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Defensive end Jared Allen and his teammates hope to take advantage of Arizona’s struggling offense Sunday.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

VIKINGS WEEK 7 Noon Sunday vs. Arizona • TV: Ch. 9

For Vikings, struggling Cardinals may provide cure

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • October 19, 2012 - 2:29 PM

 

If you're worried that the Vikings' defense might have trouble regrouping after last week's 38-26 loss in Washington, the remedy seems to be on the way.

You know that exhaust cloud the defense was left to cough through after Robert Griffin III's game-sealing 76-yard touchdown run? Well, that's disappeared and the Vikings now get a "Get Well" home game Sunday against a sputtering Arizona offense.

Put it this way: Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil has been needed 38 times through six games, most of any punter.

Arizona continues to have issues at quarterback, where John Skelton returns to start after Kevin Kolb suffered a gruesome injury to his ribs last week.

There's also instability at running back -- Beanie Wells is on injured reserve and Ryan Williams suffered a season-ending shoulder injury two weeks ago.

Most of all, big-time problems exist within a Cardinals offensive line that lost left tackle Levi Brown to a season-ending triceps injury in August and now seems more vulnerable than a Jenga tower in a third-grade classroom.

Through six weeks, Arizona has allowed 28 sacks, most in the league. Twenty-two of those have come in the past three games.

With Brown sidelined, D'Anthony Batiste has moved from right tackle to the left side. And this week he'll get a potentially humiliating match-up against Jared Allen.

Said Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams: "I'll take Jared on anyone. You put him on anyone out there and I expect Jared to win. I tell Jared, when they single you up on anyone, he has to win. If he can't, our defense doesn't work."

Weak points

Across the way, Brian Robison will butt heads with rookie Bobby Massie, a fourth-round pick out of Ole Miss.

"He's a big guy," Robison said. "He wants to try to get his hands on you and do things with you. But the bottom line is he's a rookie. And hopefully this weekend, we can treat him like a rookie."

St. Louis sacked Kolb nine times in a 17-3 Thursday night win in Week 5. A week earlier, Kolb was taken down eight times by the Dolphins.

"Any time you see an offensive line giving up that many sacks, you start licking your chops," Robison said. "But you also have to make sure that what they've done in the past doesn't lessen your edge."

It's also worth acknowledging that the Cardinals have allowed 11 sacks by right defensive ends, with Cameron Wake of the Dolphins getting to Kolb 4 1/2 times and the Rams' Robert Quinn recording three sacks.

Sure seems to set up for a monstrous week for Allen.

No sure thing

Publicly, however, Allen doesn't want to assume the defensive line is in for a huge game. As evidence that pre-game assumptions can often prove hollow, Allen cites a 2005 contest.

That season, the Texans allowed 68 sacks for the season. So in Week 11, it was widely figured Allen and the Chiefs would maul Houston quarterback David Carr as much as they wanted.

Instead, Allen went sackless and Kansas City took Carr down only once.

"All we saw was bootlegs," Allen said. "So you can't sit there and say we're going to lick our chops and get after the quarterback all we want because then you're going to get burnt by the run.

"So our game plan never changes. It's always we have to be successful on first and second downs."

When Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked how he hoped to control the Vikings' pass rush, he stressed the importance of a strong running game. But there, too, Arizona figures to have tough sledding.

Sure, RG3's 138 rushing yards helped drop the Vikings' run defense to 11th in the NFL. But the Vikings have held the top backs of their first six opponents to an average of just 47 yards.

That formula, of course, should help push Arizona into more passing situations where Allen, Robison and the rest of the line can get after Skelton.

"Watching the game film, the reason teams have been successful [with sacks] is they've forced the Cardinals to be in situations where they've had to go down the field," Allen said.

"They've forced their offense to spread out, which can create matchup problems."

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