When Tim Hightower fumbled on the opening drive of the Cardinals 30-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings last night in Glendale, and the Vikings marched down the field to score with ease, you couldn't help but to think, "Okay, here comes a classic Brett Favre beat-down." Fortunately, that was about the only thing the Cards did wrong all night.
The key to the Cards victory -- as surprising as it may have been -- was defense.
Favre has a gunslinger reputation; as good as he is, he makes risky throws into coverage whenever he gets pressured. And the Vikings offensive line, which resembles the Berlin Wall in size and intimidation, on this night couldn't protect the aged quarterback from the Cards explosive defense.
Favre was sacked three times and hurried almost the entire game, which caused him to lob up two interceptions and hurl two near interceptions that bounced off the fingertips of Cards safety Adrian Wilson.
While the Vikings air attack was seldom there, Minnesota's run game was more dismal.
The Cardinals defense did something few teams can do -- contain Adrian Peterson.
Peterson got the ball 13 times, but could only muster 19 yards against the Cards, averaging 1.5 yards per carry. Peterson's 19 yards was about a third of the Vikings 62 total passing yards.
The Cards ground game wasn't much better, with a total of 113 yards, but the Redbirds got those yards when it mattered -- converting on four crucial third downs.
When the Cardinals turned to an air assault, the game quickly went from your typical football game to the Kurt Warner show.
Warner, whose starting status was questionable (he suffered vision problems after a concussion against the St. Louis Rams two weeks ago), didn't seem to have a problem seeing any of his receivers.
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Larry Fitzgerald led the charge with 143 yards and a touchdown, while Anquan Boldin took a break from pissing and moaning to rack up 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Yesterday's win is a good sign that the Cardinals are a legitimate contender in the NFC. The Vikings went into the game having only lost once, and with only the undefeated New Orleans Saints standing in the team's way, were considered one of the best teams in the NFC.
The Saints nearly lost yesterday to the lowly Washington Redskins, and only eeked out an overtime victory because the Redskins missed a chip-shot field goal with about two minutes to go in the game. Bottom line -- they're beatable.
The Cardinals head to San Francisco next week to take on the 49ers.