It was hard to believe the Vikings could compete as well as they did against Arizona in a 23-20 loss Thursday night. The Vikings were on the road with only three days of preparation and were missing outstanding players such as Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph on defense.
But the Vikings not only outplayed Arizona, a team some consider the best in the NFL, but they simply beat themselves with three fumbles — one by Adrian Peterson, one by Jarius Wright and a final crushing fumble by Teddy Bridgewater with five seconds left. That fumble came when kicker Blair Walsh was already in position to tie the score and send the game into overtime.
Walsh had kicked a 54-yard field goal earlier in the game, so it’s interesting that on the decisive play of the game, with only 12 seconds left and no timeouts, the Vikings decided to run another play instead of having Walsh attempt a 48-yard field goal to tie it up.
It’s a shame the Vikings lost this game with Bridgewater having one of his best games, going 25-for-36 for 335 yards and one touchdown, and with receivers such as Mike Wallace, Kyle Rudolph and Wright having some of their best games of the season.
Still the amazing thing was how the defense, minus all of its superstars, was able to hold the Cardinals to 23 points, something that had been done only three times this season. Coming into the game, Arizona was No. 1 in the league, averaging 31.8 points per game. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was hurried and rushed the entire game.
It’s hard to figure this team out. The Vikings beat Atlanta on the road, get drubbed by Seattle at home, and then they come one or two plays from upsetting maybe the best team in the league.
One of the key architects of that Cardinals offense is assistant head coach Tom Moore, the Minnesota native who coached with the Gophers from 1972-1973 and 1975-76 and with the Vikings from 1990-1993 in a coaching career that spans over 50 years between college and the NFL.
Moore has done in Arizona what he has done everywhere he’s coached — created a dynamic offense. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians worked under Moore as a quarterbacks coach in 1998-2000 when the two were in Indianapolis with the great Peyton Manning. When Arians was hired by the Cardinals in 2013, he convinced Moore to come out of retirement to help with the offense.
In their three seasons together, the Cardinals are 32-13, the best stretch in franchise history since the team was in St. Louis in the mid-70s.
Moore joined the Steelers staff in 1977 and worked there until 1989, then worked for the Vikings from 1990-1993, the Lions from 1994-1996, the Saints in 1997, the Colts from 1998-2010, the Jets in 2011 and the Titans in 2012. The teams Moore has coached for have a 349-230 record (.603 winning percentage), and Moore has three Super Bowl rings.
Moore’s success and longevity in the league are a testament to his coaching ability. The Professional Football Writers of America recognized that earlier this year when they gave him the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award for lifetime achievement in the NFL.
Great local WRs
With the arrival of Arians and Moore in 2013, the Cardinals offense became a much more dominant unit, and two players who really benefited were Minnesota natives Larry Fitzgerald Jr. and Michael Floyd.
You could see that Thursday, as the two star wide receivers had great games and teamed up for a touchdown.
Floyd finished with five receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown while Fitzgerald had five receptions for 41 yards and delivered a huge block on that 42-yard score by Floyd in the third quarter.
Fitzgerald, the former Holy Angels star who signed a two-year, $22 million contract in guaranteed money before this season, was coming off the worst season of his career when the new coaching staff arrived. Fitzgerald caught 71 passes for 798 yards and only four touchdowns in 2012, with his touchdown and yardage totals the lowest since his 2004 rookie season.
This year has been one of Fitzgerald’s best. He’s healthy with 96 receptions — he will soon set a personal best for a single season, which is now 103 from his 2005 season — for 1,088 yards and seven scores.
Floyd, meanwhile, has become one of Palmer’s favorite red-zone targets, as he now has six touchdown receptions on 40 catches this season. While Fitzgerald gets targeted more, Floyd is a big-play threat.
Between Fitzgerald, Floyd and Moore, Minnesota has treated the Super Bowl-contending Cardinals well.
• Look for an announcement any day that Glen Taylor, majority owner of the Timberwolves and owner of the Star Tribune, has sold 30 percent of the team to a group headed by Steve Kaplan of Los Angeles. The amount paid for the 30 percent will be a lot larger than the $85.5 million Taylor paid to buy the team from Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner in 1994. … Taylor said the Lynx showed a profit last season, the first time that’s happened since he purchased the team in 1999.
• Glen Mason won’t confirm it, but he could have been the Michigan State football coach early in 2000 had he agreed not to bring the Minnesota staff with him and keep the Michigan State staff. M. Peter McPherson and Clarence Underwood, the president and athletic director at Michigan State at the time, flew to Minneapolis and made the offer. Mason, who coached the Gophers from 1997-2006, turned it down out of loyalty to his coaching staff.
• In Wednesday’s overtime victory against the Lakers, Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 26 points and tied a season high with 14 rebounds. Towns went 11-for-19 from the field. That was Towns’ fourth 20-point, 10-rebound performance of the season and 10th double-double, which is tied for sixth most in the NBA.
• Marcus Williams, the former Hopkins grad and North Dakota State player, is in his second season with the Jets and is tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions. Williams also has 21 tackles, 1½ sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
• A number of former Gophers basketball players are playing overseas: Elliott Eliason is averaging 5.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in nine games for BK Jelgava in Latvia; Justin Cobbs is averaging 8.1 points and 4.0 assists for Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi in Turkey; Mo Hargrow is averaging 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 10 games for Marinos de Bolivar in Colombia; Rick Rickert is averaging 15.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists for the Chiba Jets out of Japan.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com