In a matchup that featured two good defenses, it was Minnesota’s that made more plays and ultimately decided the game. The Vikings defense successfully utilized a bend-but-don’t-break strategy, giving up 356 yards and 21 first downs to the Cardinals, but stopped them twice in the red zone to preserve the lead in the game. Minnesota relied heavily on their pass rush, which proved to be effective against Arizona’s suspect offensive line, sacking John Skelton nine times for 82 yards.
But the real story of the day was Vikings rookie safety Harrison Smith, who picked off a pass in the first minute of the second half and took it to the house to give Minnesota a 21-7 lead at the time, which would prove to be enough to secure the victory.
Minnesota selected Smith out of Notre Dame with the second of their first round picks in the 2012 NFL draft. The Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens traded picks, which allowed Minnesota to creep back into the first round after selecting Matt Kalil with the fourth-overall selection.
Smith must be happy that he is making headlines for a good reason this week. He was fined $15,750 last week for a horse collar tackle against Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, and two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, he was ejected from the game after pushing a referee in a scrum involving several players. Smith was also fined $21,000 in the preseason for an illegal hit versus the San Diego Chargers.
In recent years, the Vikings defense has been a liability, so this year with developing quarterback Christian Ponder, it is good to see them be able to win ugly and rely on defense and special teams. Minnesota has a fierce pass rush and a great corps of linebackers, but their secondary has been the biggest problem area over the last few years, so it is great to see recent draft picks like Smith coming through in a big way for the Vikings.
Minnesota has a short week this week, as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football.