Minnesota Vikings use two 100-yard returns to hold off Arizona Cardinals

By Brian Hall, The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 21, 2016 at 10:53 AM
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A stout defense and timely scoring plays -- even from the defense -- were the hallmarks of the Minnesota Vikings' 5-0 start to the season. When Minnesota stopped scoring on defense and allowed teams to start running the ball, the Vikings slipped to four consecutive losses.

Minnesota returned to its early form on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals to keep pace in the NFC North. Xavier Rhodes returned one of his two interceptions 100 yards for a touchdown and Cordarrelle Patterson started the second half with a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the Vikings held on for a 30-24 win against Arizona.

"It's been a long, long, long month, but it's good to feel this again," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. "It's good to see the fight that the players had, to see the hard work. I talked to the team a lot over the past few days about it's a long season; there's going to be a lot of ups downs; there's going to be a lot of different things that go wrong.

"Just keep fighting and keep your nose to the grindstone and keep working and keep paying attention to the little details of your work, and we can pull out of this."

Sam Bradford passed for 169 yards and an early touchdown to Adam Thielen for the Vikings (6-4). Minnesota only amassed 217 total yards of offense but had two plays of more than 100 yards in the same game for the first time in franchise history.

The Vikings are the first team since Dallas in 1962 to have two 100-yard touchdowns on an interception return and kickoff return in the same game.

"I think it was weighing on everyone," Bradford said of the four-game slide. "I think you could feel it just at practice and in the locker room, so the joy of winning, it's a great feeling. That feeling we had in the locker room today, I think it solved a lot of problems."

David Johnson had 160 total yards of offense and two touchdowns for Arizona (4-5-1). Carson Palmer was 20-of-38 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 63 yards.

"We felt like we had a chance to win it and we didn't," Palmer said. "This was one we really wanted, we really needed and we didn't get it."

Rhodes' first interception halted a promising Cardinals drive with just over three minutes remaining in the first half. Rhodes was in zone coverage in the end zone and Palmer's pass went wide of receiver John Brown, who was caught up with cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

"It looked like an obviously holding penalty," Palmer said. "It looked like he was trying to run out and couldn't get out of the grasp of the defender. I'm sure we'll turn it into the league and I'm sure they'll come back and say, 'Yeah, it was holding.'"

Rhodes stepped in front and outraced Brown and Palmer to the end zone for the longest interception return in team history and the longest in the NFL since Kansas City's Sean Smith returned one 100 yards on Nov. 3, 2013.

"We're just going to play ball, play our defense," Rhodes said. "We're going to try to create turnovers, try to get the offense back on the field as fast as we can."

Palmer came right back with a quick drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham with 50 seconds left in the half for a 20-17 halftime score.

However, Patterson opened the second half with his fifth career kickoff return for touchdown, going 104 yards.

"When I saw the hole open up, a truck could've got through there," Patterson said. "With my speed, how those guys trust me, once I hit the hole, they feel like I'm going to score and I feel like I'm going to score too. That's the confidence we have on special teams. Every game, just go out and dominate."

New Minnesota kicker Kai Forbath converted a 27-yard field goal for a 30-17 lead after having an extra-point attempt blocked earlier.

Arizona's defense put the offense back into position. Bradford was sacked and stripped of the ball by Chandler Jones, setting up the Cardinals at the 27-yard line. Palmer completed the short drive with a passing touchdown to Johnson, who had a rushing and receiving score in the game.

The Vikings held Arizona to just 27 yards of offense and sacked Palmer four times in the second half.

NOTES: Minnesota honored former coach Dennis Green before the game with another of his former teams on the other sideline. Green, who died on July 22 at age 67, is the second-winningest coach in Vikings' history behind Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant. He went 97-62 in 10 seasons for Minnesota and 12-4 in the playoffs. He was 16-32 in three years with Arizona. The two organizations presented a painting to Green's family. ... Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu missed his second straight game because of a shoulder injury. Starting DT Corey Peters missed his first game with a foot injury. ... CB Captain Munnerlyn and punt returner Marcus Sherels each returned for Minnesota after missing last week's game with ankle injuries. ... The Vikings scored touchdowns via pass, run, interception and kickoff for the first time in team history. The last team to record such a feat was Arizona in Week 2 last season. ... Cardinals RB David Johnson is the third player since 1970 with 100-plus scrimmage yards in each of his team's first 10 games. Edgerrin James accomplished the feat twice and Larry Brown did so in 1972.

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