Quarterback Kurt Warner was on his ass all day thanks to an Arizona Cardinals offensive line that couldn't have held off Brophy Prep.
Offensive lines can make or break football teams, and Arizona's broke its team's back Sunday afternoon. It's a lucky thing no official stats are kept on offensive linemen because these guys would be in the toilet.
Every time Warner went back in the pocket, he was acosted by a Minnesota defender. He was sacked four times, and his protection -- especially guard Deuce Lutui and right tackle Levi Brown -- was overmatched.
Maybe it was letdown from last week's division-clinching blowout victory over doormat St. Louis that had everybody overconfident? Or maybe it's that the Cardinals aren't really that good as champs of the NFC Worst, where every team but them has a sub-.500 record? Or maybe Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pictured in foreground and background respectively) are just that good?
Before the first quarter was done, Warner (under immense pressure, natch) had thrown an interception, wide receiver Anquan Bolden had uncharacteristically fumbled, the Cardinals had given up an 82-yard punt return, and the Vikings were up 21-0.
It'd appeared the Cardinals would have a huge advantage when it was learned that backup Minnesota quarterback Jackson would play instead of injured starter Gus Ferotte. But Jackson, benched as the team's starter two games into the season, was much more than the Arizona defense could handle. He threw for four touchdowns and put his team atop the NFC North with a 9-5 record.
It's true that the Vikings had more to play for than the now 8-6 Cardinals. With the win, they're a game ahead of the Chicago Bears for their division's championship. But how can we hope that the Cardinals will get past one game in the playoffs when they get beaten in almost every category at home.
Take rushing: The phenominal Peterson had 28 carries for 165 yards while the Cardinals' Tim Hightower and J.J. Arrington combined for 43 yards on just eight carries (two more carries than the record for least single-game rushes in NFL history).
One big reason the Cardinals' running game blows: their average-to-shitty offensive line.
Warner went 29 of 45 for 270 yards, and Jackson was 11 of 17 for 163 yards, but total yardage total doesn't tell the tale.
Jackson wasn't on the ground for most of the game, and the Minnesota offense was on the field 35 minutes to the Cardinals' 25. Warner, with one passing touchdown and one interception, managed to get most of his throws off, but a Vikings' defender got to him on every one of those tosses.
For the most part, Arizona's defense -- the stars of last week's division-clincher -- weren't any better than its offensive line.
The one defensive highlight came when rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (with a 100-yard interception return for a TD against the Rams a week earlier) blocked a punt in the third quarter that CB Roderick Hood ran back back 68 yards for a score.
Cardinals fans were breathing a sigh of relief, because the game was suddenly in reach at 28-14 with more than a quarter to go. But Arizona couldn't get anything going offensively, and the Vikings added another touchdown in the fourth quarater to put it out of reach..
The Cardinals against New England next Sunday in frozen Foxboro, Massachusetts makes us shiver. What can we expect in a hostile environment when the NFC West champs get blown out at home? More apathy, perhaps? The Cards will need momentum to go anywhere in the playoffs. -- Rick Barrs