Where have we seen this team before? That's right. Tampa. Super Bowl XLIII.
Recap: Cardinals 30, Vikings 17
Thread: Formula to beat the Vikes...
Thread: Classic Favre returns?
Thread: Saint fans thank Arizona
Thread: Minnesota's season is over!
We thought they were still lurking. We thought they were still capable. We just didn't expect to see them Sunday night. Not with the 10-1 Minnesota Vikings in town.
But who remembers the pregame media hype anyway? It all gets washed clean when the facts play out before us, like they did in this 30-17 butt-kicking. So, just to refresh, here's the short list of reasons why Minnesota was the worst possible matchup for the Cardinals:
• Warner was recovering from a concussion and hadn't taken his normal allotment of practice snaps last week.
• Warner's three losses this season had come to teams with speed on the edge: San Francisco, Indianapolis and Carolina. Minnesota had it in spades, starting with NFC sacks leader Jared Allen.
• And speaking of talent in spades, how about that Minnesota offense with running back Adrian Peterson, receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, and quarterback Brett Favre -- he of the gaudy touchdown-to-interception ratio? How many big plays or big drives would they engineer against an inconsistent Arizona defense coming off a 99-yard, game-losing drive at Tennessee?
Clearly, we were wearing the wrong set of lenses.
|Anquan Boldin's return to the lineup could give Minnesota's secondary major problems? Somehow, that was overlooked. (US Presswire)|
What we forgot was this is December, and Favre likes to throw interceptions in December (33 of them over the past five Decembers).
To be sure, we also saw things we haven't seen all season from the Cardinals. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was a sure tackler in the open field, safety Adrian Wilson was a shutdown cover man, the offensive line was immune to speed and forgotten linebacker Bertrand Berry was a pass rushing force.
When Berry recorded his second sack of the game, you half expected a swarm of locusts to pour through the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium (if they would ever open the darned thing).
"We had a lot of guys step up," Wilson said.
One guy stood out from the rest.
Warner didn't have his best statistical day. He was 22 of 32 for 285 yards and three touchdowns. But from the moment he hit Boldin on the game-tying touchdown early in the first quarter, it was clear the Cardinals offense was in a special zone, and it was clear Warner is the linchpin to Arizona's postseason hopes.
"He's an amazing talent," said Fitzgerald, who had eight catches for 143 yards. "We have a great camaraderie with him and we're a confident offense when we get into that flow early and are able to put points on the board."
Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier expected to see a lot of max protection and three-step drops from the Cards, and he got plenty. But Warner was equally efficient in most everything he did Sunday.
And when he has time to read, this Arizona team is every bit the Super Bowl threat it became late last season.
Not that Warner was getting caught up in the Viking-beating vibe.
"We've had these types of games over the years, and the hard thing for us is to stack them and continue to play at this high level, week in and week out," Warner said.
Arizona all but wrapped up the NFC West title with this victory and the 49ers' earlier loss to Seattle, so focus might again become a problem for this ADD team.
Warner's health is also a concern. He revealed late Sunday he injured his hip on a late hit.
"It's pretty sore," he said, before limping out of the press conference.
For one night, at least, it was the only hitch in Arizona's step.