Arizona Cardinals' mistakes costly in 8-point loss to Minnesota Vikings

José M. Romero
Arizona Republic

MINNEAPOLIS — The same things that have plagued the Arizona Cardinals in games they've lost this season were there in Sunday's 34-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. 

An inability to get a play call in that forces them to burn timeouts or to hurry to get a play off. Slow starts on offense and having to play from behind, multiple times on Sunday. Penalties that force them into long yards to go for a first down or hurt drives, and high on the list, injuries to key personnel that have forced the Cardinals to go without such starters on offense as running back James Conner, left guard Justin Pugh and center Rodney Hudson. 

But there were a couple of new issues Sunday that showed up in defeat. The relatively mistake-free Cardinals turned the ball over three times, not including once on downs. And their defense didn't play like it has the past six weeks, torched for 111 rushing yards from Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and 98 receiving yards from star receiver Justin Jefferson.

The Cardinals had been good at limiting opponents' top offensive threats since after Week 1. Not so much on Sunday, in their 11th straight loss to the Vikings in Minnesota. 

"We've got to stop making mistakes to hurt ourselves. We've got to execute what we're supposed to execute. Play the way we're supposed to play," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "If you get beat, you get beat, but we can't put ourselves in situations where we're beating ourselves."

Among the biggest positive stats for the Cardinals so far this season had been a very 'good turnover differential of plus-5. 

On Sunday the Cardinals lost the ball three times, including a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that led to the Vikings' touchdown that sealed their win. 

The Cardinals were about to get the ball down by two when punt returner Greg Dortch lost the ball and the Vikings pounced on it. Minnesota took a 34-26 lead moments later on Kirk Cousins' 5-yard-pass to K.J. Osborn. 

Lots of time remained on the clock after the Osborn score, but quarterback Kyler Murray was intercepted for the second time with the Cardinals on the move and in Vikings territory. Arizona then came up short by inches on fourth down, and got one last chance for a tying touchdown and two-point conversion.

Murray was sacked twice with the Cardinals out of timeouts, and the game came to an end. 

It felt like a lost opportunity to win once again on the road, against a quality opponent that couldn't completely put the Cardinals away. 

"It's go back to the drawing board and practice better," said Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who with 12 catches for 159 yards with a touchdown had another big game in his second one since returning from a six-game suspension. "Obviously, you guys see we're right there. It's not like the game was a blowout. This is one of the best teams in NFL and we had a chance to win (Sunday.)"

The Cardinals dropped to 3-5, though Murray felt his team was in the game and played well. Murray, who had a season high three touchdown passes, took blame for underthrowing the ball on his first interception, and said he and tight end Zach Ertz weren't on the same page on his second. 

"This one's very frustrating, but we'll get over it," Murray said. "We've got a divisional opponent (Seattle at home next week). Everything is right in front of us. We'll be better."

The Cardinals didn't falter after falling behind 14-3 in the first half. It's a position they know well, having had to come from behind often this season. Arizona took a 17-14 lead on Murray's eight-yard touchdown pass to Ertz, the tight end fighting for extra yards to get into the end zone. 

Then came 14 unanswered points from the Vikings. They took a 28-17 lead after Harrison Smith intercepted Murray and looked to be back in control.

Murray completed a pair of long passes to Rondale Moore, who looked more effective in the open field than he did when catching the ball near the sideline without the room to turn upfield. The second of those was a 38-yard completion for Moore's first touchdown of the season, and the Cardinals trailed by five. 

Near the end of the third quarter, the big play the Cardinals had sought came when Isaiah Simmons stripped the ball from Cousins and recovered the fumble. Down 28-23, the Cardinals had a chance to take the lead as the fourth quarter began. 

Instead, a snap Murray wasn't ready for stopped their momentum and led to a Matt Prater field goal with 12:35 to play. It would be the Cardinals' final points of the game. 

"We've got to find a way to get the play in, we've got to find a way to call it, we've find a way ... to know the adjustments. We're just not processing all those things, the basic things of football right now," Cardinals right tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "The NFL is about consistency, we just haven't been consistent."

Kingsbury said miscommunication on offense in the game was not due to crowd noise and therefore shouldn't happen.

"Whether it's penalties, crucial situations, turnovers, things of that nature," Kingsbury said. "Effort has been outstanding, just not clean enough in any phase to get it done against, you know, these top level teams, and that's coaches and players. We've just got to keep working to be better."

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