GLENDALE, Ariz. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this week that it was unrealistic to think Minnesota could keep Arizona QB Kyler Murray in the pocket all day.
Zimmer's defense found that out in-person Sunday against a Cardinals quarterback that looked like an MVP candidate at times.
But give Minnesota credit. The Vikings slowly began to solve the former No. 1 overall pick in Week 2, even if it ended with a crushing 34-33 road loss.
"Defensively, it took us a little while to get adjusted to the helter-skelter they were doing – running several guys in, several guys out, and then back in, back out," Zimmer said. "I thought we settled down the second half and did a much better job there.
"Just gave up a couple big plays that hurt us toward the end of the first half, I believe, and then the start of the second half," Zimmer added.
Patrick Peterson said: "Just for the most part when you're playing a quarterback like that … you just have to make sure you're plastering your guy. You can't have the eyes in the backfield. You just have to be on your guy with that type of quarterback, because for the most part, when he does scramble and run around, … if he's outside the tackle box, he's looking to throw the ball, so our main focus was trying to keep those rush lanes cloudy for him, not allow him to get outside. But, obviously, things happen throughout the course of the game."
Murray's final stat line was impressive: he completed 29 of 36 passes for 400 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of picks.
He also ran for 31 yards, meaning he accounted for 431 of Arizona's 474 total yards (90.9 percent).
Those figures don't include all the ground Murray traversed to extend plays and make splashes for the Cardinals.
That included a key fourth-down conversion in the latter half of the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-6 at the Vikings 41-yard line, Murray backpedaled nearly 15 yards before lofting a pass to Christian Kirk that gained 35 yards.
"You know, he did that last week against Tennessee, too," Zimmer said. "It was one of those deals where you're trying to create something to happen, you're hoping you get a short throw, and he just drifted back."
The play led to a go-ahead field goal for a 34-33 lead with 4:25 remaining, which proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
Murray also used his feet to evade pressure on a pair of touchdown throws: a 15-yarder in the first quarter and a 77-yarder before halftime.
"You just kind of plan for it during the week. Like I said, he's going to make plays, he's going to get out of the pocket, throw the ball downfield. You've got to do your best to limit his as much as you can," said Vikings linebacker Nick Vigil.
"When you play a quarterback like that who runs around and makes a lot of plays, sometimes it gets chaotic," Vigil continued. "They have a lot of exotic formations, a lot of things that you don't see very often. A lot of misdirection messing with your eyes."
Murray also added a 12-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that Vigil noted was a good look against Minnesota's defensive call.
"They had a good play called, they had a QB draw on for the coverage that we were in. Just in that situation there's not much you can do," Vigil said. "We've just got to see it a little faster and all rally to it before he gets in.
Vigil provided Minnesota's only touchdown of the second half when he returned an interception 38 yards for his first career score.
"He was staring it down, so I was able to break on it and catch the ball," Vigil said. "I thought he was gonna get me from behind. That guy (Rondale Moore) is a little faster than me, so he caught me pretty quick, but I was able to escape him."
Danielle Hunter was also a force when the Vikings were able to bring Murray down, collecting all three of Minnesota's sacks. Zimmer noted the Vikings had free runners other times but simply couldn't corral the quarterback.
"It's good to see him out there performing the way he has, performing the last few games," Peterson said of Hunter, who has 4.0 sacks in two games.
The Vikings will now turn their attention to another mobile quarterback in Seattle's Russell Wilson, who comes to town in Week 3.
The Vikings could use the lessons learned Sunday to try and slow down Wilson and get their first win of the season.
"They are compatible, as far as when it comes to skill set. But that dude, Russell – Kyler's special, he really is – but Russell, I feel like his receivers have a better understanding when he scrambles versus [Murray] because they actually can tell, they actually work on it," Peterson said. "It's not many times where you see Russell throwing balls on time.
"It's always broken plays and backyard football, and that makes the defensive back's job hard because now you have no idea where the receiver's going, the quarterback is still running with the ball, our back is against the quarterback, so all the odds are stacked against us," Peterson added. "For the most part learning, being in this game, I think we have a lot to learn from, a lot to clean up so those situations don't pop up next Sunday."