MINNEAPOLIS –The Vikings needed a stop, but Xavier Rhodes delivered a spark.
On third-and-goal from the Vikings 9-yard shortly before halftime, Carson Palmer dropped back and fired a pass intended for John Brown. Rhodes stepped in, intercepted the ball and didn't break stride from one end zone to the other. At the Cardinals 45, Rhodes turned in from the sideline and took a quick glance over his shoulder before taking it to the house.
The touchdown was Rhodes first pick-6 since high school, and he topped out at 22.40 miles per hour, according to advanced stats.
"I just knew when it hit my hands, the only thing [in my head] was to run, so that's exactly what I did," Rhodes said. "Captain [Munnerlyn] had a good jam to slow him down, and I just made a good play on the ball."
Rhodes said he had a feeling that Brown was gaining ground behind him after the pick.
"I knew he was pretty fast, so that's why I looked back and I cut it back inside," Rhodes said.
A number of Rhodes' teammates said the play was crucial in swinging momentum in Minnesota's favor. It gave the Vikings a 20-10 lead with 3:07 left in the first half.
Linebacker Anthony Barr called the pick a "huge red zone interception that changed the game," and running back Jerick McKinnon said it gave the team a needed boost during a close contest.
"Xavier's made plays all year on defense," McKinnon said. "They tried him, he made a play."
Added McKinnon: "He put the burners on; I was happy to see that."
Rhodes wasn't done yet, however.
With just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Rhodes snagged a second interception.
Palmer stepped forward at his own 31-yard line and launched a deep ball to wide receiver Michael Floyd. Rhodes, a stride ahead of Floyd and with help underneath, made the diving catch to once again give the ball back to Minnesota's offense.
"He learned to catch all of a sudden," Barr quipped. "He couldn't catch a cold the first three years, and he caught two picks today."
Great team win. That boy @XavierRhodes29_ came to play..
— CANUDIGGIT (@stefondiggs) November 20, 2016
In addition to the two turnovers, Rhodes came up big on a third-down play and forced a Cardinals punt early in the fourth quarter when he broke up a pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald, Jr.
Rhodes credited Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer for making the defensive play call that allowed him to be in position for the breakup.
"That was my thing, to challenge the receiver, and then when I saw him break off, I just came up and made the play," Rhodes said. "I had a feeling he was going to throw it to Larry, too. I mean, third down, that's their guy, that's who they want to get the ball to. So I just had a good feeling. But that was a great call by Coach Zim, making that call, and I made a great play."
Rhodes' 100-yard return was the longest interception return for a touchdown in Vikings history. It broke the previous record of 97 yards by Reggie Rutland in 1991. Against the Cardinals, the longest interception return by the Vikings was previously Harrison Smith's first career pick-6, a 31-yard return, in 2012.
The fourth-year cornerback's pair of picks tied a team record for most interceptions against Arizona and was his first career game with multiple interceptions.
Rhodes' big day helped the Vikings snap a four-game losing streak with its 30-24 defeat of the Cardinals.
Following the game, Zimmer said he believed the defense had been trying to do too much. His message of to the team leading up to Sunday was clear: "Make the solid plays first and let the big plays come to you."
Rhodes took Zimmer's challenge seriously. He said it felt good to get back a defense the Vikings are known for.
"We weren't aggressive. Coach said we weren't playing our defense," Rhodes said. "So he said, 'Just be aggressive, play our defense, be in tight coverage, sack the quarterback' – and we did all that.
"We accomplished all our goals this week," Rhodes added.