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More frustration on the road: 3 big takeaways from the Arizona Cardinals' loss to the Vikings

Posted: 2:34 PM, Nov 20, 2016
Updated: 2016-11-20 17:08:05-05

If you look at the numbers, the Arizona Cardinals did a lot of things right on Sunday. They racked up more total yards and first downs than the host Minnesota Vikings, and they made some outstanding plays on defense.

But unlike last year's team, this year's Cardinals just aren't greater than the sum of their parts, and it showed Sunday in what was probably a must-win situation.

The Cards fell back below .500 Sunday with a 30-24 loss to the Vikes in Minnesota, which snapped a four-game losing streak for the home team and put Arizona in a situation where perhaps winning all of its final six games might not be enough for a third consecutive postseason appearance.

Here are three big takeaways from Sunday's game.

1. Two big mistakes too many.

The difference in this game was two 100-yard-plus plays allowed by the Cardinals. 

The first came in the second quarter when the Cardinals were driving and threatening to take the lead. Instead, in a play reminiscent of a late-first-half moment in Super Bowl XLIII,  quarterback Carson Palmer threw an interception that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Xavier Rhodes. This gave the Vikes a 20-10 edge, even though the Cards had a substantial edge in yards, first downs and time of possession in the first half.

On the first play of the second half, Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 104 yards for a score to put Minnesota back up by 10 points. This marked the first time since 1962 that a team had a 100-yard kickoff return AND a 100-yard interception return for a TD in the same game.

Patterson's score was Minnesota's only touchdown of the second half, and it was enough, as the Vikings' defense clamped down on the Cards in the final 30 minutes.

2. Cards' offensive line collapses.

Yes, Palmer made some mistakes Sunday, but let's be honest: He had virtually no time to operate for most of the second half. For the game, Palmer was sacked four times, knocked down 17 times and hit 23 times. He was sacked twice on the Cardinals' final possession.

Injuries on the offensive line have finally caught up to the Cards, as Jared Veldheer and Evan Mathis have already been lost for the season, and Mike Iupati was hobbled with an ankle injury he suffered in the first half. If you don't have a reliable O-line, it sure is hard to win in the NFL, and the Cardinals were reminded of this Sunday.

3. At least we still have David Johnson.

I've made it a point to try to find at least one positive in each of the Cardinals' losses. More often than not, that positive has come in the form of the Cards' incredible second-year running back.

David Johnson became just the third player since 1970 to earn at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his team's first 10 games of a season. He outgained the Vikings on his own in the first half, and he earned a total of 160 yards and two touchdowns on 29 touches for the game. It's not a stretch to say Johnson is well on his way to becoming the greatest running back in franchise history.