The Vikings need another “turning point” game, as Anthony Barr described last year’s loss at Arizona.
In a 23-20 home loss in December, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer faced a depleted Vikings defense. The Vikings started a franchise-record six rookies, including three who made NFL starting debuts on defense — cornerback Trae Waynes, linebacker Edmond Robinson and safety Anthony Harris, who was promoted just days before that Thursday night game. Barr was one of four then-injured defenders to sit out.
All four, including nose tackle Linval Joseph and safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo, will start Sunday for the reeling Vikings against the Cardinals.
“I think honestly that game was kind of a turning point in our season,” Barr said Friday. “The defense was still able to play well and play together and keep us in the game. I think that kind of propelled us. We won out after that week.”
The Vikings would win the next three games en route to an NFC North title. This season, they’ve already had their share of close losses and need to end a four-game losing streak with the healthiest defense since they returned from the bye week last month.
“We’ve been fortunate on that side of the ball to have some healthy guys,” Barr said. “Hopefully we can keep that going. It’s kind of the game of luck sometimes. Offense hasn’t been as lucky, so hopefully we can continue to stay healthy.”
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is optimistic he’ll play Sunday despite being listed as questionable because of a sprained ankle.
Munnerlyn missed his first game in five years last week in Washington but said he was “lucky” his injury wasn’t worse after he needed two separate MRI scans for his knee and ankle two weeks ago. He was limited during Thursday’s practice and a full go on Friday.
“If you go back and look at the play, you’ll say the same thing,” Munnerlyn said. “Foot got caught up, got pushed down — knee isn’t supposed to bend like that. I definitely got lucky.”
The Vikings secondary will need Munnerlyn back in the slot against Cardinals stalwart Larry Fitzgerald Jr., whose 68 receptions are second-most in the NFL. At 6-foot-3, Fitzgerald isn’t your average slot receiver.
“He’s one of the best at body control,” Munnerlyn said. “He’s physical, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time, man, his body control is off the charts.”
‘Made them all’
New Vikings kicker Kai Forbath will debut for his fifth NFL team Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium after what head coach Mike Zimmer declared a perfect week of practice.
“He has made them all,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer added “you’ll have to see on Sunday” what kind of field goal range the coaching staff envisions for Forbath. He has made 29 of 37 field goal attempts (78.4 percent) from at least 40 yards in his career.
A musical background
After the 26-20 loss in Washington, Zimmer openly wondered if the Vikings had “changed some things too much” with defensive play-calling.
However small, the changes continued this week at Winter Park. Music blasted from the loudspeakers during the start of practices, providing a lighter atmosphere.
“Just change up sometimes,” Zimmer said. “I change my hat, change my shoes, whatever — just a changeup.”
Two other defenders, linebacker Eric Kendricks (hip) and cornerback Marcus Sherels (ankle), are also listed as questionable for Sunday.
Both appear likely to return after getting in full practices on Friday.
Sherels was a full go in practice all week. Kendricks returned on Thursday. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has cleared the concussion protocol and will play against the Cardinals.
Washington defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, was fined $18,231 for roughing quarterback Sam Bradford on Sunday.