Upon Further Review: Vikings vs. Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is hit by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison (96) and defensive end Danielle Hunter.

Brace Hemmelgarn/Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

The Minnesota Vikings’ 30-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals at US Bank Stadium Sunday essentially saved the season. The win ended their four-game losing streak and kept them the top of the division, but they needed the rare feat of both a 100-yard interception return and kick return for touchdown to do it.

After a four-week free fall, the defense’s return to form was a refreshing sight against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. Minnesota can’t count on those 100-plus yards plays to happen in the same game again, but it was important that the Vikings won and didn’t let desperation seep in despite the season seemingly coming apart at the seams.

SUNDAY SCHOOL

–The offensive output would not have been enough to win this game, but Sam Bradford was solid under center, going 20 for 28 for 169 yards and no interceptions. He threw a touchdown on the first drive of the game to Adam Thielen that was originally ruled incomplete, but upon review it was overturned on a Vikings challenge on the basis that he kept both feet in bounds.

–Kai Forbath made his Vikings debut and avoided becoming the center of attention. He hit one field goal for 27 yards and three extra points. One extra point attempt was blocked.

–What the Vikings accomplished Sunday is so rare, it hasn’t been done in more than 50 years. Minnesota became the first team since the 1962 Dallas Cowboys to have a 100-yard interception return for touchdown and a 100-plus yard kickoff return touchdown in the same game.

–Thielen’s touchdown was the Vikings’ first first quarter touchdown since October.

–While special teams and the defense carried the load, the Vikings’ NFL-worst run game (per yards per carry) did not improve. They compiled 72 yards on 24 carries, or three yards per carry.

–Carson Palmer’s 63.3 quarterback rating was his lowest of the season, thanks to the Vikings’ defense.

–Xavier Rhodes set a team record for longest interception return in team history.

–Patterson wore socks with his own likeness on them. Yes, this is newsworthy.

WHAT IT MEANT

The win was essential in keeping the Vikings afloat in the NFC North. A loss and a Green Bay win would have given Detroit sole possession of first place, plus added the Packers to the fold of three teams jostling for the top position. Maintaining possession of the top, or at least being tied, is vital as the team tries to overcome a bad stretch and live up to expectations set early on.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Rhodes set a team record with his pick-six, but he picked off another of Palmer’s passes in third third quarter. The return, of course, is prolific: the distance and the win-probability impact on the game factored into making it an electric play.

Rhodes has turned into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and his name should be talked about amongst the elites. When Carson Palmer targeted Rhodes, he had a quarterback rating of 0.0, according to Pro Football Focus. Patrick Peterson of Arizona came into the game with the hype, but it was the 26-year-old Rhodes who came out with the best day.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Easy pick here would be Patterson and his astounding 100-plus yard kick return for touchdown — and it was undoubtedly important — but Danielle Hunter is the selection because of his two second half sacks. The defensive line was dominant in slowing down a quality, veteran quarterback like Palmer. The Vikings’ second often gets the praise, but that unit continues to be dependable.

THAT MOMENT

Now we’ll go back to Patterson’s kick return for touchdown. Before this game, Patterson was already the all-time franchise leader in kick return yards and his 104-yard return solidified himself as the organization’s best kick returner. It’s a significant asset to have in this day and age of the NFL where kick returns for touchdowns are rare.

THIS NUMBER

100-plus yards. It’s a feat so rare, it deserves repeating: the Vikings became the first team in 54 years to have a 100-yard interception return for touchdown and a 100-plus yard kickoff return touchdown in the same game. The saying in baseball is that "you see something new everyday," but that definitely applied to this game.

THEY SAID IT

"I don’t know if it’s an exhale. It definitely gives you a little bit of confidence, gets things back feeling normal a little bit. We needed that one." — Defensive end Brian Robison

"They didn’t max protect very much today. They let us rush. I think that’s why a lot of teams don’t let us rush because we can rush the passer…once we got up by 13 then it was a lot easier to lay our ears back and go." — head coach Mike Zimmer

"I’m gonna have to owe that person. So if he finds me, just let me know. Two beers next time I see him." — Patterson, who thinks he knocked over someone’s beer when he jumped into the stands following his 100-yard kick return for touchdown.

WHAT’S NEXT

The must-win game comes just four days from now, Thanksgiving Day against Detroit. Not only is it a quick turnaround for a team still trying to regain its footing after a significant drop-off, but the nationally-televised game that you’ll be watching along with your grandparents and aunts and uncles will propel either the Vikings or Lions to the top of the division with both at 6-4. Adding to the urgency for the game: the Lions hold the tiebreaker because of a win earlier this season, so the Vikings need to split to improve their chances if first place remains a tie at the end of the regular season.

Kickoff is slated for 11:30 a.m.