PASSING OFFENSE: C — After throwing three interceptions in his first 11 games, Brett Favre threw two in the third quarter against the Cardinals en route to posting a 79.4 passer rating. With the Vikings trailing for much of the game, Favre threw 45 passes and completed 30 of them for 275 yards with two touchdowns. He also was sacked three times. Sidney Rice caught seven passes for 72 yards, and Percy Harvin added six receptions for 79 yards with a touchdown that came late in the game. Favre appeared to be trying to do too much at times in part because his team was struggling and got away from the type of play that has made him so successful this season. Favre has been far more than a game manager this season, but he also has done an excellent job of playing within himself. He failed to do that on Sunday.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus — The run game was nearly non-existent, accumulating a season-low 62 yards on 20 attempts. Pro Bowl RB Adrian Peterson was held to 19 yards on 13 carries, a 1.5-yard average. That was the second-lowest rushing total of his three-year career. How bad were things for Peterson? He finished third on his team in rushing behind Harvin, who had 22 yards on two carries, and Chester Taylor, who had 21 yards on five carries. It didn't help matters that the Vikings were without RG Anthony Herrera for a second consecutive game because of a concussion. The Vikings also lost LT Bryant McKinnie and RT Phil Loadholt to injury briefly in the first half. The pair returned, but it was uncertain how healthy there were.
PASS DEFENSE: D — Antoine Winfield missed his sixth game in a row because of a foot injury, and this time around it really hurt the Vikings not having the Pro Bowl cornerback. Arizona QB Kurt Warner passed for 285 yards, connecting with Larry Fitzgerald eight times for 143 yards and a touchdown and Anquan Boldin seven times for 98 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals used a variety of multiple-receiver formations and got the Vikings to use a dime package that forced them to employ Cedric Griffin and Karl Paymah at the corners and rookie Asher Allen and Benny Sapp inside. The Cardinals were able to get Fitzgerald matched up against Allen at times, a mismatch given Allen's inexperience. Fitzgerald's 34-yard touchdown reception near the end of the first half came with S Madieu Williams as the only defensive back in the vicinity. Boldin caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that came at the expense of Griffin, who was coming off a standout game against Chicago but appeared to have issues against the Cardinals.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — The Cardinals dominated in every aspect of this game and running the ball was no exception. The Cardinals rushed for 113 yards — the first time a team has had 100 or more yards against the Vikings since their Oct. 25 loss at Pittsburgh — and leading rusher Tim Hightower gained 50 yards on six carries, an average of 8.3 yards per touch. The majority of his yards came on a 32-yarder in the fourth quarter. Beanie Wells led Arizona with 13 carries but gained only 28 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C — After giving up two long kickoff returns in their victory over Chicago in Week 12, the Vikings' issues this time around came on punt returns. Steve Breaston helped set the tone with the Vikings leading 7-0 first quarter when he returned a Chris Kluwe punt 64 yards to the Minnesota 2-yard line to set up a touchdown. Breaston avoided Heath Farwell, broke a tackle by Jamarca Sanford and got around P Chris Kluwe on the return. He was finally brought down by Sanford. The Vikings' coverage units have shown great improvement this season, but after struggling mightily in 2008, Minnesota wants to make sure it does not take a step back now. The Cardinals also became the latest team to try to find ways to keep the ball away from kickoff return sensation Percy Harvin. Harvin ended up averaging 20.7 yards on three returns, but the Cardinals were able to get the ball into the hands of blocking TE/FB Jeff Dugan three times as well on kick returns.
COACHING: C — Coach Brad Childress admitted he wasn't pleased with what he saw from his team and made it clear that things started with him. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt simply seemed to have a better game plan going into this one. That included having Warner get rid of the ball quickly so the Vikings pass rush was neutralized. The Cardinals knew they could attack Minnesota's defensive backs, especially with Winfield not in the game. The key now for Childress will be to get his team to bounce back Sunday against a very good Cincinnati team at the Metrodome.
Grading the game: Cardinals
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