The Vikings took a double-digit lead at home on Sunday and again saw an opponent come back to edge them in the third quarter.
But a pair of third-quarter touchdowns in 1:47 put them ahead for good, and their defense kept the Cardinals’ dangerous three-point offense going on Arizona’s last four drives. After a home and away game that lasted almost three and a half hours, the Vikings improved their record to 6-1 with a 34-26 victory.
A crazy second half featured 40 points, four turnovers – a backpack for the Cardinals, two interceptions and a fumbled punt recovery for the Vikings – and two saves for the Vikings to close the game.
Jordan Hicks stopped Eno Benjamin a yard from fourth on the first, and the second stoppage came as Za’Darius Smith and Harrison Phillips sacked Kyler Murray in back-to-back plays for running out of time.
At 6-1, the Vikings can increase their NFC North lead to three and a half games if the Packers lose to Buffalo on Sunday night.
Dalvin Cook finished with 111 yards on 20 carries and caught five passes for 30 extra yards. Smith, who mimicked Vikings Ring of Honor inductee Jared Allen’s calf-rope celebration with his first sack, finished with three, despite being in and out of the game with an injury in second period.
Kirk Cousins completed 24 of 36 passes for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Vikings got the ball first and, for the third time in four games, they turned their first strike into a touchdown. Their 10-play, 75-yard walk started with five straight carries and ended with seven runs because of two things: Cousins’ arm and Cousins’ legs.
He hit Justin Jefferson from 29 yards on an offside deep shot, as KJ Osborn’s shallow crossing route occupied Byron Murphy and left Jefferson one-on-one with linebacker Isaiah Simmons. Then, one play after Cousins was hit by a Cardinals blitz, he escaped the pressure again, beating Zach Allen and Markus Golden on the right sideline and diving for the pylon past Budda Baker. The 17-yard touchdown run was the second-longest of Cousins’ career and gave the Vikings an early lead.
Breaking up Patrick Peterson’s bouncing pass against AJ Green in the end zone held the Cardinals to one field goal in their first practice, and the Vikings took a 14-3 lead at the end of a nine-game drive. plays and 83 yards where Cousins found a wide open Johnny Mundt for his first career touchdown. Coach Kevin O’Connell called a play that sent wide receiver Jalen Reagor through the backfield, capturing the attention of the Cardinals defense and creating an easy outing for Mundt.
Murray came back before halftime, however, with a pair of finishes to DeAndre Hopkins against Cameron Dantzler and a third throw from the back of the end zone which Hopkins carried with a dazzling one-handed hold behind solid coverage by Harrison Smith. The Cardinals blocked Greg Joseph’s 56-yard field goal before halftime, making it 14-10 against the Vikings in two quarters.
After Arizona took the lead with a touchdown from Murray to Zach Ertz in the third quarter, Cousins led a TD drive that featured an improbable 30-yard one-handed catch from Justin Jefferson in tight coverage against Antonio Hamilton.
Then, after a Cardinals penalty meant Murray would start his next drive from Arizona’s own 9, he threw deep while trying to avoid being sacked in the end zone for a safety. . Harrison Smith made the pass and O’Connell dialed in another Reagor move into the red zone a few plays later.
The wide receiver looked set to catch a push pass from Cousins, similar to his TD against the Bears, and the Cardinals turned their attention to Reagor as he moved into the backfield. That created an easy path for Cook to score, giving the Vikings a 28-17 lead in the third quarter.
The Cardinals came within 2 on a 38-yard catch and run from Rondale Moore and Matt Prater’s field goal after Cousins’ fumble on a Minnesota 30 backpack.
The Cousins would hit KJ Osborn on an out route for a five-yard TD pass after Troy Dye recovered a missed punt at the Arizona 25 to end the Vikings’ score for the day midway through the fourth quarter.
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