In Week 3, the Buffalo Bills stunned the Vikings at Minneapolis. Could the struggling Arizona Cardinals pull off a major road surprise as well?
Last Sunday at San Francisco, the Arizona Cardinals were the last team in the league this season to get into the win column. Thanks mainly to five takeaways, four of those at the expense of 49ers’ quarterback C.J. Beathard, Steve Wilks got his first victory as an NFL head coach courtesy of a 28-18 triumph at Levi’s Stadium. Kyle Shanahan’s second-year signal-caller was sacked four times, raising the Cards’ quarterback trap total to 14 this season.
More importantly, it was a much-needed win for a team that had struggled badly out of the gates, especially on the offensive side of the football. The Cards totaled a combined 37 points and only five offensive touchdowns during their 0-4 start. However, the Arizona offense reached the end zone three times against the Niners – this despite the fact that coordinator Mike McCoy’s unit gained only 220 total yards in the 10-point win.
So here comes a team limited on offense but with the ability to get after the quarterback. That certainly has a familiar ring to it if you’re the Minnesota Vikings. Three weeks ago, Mike Zimmer’s club faced a similar situation in the then-winless Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was under siege all afternoon and the defending NFC North champions were stifled by a 27-6 count.
Yes, the defending NFC North champions have looked anything like a contender for the most part this year. Their defense has been a shell of its former self and the offensive line has been iffy at times. As for the former, the team has already allowed 10 TD passes in five contests. A year ago in 16 regular-season games, Minnesota defenders surrendered only 13 touchdowns through the air.
In the meantime, Cousins has come up big when many felt he wasn’t capable of such play. He’s hitting on 71.2 percent of his throws for 1,688 yards and 11 scores opposed to only two interceptions. But he’s also been sacked 14 times in five games and fumbled on five occasions, losing four of those dropped balls.
These days, the Minnesota offense is pretty one-dimensional. After running for 116 yards in the Week 1 win over the 49ers, the Vikings have averaged 53.2 yards per contest on the ground the past four weeks. Second-year running back Dalvin Cook has missed two of the past three games and his absence can’t be underestimated. Meanwhile, only two clubs in the league are averaging more passing yards per outing than the Purple Gang. It’s probably not the game plan that new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo had this season.
By all accounts, the talented Vikings should feast on a team that has major issues on offense and is far too dependent on takeaways when it comes to their defense. Only the Detroit Lions have allowed more rushing yards per game five weeks into this season. But a few sacks of Cousins and a forced fumble or two could change things in a hurry for Wilks’ team. Zimmer has watched this scenario play out before and is certainly not anxious for a sequel on Sunday.