Sunday, December 6, 2009
Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 30, Vikings 17
By Mike Sando
The NFC West stage isn't big enough for the Cardinals when they play like this.
Arizona looked like a Super Bowl contender Sunday.
Kurt Warner's ability to play at an MVP-caliber level after missing six quarters to a concussion makes everything right for the Cardinals. Warner took a hit on the Cardinals' first play. He shook it off and threw three first-half touchdown passes on the way to a 30-17 victory.
Receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston haven't looked this good together in a while. They overwhelmed the Vikings secondary, finding openings when tackles Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges held up better in protection than anyone could have expected. The Vikings' inability to get consistent pressure on Warner stood out as the most surprising and pivotal development for both teams.
This was a statement game for Arizona. The Cardinals were more physical. Their defensive line won individual matchups, including when Darnell Dockett slipped under Steve Hutchinson to make a tackle in the backfield. Getting 2 sacks from Bertrand Berry was a bonus.
They are 8-4 and leading the NFC West by three games.
The 49ers went into Week 13 thinking they could beat the Seahawks, then possibly overtake Arizona with a victory over the Cardinals in Week 14. The thinking seemed somewhat plausible, or at least defensible at the time. The Cardinals' performance against Minnesota made those thoughts seem laughable in retrospect.
When the Cardinals are right, there isn't another team in the division close to their level.