Quarterback Kirk Cousins got the ball back with a 20-14 lead and just a few minutes before halftime of Sunday's loss in Arizona. The game was in hand.
But a three-and-out by the Vikings gave the Cardinals the ball with 1:46 left in the half. On the ensuing drive, safety Xavier Woods chased receiver Christian Kirk on an over route to his left, leaving receiver Rondale Moore open deep to his right. Moore caught a lobbed pass from Kyler Murray and ran it in for a 77-yard touchdown. With the PAT, it counted for seven of the 24 points the Vikings have given up inside the two-minute warning before halftime of their two games this season.
"That's where we've got to be better," Woods said. "We have stretches where we're dominant and it's hard for them to move the ball, and once the end of the second quarter hits, something happens to where we just lose it for a second."
In each game, Vikings defenders allowed checkdowns without tackling the ball carrier in bounds to keep the clock running. The Cardinals scored one more time before the half after Greg Joseph's 52-yard field goal with 21 seconds left. Linebacker Eric Kendricks and corners Mackenzie Alexander and Patrick Peterson had chances to tackle Moore before he ran out of bounds with one second left to set up a 62-yard field goal by Cardinals kicker Matt Prater for a 24-23 Arizona lead.
"That'll be a point of emphasis this week," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
The Vikings defense has shown flashes, ranking second in the league with eight sacks through two games, but Woods said a reconfigured secondary needs to talk through a rocky start.
"Start by communicating," Woods said. "We all have experience. We've all been through the ups and the downs of this league and through a game, and we know that there's going to be those moments."
Both of Joseph's misses Sunday – the 37-yard field goal and an extra point – were pushed wide right, a problem stemming from something any amateur golfer could understand. Joseph has made three field goals from beyond 50 yards, but he missed his first attempt of the season from closer when he whiffed on a potential game-winner against the Cardinals.
"My contact feels good, but it's just me following through on the ball more," Joseph said. "Just keeping my head down on some of those. That's obviously something I'm going to get back to the drawing board on this week."
Receiver Justin Jefferson caught his first touchdown of the season, and converted a key third down on a slant in the second half. But teammate Adam Thielen was asked Monday about Jefferson's relatively quiet start. He has 11 grabs for 136 yards and a touchdown in two games. He has dropped two of his team-high 19 targets.
"He wants to be great," Thielen said. "Last year, he was so ridiculously good in those situations that you forget that those don't happen. Players don't make every single catch. Every target that goes to a receiver is not caught, whether you're the best receiver in the league or not."
'A lot more fun'
At the center of the offensive line's improvement in Arizona was Garrett Bradbury's decisions and clear communication in relaying adjustments off the Cardinals defense, according to Zimmer. Blockers weren't always on the same page in Cincinnati, leading to unblocked defenders and busted plays, but that wasn't much of a problem Sunday when the offense had 26 points and 419 yards.
"There were a lot of times where we weren't even in third down," Bradbury said. "That's the mentality we have to have. When we're playing like that, we're hard to stop. So, it was definitely a lot more fun."
Tight end re-signed
The Vikings re-signed tight end Brandon Dillon to the practice squad. He played 22 snaps on special teams in the Week 1 loss at Cincinnati before he was released on Saturday to make room for running back Ameer Abdullah.