The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS–The Minnesota Vikings played a back-to-the-basics game, leaning on Latavius Murray’s powerful legs and a smothering defence that was in prime form.
The Arizona Cardinals just couldn’t keep up on either front.
Murray helped the Vikings revive their running attack with a career-high 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, wearing down the Cardinals on the way to a 27-17 win yesterday afternoon.
“I don’t want to sit here and say that we cracked the code, because they have been vulnerable to the run game, so we have to be honest about that on all levels,” Murray conceded.
“But I will say I feel we’re capable of running the ball that way, no matter who we’re playing.”
Starting in place of Dalvin Cook (hamstring) for the third time in the past four games, Murray had 66 yards by halftime to top the team average over the first five games.
The previous long gain by a Vikings’ running back was Cook’s 15-yarder in the season-opener, which Murray topped four times against a Cardinals’ defence that entered the game allowing the second-most rushing yards in the NFL.
“If you allow teams to rush for almost 200 yards on you, you’re not going to win that game. It is what it is,” said Cardinals’ defensive tackle Corey Peters.
“That’s kind of been our thing all year and that’s why we’re 1-5.”
Even Kirk Cousins joined the fun for the Vikings (3-2-1) with an option-style run across the goal line in the third quarter, before throwing to Adam Thielen for a score on the following possession.
Thielen had 11 receptions for 123 yards–his sixth-straight 100-yard game to become the first player in the NFL since 1961 to start a season with a streak that long.
Thielen’s 58 catches are the most in league history through six games.
Budda Baker returned a fumble off a sack by Chandler Jones for a 36-yard touchdown and Tre Boston had a diving interception later in the second quarter.
The Cardinals (1-5) constantly pressured Cousins with four sacks, seven hits, and seven deflected passes.
Cousins still managed to complete 24-of-34 attempts for 233 yards, thanks mostly to Thielen and his exceptional ability to get open anywhere on the field and turn off-target throws into clutch catches.
He made a toe-dragging sideline grab on third-and-13 right at the first-down marker to extend the opening possession of the third quarter, before capping the drive in the end zone with a 13-yard reception on a seam route after leaving linebacker Josh Bynes in his wake with a stutter step.
Coming off his first career NFL victory the previous week, Cardinals’ rookie quarterback Josh Rosen went 21-for-31 for 240 yards.
The Cardinals failed to move the chains on all 12 of their third- or fourth-down plays. That included a third-quarter interception by Anthony Harris and a fourth-and-goal stop of David Johnson by Xavier Rhodes at the one in the second quarter.
“He can learn from this, being in this hostile environment,” Cardinals’ coach Steve Wilks said of Rosen.
“This is how the NFL is,” he noted. “He’s got to be able to operate under these kinds of pressures, and everybody around him needs to help him out.”
Elsewhere in the NFL, New England topped Kansas City 43-40, Miami shaded Chicago 31-28 (OT), Seattle dumped Oakland 27-3 (in London), Houston beat Buffalo 20-13, Washington downed Carolina 23-17, the L.A. Chargers bombed Cleveland 38-14, Pittsburgh edged Cincinnati 28-21, and Atlanta nipped Tampa Bay 34-29.
Dallas routed Jacksonville 40-7, the N.Y. Jets topped Indianapolis 42-34, Baltimore blanked Tennessee 21-0, and the L.A. Rams edged Denver 23-20.
Green Bay hosts San Francisco tonight.