GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals are feeling good about themselves after a stellar Week 1 performance, and rightfully so.
Quarterback Kyler Murray was awesome in the 38-13 win over Tennessee Titans. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins was, too. Linebacker Chandler Jones outshined both of them with a jaw-dropping, five-sack performance that even LeBron James couldn't stop talking about.
Now the Cardinals are out to prove it's not a fluke. They've certainly got the attention of the Minnesota Vikings, who travel to face the Cardinals on Sunday.
“We’ve got a task at hand,” Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. "They’re using (Murray) well outside the pocket, inside the pocket. He’s got good targets, good receivers, good backs, so it’s going to be a task for us, but how else would we want it? You know what I mean?
"After a loss like this, you want to go against somebody who’s got a winning record at this point and show that we’re really not what we showed last week.”
The Vikings had plenty of good moments in the season opener, through they eventually fell 27-24 to the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime. Kirk Cousins threw for 351 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to Adam Thielen. The Vikings outgained the Bengals 403 yards to 366 but were penalized 12 times.
Minnesota has dominated Arizona in recent seasons, winning five of six dating back to 2010.
The Cardinals will be trying to stop an elite running back for the second straight week in Minnesota's Dalvin Cook. They were successful in containing Tennessee's Derrick Henry, holding him to 58 yards on 17 carries.
Henry and Cook were the NFL's top two rushers in 2020.
“There's some similarities and some differences,” Arizona defensive end J.J. Watt said. “I think they're both very good running backs. They have a bit different styles in the way they do things, but some things are similar.”
D-HOP BEING D-HOP
Hopkins had two spectacular touchdown catches in Week 1, including a 17-yarder in which he smartly spun away from the defense after the catch, putting Arizona ahead 17-0.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury was even more impressed with the first touchdown catch.
On that 5-yard score, Hopkins slowed down and allowed the Tennessee defender to bump into him in the back of the end zone, creating the separation he needed to secure the catch and come down with the ball. Kingsbury called it “Jedi-type stuff.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kingsbury said. "He looks back, stops and then the guy pushes him forward and it creates separation, and he catches a touchdown. He just has a great feel for getting open.”
Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson will be playing his second game with the Vikings, already set for a reunion with the Cardinals after making the Pro Bowl in his first eight of 10 seasons in Arizona.
Peterson didn’t have much action in his debut last week. His partner on the other side, Breeland, had a rough afternoon, targeted often by Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow.
“I just realized I ain’t ever played with nobody like Patrick, you know what I mean? A corner on that side where they don’t even look his way,” Breeland said. “So it really showed me I’ve got to buckle my chinstrap week in and week out.”
WATT'S SECOND GAME
Arizona's defense had a stellar performance in Week 1 and that was without Watt filling up the stat sheet.
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year drew plenty of attention from Tennessee's offensive line and had two tackles in his debut with the Cardinals after signing with the club during the offseason. The biggest highlight was when Watt and fellow defensive lineman Leki Fotu came into the game for an offensive play that Kingsbury dubbed “MegaWatt."
Watt and Foku lined up as blockers but the beefed-up front was just a diversion. Instead, Murray ran a naked bootleg to the opposite side and scored a touchdown.
“I think overall as a defense we played well,” Watt said. “We still — myself included — have a lot of things to improve on and get better on. That's the exciting part for me, that we can put together a performance like that and still have so much on the table."
One reason for optimism for the Vikings is the probability that they won't be penalized as much as they were at Cincinnati. In addition to the 12 accepted penalties for 116 yards, Minnesota had an additional four infractions that were declined by the Bengals. The majority of the flags were on the offense for false starts and holding.
“We had all those penalties, and we were still right there in the game,” Cook said. “We clean those things up and come out like we did in the second half playing good football, you can see the type of team we can be.”
Coach Mike Zimmer had an old-school outlook toward practice this week in terms of trying to cut down the penalties.
“If they jump offside, I can run ’em. So I’ve done that before,” Zimmer said. "It wouldn’t surprise me to do it again, because if they start doing ’em, then I’m going to get mad.”
MINNESOTA (0-1) at ARIZONA (1-0)
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT, Fox
OPENING LINE: Cardinals by 3 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Minnesota 0-1; Arizona 1-0
SERIES RECORD: Vikings lead 17-11.
LAST MEETING: Vikings beat Cardinals 27-17 in Minnesota on Oct. 14, 2018.
LAST WEEK: Vikings lost to Bengals 27-24 (OT); Cardinals beat Titans 38-13.
VIKINGS OFFENSE: OVERALL (13), RUSH (27), PASS (4), SCORING (17).
VIKINGS DEFENSE: OVERALL (12), RUSH (26), PASS (11), SCORING (T-17).
CARDINALS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (9), PASS (13), SCORING (T-2).
CARDINALS DEFENSE: OVERALL (2), RUSH (13), PASS (4), SCORING (T-3).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Vikings minus-1; Cardinals plus-2.
VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Adam Thielen. He had the 40th and 41st touchdown catches of his career against the Bengals, forming a potent connection with QB Kirk Cousins.
CARDINALS PLAYER TO WATCH: DE Chandler Jones. The 31-year-old tied a franchise record with five sacks against the Tennessee Titans to earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1.
KEY MATCHUP: Arizona's pass rush against Cousins. The Cardinals' defense looked excellent against the Titans, specifically along the defensive line. The Cardinals added three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt during the offseason to help free Jones and it clearly worked in the opening week. Jones and Watt get much of the attention, but Arizona's line is deep with Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence, Zach Allen, Corey Peters and Michael Dogbe all making an impact.
KEY INJURIES: CB Harrison Hand (hamstring) and LB Anthony Barr (knee) were the only two players not to participate in practice on Wednesday. OL Christian Darrisaw (groin) and LB Nick Vigil (ankle) were limited. ... The Cardinals came out of Week 1 relatively healthy though starting RT Kelvin Beachum (ribs) is day to day after leaving the game against the Titans.
SERIES NOTES: The Vikings have dominated the series in recent seasons, winning five of the past six matchups going back to 2010. Most of those games have been fairly close, with only one decided by more than 10 points. ... The home team has won seven in a row in the series and 11 of the past 12. ... The two teams have played each other more often in recent seasons, meeting nine of the past 14 years.
STATS AND STUFF: Jones had a strip-sack of Cousins at Minnesota in 2018 that was returned for a TD by Budda Baker. The Vikings won 27-17, but Cousins also had an interception and took four sacks. Thielen had 11 catches for 123 yards and a TD in that game. ... This is only the second trip to Arizona for the Vikings in the past 12 seasons. They lost there in 2015. ... Vikings CB Patrick Peterson returns to Arizona, where he spent the first 10 seasons of his career. The three-time All-Pro signed with Minnesota during the offseason. ... Arizona's defense has another tough test against a good running back. The Cardinals faced Titans' RB Derrick Henry in Week 1 and now must face Minnesota's Dalvin Cook. Henry and Cook were the top two rushers in the NFL last season. ... The Cardinals started three rookies in the opener, including LB Zaven Collins, WR Rondale Moore and CB Marco Wilson. ... Arizona's Jones has 102 sacks in 125 games. That's the No. 2 sack rate per game in NFL history for defenders who have played at least 75 games. Reggie White is No. 1. ... Vikings backup center Mason Cole was traded from the Cardinals during the offseason for a sixth-round draft pick. Cole started for the Cardinals in 2020.
FANTASY TIP: Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds remains a solid flex option, flashing the same run-pass versatility that made him valuable in 2020. He splits time in the backfield with James Conner, but appears to be the strong side of the platoon. Edmonds had 63 yards rushing and 43 yards receiving with a touchdown in Week 1.