After losing to both defending conference champions, the Vikings will have a chance to prove they can beat the better teams in the league when they face the Bengals on Sunday. Brad Childress is framing Sunday night's loss to the Cardinals as "a complete step out of character."
In addition to rebounding from the loss of starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson
to a gruesome season-ending leg injury, the Vikings also are going to be looking to get back on track after a 30-17 loss Sunday at Arizona.
It was by far the Vikings' worst performance of the season and certainly one that will raise questions about their ability to beat quality opponents. Minnesota will get a chance to show it can play much better against an upper-echelon team this Sunday when it plays host to AFC North-leading Cincinnati.
"As far as I was concerned, really a complete step out of character for our football team," coach Brad Childress said of his team's prime-time loss to the Cardinals. "Whether you want to talk about turnovers, big plays against, lack of explosive (plays) on our part, explosives on their part. We haven't seen that and that was disappointing."
The Vikings had a 10-1 record going into that game but seven of the victories had come against teams that are under .500. The Bengals, though, are 9-3 and will provide a good test.
Childress will want to see his team be far more physical against the Bengals than it was in Arizona. There really wasn't an aspect of the Cardinals game in which the Vikings played well and they definitely were not as physical as usual.
"We just got away from some of our basic tenets, and it starts with the fact that football is a physical game by nature and I thought they took it to us," Childress said. "I thought they did a great job and they took it to us in all three phases. That's something in the long run that I'm accountable for and part of the accountability is identifying it and having everybody own it and then learn from it going forward."
One thing the Vikings definitely need to get back on track is their run game. Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson
was held to only 19 yards on 13 carries Sunday, the second-lowest output of his career.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams
said that although the Vikings did not play well, the team was not shaken by its performance.
"Confidence is fine," Williams said. "Nobody is in a bad mood. We're all disappointed we lost. We know we have a lot of the season left."
QB Brett Favre came back to earth Sunday in the Vikings' 30-17 loss after putting together four consecutive games with a passer rating of more than 100 and being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for November. Favre threw 45 passes, but many of those were because the Vikings trailed and were having troubles getting their running game going. Favre completed 30 passes for 275 yards and had two touchdowns but he also was intercepted twice and was sacked three times. He had thrown only three picks entering the game and did not have any in November.
QB Tarvaris Jackson, who has seen action in six games this season because the Vikings had established such a big lead, never got off the bench this time around. The only reason Jackson would have played Sunday was if coach Brad Childress decided the game was a lost cause and decided to rest Favre. It might not have been a bad idea.
RB Adrian Peterson had one of his worst rushing days since entering the NFL in 2007. His 19 yards on 13 carries was his second-lowest single-game total — Peterson had 3 yards on 14 carries against San Francisco in December 2007 — and he finished third on his team in rushing for the game. Peterson's greatest production came as a receiver. He caught six passes for 46 yards, giving him a season-high for receptions. Safe to say the Vikings won't be celebrating that accomplishment.
RB Chester Taylor gained 21 yards on five rushing attempts and caught four passes for 28 yards against the Cardinals. It marked the first time this season that Taylor has had more rushing yards in a game than Adrian Peterson. Three weeks ago against Seattle, Taylor had 73 yards on 11 carries and Peterson had 82 yards on 24 carries.
WR Bernard Berrian continues to not make the regular impact that has been expected of him. He had five receptions for only 36 yards on Sunday night, an average of 7.2 yards per catch. This came a week after Berrian had six catches for 74 yards against the Bears. Berrian, who is third on the Vikings with 43 catches for 442 yards, has dealt with hamstring issues in both legs this season and just doesn't appear to have the speed that he needs to be at his most effective. Last season, Berrian proved to be a big-play threat, averaging an NFL-leading 20.1 yards per catch.
WR Percy Harvin, the front-runner for NFL offensive rookie of the year, had six receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a team-leading 22 yards on two carries Sunday. Harvin's touchdown came late in the game after the Cardinals already had a big lead, but it did add to his impressive statistics this season. He now has caught six touchdowns. One thing teams are looking to do with Harvin is not allow him to get the ball in his hands on kickoff returns. The Cardinals managed to pooch three balls to Jeff Dugan on Sunday. Harvin still had three returns for an average of 20.7 yards, but opponents have no interest in seeing him get the ball in his hands anymore than necessary.
WR Sidney Rice had a team-leading seven receptions for 72 yards on Sunday and now has 63 catches for 1,036 yards and four touchdowns this season. Rice's reception and yardage total easily lead the Vikings and his yards place him among the NFL leaders.
DE Jared Allen was shut out in sacks going against Cardinals backup left tackle Jeremy Bridges after getting two a week earlier vs. Chicago. Allen is second in the NFL with 12 1/2 sacks, but 10 1/2 have come against NFC North foes Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago. Allen's only two sacks against non-NFC North teams came against San Francisco and Baltimore.
LB Jasper Brinkley will take over at middle linebacker in base situations with E.J. Henderson lost for the season because of a fractured left femur. Brinkley, a fifth-round pick out of South Carolina, has played mainly on special teams this season.
CB Antoine Winfield has missed the past 6 1/2 games because of an injury to his right foot and it's not when he will return. The Pro Bowl cornerback has been replaced by a combination of Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah and Asher Allen with Allen having been used in the nickel package. The Vikings could have used Winfield going against the Cardinals multiple-receiver sets.