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5 Vikings-Cardinals Storylines: Sweeping, Blocking & Containing


EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings will play the second consecutive road game to open a season for the first time since 2013 when Minnesota visits the Arizona Cardinals Sunday and aims to even the records of both teams.

Minnesota enters Week 2 on the heels of a 27-24 loss in Cincinnati that included a sloppy first half, late rally in regulation and missed opportunities in overtime.

Arizona recorded a 38-13 victory over the Titans in Tennessee. It was so impressive that some people might be ready to crown the Cardinals.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. (CT).

Vikings uniform combination: White jerseys and purple pants

Matchup to watch: Vikings CB Patrick Peterson vs. Cardinals WRs DeAndre Hopkins and/or A.J. Green

Those three players have 20 combined Pro Bowl recognitions. All three have changed teams in the past two seasons.

Peterson, who earned a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first eight seasons, made his Vikings debut last week but wasn't tested often. He's started all 155 games of his career, including 77 at State Farm Stadium, where he'll be in the visitors' locker room for the first time.

Hopkins made four Pro Bowls with Houston and received the distinction again last year in his first season with the Cardinals after tying his career high with 115 receptions. Green made the Pro Bowl after each of his first seven seasons with Cincinnati.

Hopkins caught six passes for 83 yards and two scores in Week 1; Green's two receptions totaled 25 yards.

Beyond Peterson's return, here are five Vikings-Cardinals storylines to follow in Week 2.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Cardinals.

1. Get a broom, mop and bucket

The Vikings opened 2021 with a mess. Minnesota committed three false starts in the first seven times it lined up to snap the football in Cincinnati.

By halftime, officials had chalked up 10 accepted penalties and marked off 91 yards, compared to one 5-yard infraction by the Bengals.

The cleanup effort began in the second half when only two penalties were accepted against Minnesota but it needs to continue.

2. Can Vikings establish their offensive identity?

The above infractions put Minnesota in multiple unfavorable down-and-distance situations, and prevented the Vikings from what they most want to do on offense.

K.J. Osborn's conversion of a third-and-24 with a 25-yard catch was impressive for sure, but Minnesota's offense is at its best when it builds off the run game and implements play-action passes. Osborn (76 yards), Adam Thielen (92) and Justin Jefferson (71) were the NFL's only trio of receivers with at least 70 receiving yards, but that's not the blueprint to victory most of the time for Minnesota.

Dalvin Cook rushed 20 times for 61 yards and added six catches for 43 yards, but he wasn't able to pick up where his monster 2020 season left off, possibly in large part to Minnesota's time behind the chains.

The bad news for Cook is that Arizona's run defense looked good in limiting reigning rushing champ Derrick Henry to an average of 3.4 yards per carry (58 yards on 17 carries).

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

3. Blocking Chandler Jones

The Vikings allowed three sacks by the Bengals on a day with 53 dropbacks and must now prepare for the sacks factory co-owned by Chandler Jones and newcomer J.J. Watt.

Jones recorded 5.0 sacks against Tennessee, including three of the eight fastest of Week 1, according to Next Gen Stats. He enters Week 2 with 102, having leapfrogged the 101 that Watt has to his credit.

The design of one of Tennessee's plays (a play-action with the line moving to the left and Tannehill bootlegging to the right) left Jones completely unblocked. Jones forced a fumble that was recovered and returned to the 1-yard line, setting up Arizona's first touchdown of 2021.

4. Containing Kyler Murray

The third-year quarterback was wearing his red No. 1 jersey, but his improvisation was more akin to the Purple No. 10 retired by the Vikings.

Next Gen Stats measured Murray's scramble yards before an 18-yard completion to Rondale Moore at a career-best 43.5.

It makes one wish such technology existed in the days of Fran Tarkenton for an interesting comparison.

The Vikings haven't played Murray in a regular-season game yet, but have had some successes containing the mobility of Week 3 opponent Russell Wilson in past games. Wilson, however, has eventually pulled rabbits out of a hat each time. Minnesota must limit Murray's magic acts.

5. Next step for the Vikings defense?

Somewhat lost in the shuffle from Sunday was the Vikings limiting the Bengals to just three conversions on 14 third downs (21.4 percent).

This was in part to Cincinnati converting two of three fourth downs, but it's worth noting Minnesota's replenished defense might be returning to its third-down dominance that has usually accompanied scoreboard success during Head Coach Mike Zimmer's tenure.

The Cardinals, by the way, converted seven of 13 third downs (53.8 percent) last week, so this should be a strong test.