<
>

Vikings stifle Cardinals' run game, hold on late for win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Arizona coach Dennis Green expected to see a
bumbling, mistake-prone Vikings offense upon his return to
Minnesota.

Instead, the unit welcomed Green back with the kind of prolific
performance that fans took for granted when he was the coach here,
finally giving the Vikings defense the help it has so desperately
needed.

Brad Johnson threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns, Chester Taylor rushed for 136 yards and a score and Minnesota snapped a
four-game losing streak with a 31-26 victory over the Arizona
Cardinals on Sunday.

The win was as long overdue as the touchdowns.

"It's been a month. Really, it's been a long time," Vikings
coach Brad Childress said. "Those guys are elated to get it."

The defense delivered its usual solid performance, forcing five
turnovers and allowing just 17 yards rushing.

"The defense did a great job again," Taylor said. "We knew we
had to start getting points for them. ... They created turnovers
and this time we capitalized with touchdowns and points off them."

The Cardinals (2-9) got a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown
by J.J. Arrington on the opening play of the game and a 99-yard
fumble return for a score by Adrian Wilson in the fourth, but
couldn't overcome the turnovers, penalties and a suddenly
productive Vikings (5-6) offense.

"This is the first time we've played pretty well on the road
and had a chance to win at the end," rookie quarterback Matt
Leinart said. "I thought we showed a lot of fight as an offense
and as a defense, and special teams contributed. All around I
thought it was a great effort, we just ran out of time."

Leinart threw for a career-high 405 yards and two interceptions,
but managed only one TD -- a 9-yard pass to Anquan Boldin with 39
seconds to play -- that came too little, too late.

The Vikings sure know how that feels.

Minnesota had scored just four offensive touchdowns during the
four-game losing streak, and some of the defensive players were
growing increasingly impatient with a unit that constantly came up
short in the red zone.

Johnson was drawing much of the criticism, having thrown nine
interceptions and just one touchdown during that span.

But he came back on Sunday against his former coach, throwing
TDs to Marcus Robinson, Billy McMullen and Jeff Dugan, a tight end
who was converted to fullback when Tony Richardson was lost for the
season.

"Two weeks ago, Jeff Dugan was holding the clipboard and this
week he's scoring a touchdown," center Matt Birk said. "That's
what we need."

The Cardinals made things interesting after Leinart hit Boldin
for the late score. Darryl Blackstock recovered the ensuing onside
kick, but Leinart's desperation heave into the end zone as time
expired was intercepted by Dwight Smith to seal the win.

All Green could do was stare blankly at the field as he watched
his young team give away another game. Green last coached a regular
season game in the Metrodome on Dec. 23, 2001, a 33-3 loss by the
Vikings to Jacksonville that was the beginning of the end of a
stormy 10 years in purple.

He racked up an impressive 97-62 record here, but lost both
times the Vikings appeared in the NFC championship, including a
41-0 drubbing to the Giants after the 2000 season. In his third
season in the desert, Green's job security is in question again.

The Cardinals entered the day tied with Detroit and Oakland for
fewest wins in the league, and Green has been unable to recreate
the high-flying offense that got him so many wins in the Dome.

Green was curt during the postgame press conference, saying this
game was no different than any other he's coached in a career that
spans three decades.

"Just a game that we hoped to win that we didn't win," he
said.

Larry Fitzgerald Jr., who starred at Holy Angels high school in
Richfield, Minn., and was a Vikings ball boy under Green, had 11
catches for 172 yards and Boldin had nine catches for 140 yards for
the Cardinals.

"This was a huge game for me, my team, Coach Green, so we
wanted to win this game and we fought until the end but we shot
ourselves in the foot a few times," Fitzgerald said.

A relieved Johnson can sympathize with that.

"All season long, our problem is we've killed ourselves,"
Johnson said. "We didn't have the penalties in the red zone today.
It was nice to see us score."

Game notes
Cardinals K Neil Rackers booted a 21-yard field goal and a
50-yarder, but missed a 41-yarder wide left in the third quarter.
... Arrington had 220 return yards. ... Robinson had seven catches
for 82 yards for Minnesota. ... It was Johnson's first
three-touchdown game since Nov. 27 of last season, a span of 16
games.

Comments

ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Men's Home Game Jersey Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald #11Shop

  • Nike Men's Home Limited Jersey Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson #28Shop

NFL News