Re-Focused: Week 9, Cardinals at Vikings

| November 9, 2010

For once this season, Brett Favre and the Vikings dug themselves out of the pit they put themselves in.

The Cardinals’ offense was never at the races in this one and only a pair of special teams plays got Arizona into overtime. It could be argued that the emotion of a come-from-behind victory does more for the Vikings than the comfortable victory this game should’ve been. Whether this sparks a miraculous revival in their season remains to be seen.

Cardinals: Three performances of note

Levi Brown (-10.2) was just the tonic that Jared Allen (+9.0) needed to get his 2010 season on track as Brown’s struggles (to put it mildly) continued at left tackle. Brown yielded two hits and nine pressures as well as having a poor game as a run-blocker (-2.1). Brown has struggled in his career as an NFL offensive lineman, and the switch to the  left tackle doesn’t seem to have given him the fresh start to reset his career. Whether he will find his future at guard as former Cards’ draft pick Leonard Davis did remains to be seen, but the Cardinals surely cannot continue to leave their QBs at the mercy of Brown’s poor pass blocking.

One of the Cardinals’ few continuing bright spots (besides the poor play of their NFC West competition) is the consistently brilliant Larry Fitzgerald (+1.9), who continued his solid season despite a pair of disastrous quarterbacks. The coverage of Fitzgerald was shared around between five defenders, but none had any real joy keeping him quiet — he caught seven of 10 targets for 107 yards with a long of 30. Only one of those incompletions was the result of good coverage by a Vikings defender, a pass defensed by Madieu Williams.

There are certain players around the league whom teams seem to think too much of, and Adrian Wilson (-5.7)  is one of them. Wilson struggled whether he was covering Visanthe Shiancoe, Percy Harvin or Adrian Peterson. Wilson has excelled as a blitzer in years past, but was only blitzed five times this Sunday. For the season, he’s down to 34 blitzes from 57 midway through 2009.

Vikings: Three performances of note

Operating from the slot and out wide, Percy Harvin (+3.3) was targeted for passes into the coverage of seven different Cardinals defenders. Even with Harvin struggling with an ankle injury that saw him get up limping and wincing after every reception, only Michael Adams (one catch for 4 yards) and Rashad Johnson (one catch for 6 yards) kept him quiet. Harvin’s season is taking a steady upward curve, and even with his ankle injury Harvin forced more missed tackles on Sunday (two) than he had managed in the seven games prior to this encounter (one).

The Vikings’ defense finally showed up as an entire unit (almost) on Sunday, as the front seven completely clamped down on the Cardinals’ offense. Kevin Williams‘ (+2.8) pass rushing continues to fall short of the high standard he’s set in prior seasons, but his run defense is still outstanding and he made fairly light work of the Cardinals’ interior trio of Deuce Lutui, Lyle Sendlein and Alan Faneca.

E.J. Henderson (+3.9) is one Vikings player whose form has not dipped this season, returning from a nasty leg break against these same Cardinals last season right to his previous destructive form. His +3.7 run-defense grade this Sunday was his highest for a single game since his astounding display in Week 3 last season against the 49ers (+5.0), when he registered nine defensive stops. Henderson registered merely four this Sunday, but two of those came on a crucial three-and-out late in the fourth quarter to get the Vikings’ offense the ball back to send the game to overtime.

Rookie report

Toby Gerhart (-1.8) stumbled on a reception to fall short of a first down and gave up a hit in pass protection. For someone utilised on third down, he’s not exactly excelling in the passing game. … Cornerback Chris Cook (-3.4) may not have given up many yards (16 on three targets) but the stats don’t tell the full story here. He was beaten badly on at least one of the incompletions into his coverage and only saved by a poor throw from Derek Anderson, he also missed tackles and took poor angles in support of other people’s coverages.

For Arizona, Andre Roberts (+0.6) picked up a 30-yard TD reception on 18 snaps, 16 of which were pass plays. … Defensive end Dan Williams (+1.3) is starting to outperform aging veteran Brian Robinson and it may not be long before he works his way into the starting lineup. He took more snaps in this game (28) than Robinson (17). …  O’Brien Schofield forced the Harvin fumble that gave the Cardinals a touchdown on the second-half kickoff. … Daryl Washington saw just a solitary snap in this game as his playing time has been taken by the return of Gerald Hayes.

Random note
Allen would do well if he could face Brown and the Cardinals every week. His 13 total pressures Sunday were only eight shy of the 21  he had registered in the seven games prior to this Sunday.

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