed 13 of 20 passes for 92 yards and one TD.
The Vikings did a solid job of shutting down the running backs of the Cardinals in the first half. Hightower and Wells combined to rush seven times for 24 yards, which was less than Breaston and Wildcat QB/cornerback Antrel Rolle had – two carries for 28 yards.
In what could have been a major turning point in the second quarter, the Vikings got an interception from Tyrell Johnson on a tipped pass that was negated by an offsides penalty on Ray Edwards. Warner would complete his next five passes after the reprieve for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings didn't have a penalty until the second quarter, but when they came, they always seemed to come at critical points.
The special teams did its part in the loss, as the punt coverage team allowed Breaston to break off a 63-yard return in the first quarter to the Vikings 3-yard line. Warner would find Boldin for a touchdown on the next play to tie the game at 7-7.
Brad Childress continued to improve his challenge numbers. Invariably being wrong on challenges in his first season, Chilly is now above the league average and got a call reversed on the Vikings first quarter touchdown to Visanthe Shiancoe, which was originally ruled as being out of bounds.
Longwell will have to wait a week to set a couple of milestones. With five points Sunday, he needs just one more to post his 10th season with 100 or more points and his second straight as a Viking. With two points next week, he will surpass Pat Leahy into 16th place on the all-time scoring list. Leahy finished his career with 1,470 points. Longwell finished Sunday's game with 1,469 career points.
Despite Sunday's loss, the Vikings are 19-5 in their last 24 regular-season games.