Defensive linemen hit the right spots and wreak havoc

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 21, 2012 - 9:39 PM
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Brian Robison (96) forced Cardinals quarterback John Skelton (19) to fumble in the first quarter. Kevin Williams (93) recovered the ball on the play.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The Vikings knew they'd have opportunities to attack an Arizona offensive line that had allowed 22 sacks in its previous three games.

No player was more set up for a big afternoon than left defensive end Brian Robison, who drew a Sunday matchup against rookie right tackle Bobby Massie.

Robison capitalized with three sacks. On the first, he looped around Massie and hit Cardinals quarterback John Skelton from behind, forcing a fumble that Kevin Williams recovered.

That takeaway allowed the Vikings to escape unscathed after Arizona had marched from their own 12 to the Vikings 14 on a 14-play drive that ate up more than 8 minutes.

Robison got to Skelton again in the second and fourth quarters.

"Brian had a terrific game," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We worked all week long, [defensive line coach] Brendan Daly did, with our D-line with what we thought our best rushes were against their offensive line."

Jared Allen recorded two sacks, and has six in his past five games. He spent part of the postgame counting several others he narrowly missed, including one in the third quarter in which Skelton avoided the sack with a crafty shovel pass to William Powell.

"Our guys rushed well today playing off each other," Allen said. "And the more you get in that groove, the more you'll have games like that."

Covered up

As much as Larry Fitzgerald loves his hometown, he might want to cancel all future trips to the Metrodome, where he's 0-4 with the Cardinals.

Sunday's loss was particularly frustrating. Fitzgerald had only four catches for 29 yards as the Vikings limited his chances down the field by playing both safeties deep for most of the afternoon.

Fitzgerald's longest catch was a 16-yarder with less than 4 minutes to play.

"They are going to make you dink and dunk," Fitzgerald said. "They're going to make you play underneath. They are going to come up and tackle."

'A little jitterbug'

The Vikings defense had kind words for Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who slithered his way to 104 rushing yards and 45 receiving. Stephens-Howling is traditionally a third-down back but has been promoted to a leading role because of injuries to Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams.

"The little guy ran hard," Kevin Williams said. "We were in good position a lot and had him bottled up. But he'd stay on his feet some kind of way and bounce out the back door."

Added Allen: "The guy is small. Maybe our guys felt like they could just thump him down. But give him credit. I mean he ran hard. He was a little jitterbug back there. ... You can't always make a sexy tackle. Sometimes grabbing his ankle and twisting him to the ground is better than making the crowd go ooh and ah."

As good as advertised

Seven games into his NFL career, left tackle Matt Kalil continues to be amazed by running back Adrian Peterson, who singlehandedly carried the offense Sunday. The Vikings had 209 total net yards of offense. Peterson had 159 of those.

"I'm starting to understand what people are talking about when they talk about Adrian being back to his normal self," Kalil said. "Seems like each game he just gets better and better."

Kalil also noted the shrewd strategy the Vikings installed in the running game to attack the Cardinals defense.

"We took advantage of their aggression and schemed some run plays against their blitzes," he said. "There were a number of times they blitzed and were out of position. Next thing you knew, we had a big gain. There are times you can take advantage of a good defense's aggressiveness."

Don't forget your souvenir, rookie

Vikings safety Harrison Smith was so excited following his 31-yard interception return touchdown that he forgot to keep the ball as a memento.

Kevin Williams, a 10-year veteran, did the honors of tracking it down.

"He threw it on the ground," Williams said. "I wanted to make sure he got that and held on to it."

Smith did not have a touchdown during his standout career at Notre Dame. Sunday's score was his first since his days playing on offense at Knoxville Catholic in Tennessee.

Etc.

• The only apparent Vikings injury was tight end John Carlson, who is being evaluated for a possible concussion. The Vikings have a quick turnaround, playing Tampa Bay on Thursday.

• The Cardinals never have won inside the Metrodome. They are 0-7, including postseason, dating to a 34-7 loss in 1991.

• Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd, a Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus, had only one catch Sunday for 7 yards.

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