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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Cardinals’ two big touchdown grabs sink Vikings’ revolving secondary

By Andrew Krammer

By game’s end, the Vikings had four different players that had rotated through at safety, and four different cornerbacks shuffle through for a depleted secondary.

Without safeties Harrison Smith or Andrew Sendejo, coach Mike Zimmer moved corner Terence Newman to safety, saying postgame he made the decision because rookie first-round pick Trae Waynes ‘was the next best player,’ getting his first career start at left cornerback.

The Vikings’ mixture in the secondary continually shifted throughout the game, with the first switch coming when Xavier Rhodes injured his right wrist in a collision. Zimmer moved Newman back to corner and inserted Robert Blanton at safety. The game went on with Newman moving back and forth when needed, and Zimmer exhausting all his options at safety with Shaun Prater and Blanton plugging in at times for Anthony Harris, who made his first career start, and Newman.

The end result was 310 yards from a MVP-candidate in Carson Palmer, who did most of his damage on two throws — combining for 107 yards on two touchdowns to John Brown and Michael Floyd in the Vikings’ 23-20 loss on Thursday night.

“We gave up big plays defensively, which didn’t allow us to win the football game,” Zimmer said postgame, via Vikings.com. “The two touchdowns were completions and runs, we have to get those guys down. That’s not good.”

Brown evaded cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who slipped, and sped down the sideline after a roughly 25-yard grab turned into a 65-yard score when Munnerlyn and Harris seemed to take poor angles at Brown. That score gave the Cardinals a 10-7 lead in the first quarter.

Arizona then took full advantage of a botched reverse by the Vikings in the third quarter, when Adrian Peterson was hit on a failed transfer to Mike Wallace and fumbled.

Six plays later, Palmer found Michael Floyd for a 42-yard touchdown when an apparent busted coverage by the Vikings allowed Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald to come wide open down the right sideline.

On the play, the Cardinals used a trips formation to the right, forcing the Vikings’ young secondary members to communicate the coverage. That worked for Arizona, as an apparent miscommunication happened when Waynes jumped on the same route as Munnerlyn, which left Floyd free to break down the sideline. Palmer threw a roughly 10-yard pass to Floyd, who followed his lead blocker in Fitzgerald. Harris, the last line of defense, was flattened by the 6-foot-3 Fitzgerald on the score.

Without Smith, linebacker Anthony Barr or nose tackle Linval Joseph, the Vikings held the NFL’s No. 1 offense to 23 points, albeit on 393 yards.

“I thought they tried to execute the game plan we could have in a short week against a good offensive football team,” Zimmer said. “It wasn’t, by any stretch, perfect. But we played hard.”

The Vikings have 10 days until they play again, giving them extra time to heal a depleted defense.

Bridgewater explains call

Trailing 23-20, Teddy Bridgewater brought the Vikings into field-goal range with 13 seconds remaining. On 3rd and 10 from the Cardinals’ 31, with no timeouts left, Bridgewater dropped back again and was taken down by Dwight Freeney, who knocked the ball loose to seal the game for Arizona.

Zimmer said he thought about kicking the field goal. The call to pick up more yards with a 48-yard field goal in reach drew some strong reaction, and Bridgewater said the pass was intended to go toward the sideline, but he didn’t have enough time for his receivers to cross from left to right before Freeney beat Matt Kalil for the strip-sack.

“The play call was designed to get out of bounds,” Bridgewater. “I did my best to at least get my guys to the right side of the hash[mark] so they didn’t get tackled in bounds.”

Bridgewater, who threw for a career-high 335 yards, had time in the pocket, but said there wasn’t enough for the play to develop.

“I had that clock going off in my head,” he said. “Was getting ready to throw it out of bounds and the guy hit me from behind.”

Many lost opportunities

The call will dominate the conversation following the Vikings’ 23-20 loss to Arizona on Thursday night, but there were many lost opportunities for Minnesota.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes dropped a would-be interception in the third quarter, on a drive that led to a Cardinals’ field goal and 20-10 lead. Receiver Jarius Wright had one of the Vikings’ three turnovers when the ball was poked out on an eight-yard catch in the red zone.

Adrian Peterson committed the Vikings’ second fumble in Cardinals’ territory when he was corralled on an apparent reverse to Mike Wallace. Peterson was trying to hand off to Wallace when he was tackled and lost the ball.

Six plays after Peterson’s fumble, Palmer found Michael Floyd for the 42-yard touchdown pass to take a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.

No second-half heroics

Just days after Adrian Peterson clamored for more involvement in the offense, he was not only featured throughout the game, but involved in the Vikings’ final hurry-up drill when trailing 23-20 in the closing minutes.

Peterson typically hasn’t been included in their pass-heavy schemes, but saw steady snaps on Thursday night. However, outside of the opening drive, he wasn’t as effective carrying the football. He juked his way to 38 yards and a touchdown on four carries to start the game, and was limited to just 31 yards the rest of the game (on 19 carries).

The Cardinals held Peterson to 13 yards on 11 carries after halftime, including a handful of tackles for losses. Peterson did have a 10-yard run negated by a holding penalty on guard Mike Harris.

The post Notebook: Cardinals’ two big touchdown grabs sink Vikings’ revolving secondary appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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