EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings offense made positive strides on Sunday against the Cardinals and will try to continue that on Thursday in Detroit.
Minnesota scored on its opening possession against Arizona, capitalizing on strong starting field position and overcoming a penalty in the red zone that wiped off an apparent touchdown from Sam Bradford to Kyle Rudolph.
Jerick McKinnon cut a second-and-12 in half with a 6-yard run, and Bradford followed by identifying a matchup of Adam Thielen against cornerback Justin Bethel.
Bradford placed the ball perfectly where only Thielen could get it, and the receiver continued to make his mark with a strong route and skillful toe tap of both feet — one in the field of play, and the other in the end zone for a score.
Bradford on Tuesday said that both throws — the one that didn't count to Rudolph and the one that was Thielen's third touchdown of the season — were first reads.
"It was kind of dependent on coverage a little bit. The one to Thielen, we got man," Bradford said. "That was a matchup that we liked going into the game. So, we wanted to take advantage of that, and then the one to Rudy was really kind of dependent on how the safety played. And he ran into the flat with our back, and it opened it up behind him."
Bouncing back from an early error gave the Vikings their first touchdown in a first quarter since Oct. 9.
Two weeks prior, a possession that began at the Detroit 18-yard line going toward the same end zone at U.S. Bank Stadium was derailed by two penalties, a loss of 4 on a run and a sack that lost 9 more yards, creating a fourth-and-32 and forcing a punt.
The Vikings (6-4) will have another shot against the Lions (6-4) on Thursday in a rematch of rivals with first place in the NFC North on the line. Detroit claimed the first with a 22-16 overtime win.
The Nov. 6 meeting was the Vikings first with Interim Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur, a Michigan native, calling plays.
Bradford said the Vikings aren't too different under Shurmur but have become more fluid with his calls in the past two outings.
"I think we're still the same team. I don't think it has been that drastic," Shurmur said. "I don't think Detroit's going to look at the film and say, 'Man, that's a completely different group.' I think if anything, guys are probably just a little more familiar with some of the things Pat has put in over the past couple weeks, things that we've ran quite a bit. And so I think that would probably be the biggest difference."
Bradford is 217-of-311 passing (69.8 completion percentage) for 2,191 yards with 12 touchdowns against two interceptions for a rating of 99.8 that ranks eighth in the NFL.
He'll duel with Matthew Stafford, who is 238-of-351 passing (67.8 completion percentage) for 2,651 yards with 18 touchdowns against five interceptions and a rating of 101.2.