If the Vikings were touting their last two games as some of the more complete victories of the season, they had to admit Sunday night was the most complete breakdown of the season.
Their bodies broke down with injuries strewn across the field, but even before that was a major factor they had performance breakdowns in a 30-17 loss.
It was a complete collapse – offense, defense and special teams.
"Really pretty clear to me from where I stood that we got outplayed, out-tempo'd," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "We didn't have it tonight. We played a more desperate football team and they played like it."
"It comes back to me. They weren't ready to go, and I could see that as they played."
On offense, the result was three straight three-and-outs after taking advantage of a fumble recovery for a touchdown on their first possession. By halftime they were down 21-10 and the mistakes started to pile up.
Brett Favre came out of the halftime locker room and started throwing interceptions. After going 159 passes without an interception and entering the game with an 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he threw interception on successive third-quarter drives. That helped extend Arizona's lead to 27-10, and Favre had never led a comeback greater than 14 points, according to NBC.
Favre finished with a 79.4 rating after throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. He entered the weekend with a passer rating above 100 in four consecutive games and ended the weekend with his first multiple-interception game as a Viking.
"I kind of let their defense get to me. They rushed three and dropped eight," Favre said. "… The better decision was to not throw it, at least not there. … I don't need to give them any advantage."
He was talking about one of his interceptions, but the offensive problems weren't limited to Favre. He was without a consistent running game. The Cardinals shut down Adrian Peterson, who finished with 19 yards on 13 carries, his lowest output since he was held to three yards in his rookie season.
Favre said the Cardinals were stunting and blitzing to stop the run on first and second down. Whatever the reason, Peterson was held to a 1.5-yard average.
"It always starts in the offensive front and the defensive front and I kind of thought they kind of had their way," Childress said.
On defense, that was the case. The Vikings' league-leading 40 sacks remained the same, as they were held without a sack for the first time all year. The last time the Vikings didn't have a sack was at Tennessee on Sept. 28, 2008. And the Cardinals shut them out despite playing without their starting left tackle, Mike Gandy, against Jared Allen.
Warner started out with a short passing game but began to go downfield more often as the game progressed. Warner said he believes the Vikings defense started to get impatient and jump some shorter routes, which is when he started to find success downfield.
"As they probed and felt he could step up and they could protect, then they went down the field a little more," Childress said.
The failures also carried over into special teams. Last week against the Chicago Bears, the Vikings allowed kickoff returns of 44 and 77 yards. Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said those were both the result of "leverage issues."
That wasn't the case in the first quarter Sunday night when the Vikings gave up a 64-yard punt return to Steve Breaston., leading to the Cardinals tying the game 7-7. Karl Paymah appeared to lose contain and Breaston slipped past another defender on his way to the 2-yard line before he was caught.
"I think Karl went by. We want him to go across the guy and make him bubble. I think somebody else had an opportunity. I'm not sure who it was. We've been damn good in covering those things," Childress said. "That was a punt return. We gave up that long kickoff return, so that's disappointing as good as we've been and as hard as we've worked on that. That's a one-game basis."
But in that one game it was really a three-phase letdown.
"They outplayed us. They're a good football. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses. It's easy to say when you get beat to say you were out-tempo'd," Favre said. "… Watching the game it may have looked like we were out-tempo'd and you say the Vikings weren't ready to play. I don't believe that."
"We obviously have to play better if we want to be in the Super Bowl."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings suffered a three-phase breakdown
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