By Larry Fitzgerald
November 22, 2016
After four straight losses, three of which were on the road, the 6-4 Vikings were back at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday looking for a spark. They may have started a fire after getting a team-record two 100-yard touchdowns to beat the Arizona Cardinals 30-24.
Corner back Xavier Rhodes turned the Vikings’ season around with an electrifying 100-yard interception return of a Carson Palmer pass for a touchdown. With minutes left in the first half, the Arizona Cardinals were marching against the Vikings’ vaunted defense. On third down Palmer tried to squeeze his pass to John Brown at the goal line and Rhodes jumped the route for a 100-yard touchdown, making it Vikings 20, Cardinals 10. Rhodes, the fourth-year corner back from Florida State, had two interceptions in the game.
When you’re the last undefeated team in the NFL at 5-0 and suddenly you’re 5-4, it’s cut bait time. It’s do or die with six weeks left in the season. The Cardinals cut the Vikings’ lead to 20-17 at halftime and kicked off to Cordarrelle Patterson, who grabbed the kick and raced 104 yards for a touchdown. It was Patterson’s fifth career kick return for a touchdown.
The two 100-yard scores were a Vikings record for one game. “A lot of guys were joking to me that I did not have the juice I had like my rookie year against Green Bay,” said Patterson. “I caught the ball and saw the hole open as soon as I caught it. There’s no way I could miss it. I made one cut, saw the kicker, made him miss and another guy behind me, and it was just green grass.”
The Vikings again struggled offensively with just 217 yards total for the game, 72 yards rushing. But playing with a lead allowed the Vikings pass rush to be a factor, and they chased, harassed and sacked Palmer four times.
It was the Vikings’ first win since Norv Turner resigned as offensive coordinator two weeks ago after the Bears loss on Monday Night Football. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, the Vikings are again in the spotlight on national TV in a rematch against the 6-4 Detroit Lions. The winner will have sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs had his NFL record streak of back-to-back 13 reception games end. Cardinals Pro Bowl corner back Patrick Peterson help limit Diggs to six catches for 37 yards.
The Vikings cut veteran kicker Blair Walsh last week. He missed eight kicks this season, including four extra points, and his replacement, Kai Forbath, had an extra point kick blocked. Sunday there were a record 12 extra points missed around the NFL.
Before kickoff, the Vikings and Arizona Cardinals honored the late Dennis Green with a video presentation and presented gifts to the Green family: his wife Marie Green, daughter Patti, and Dennis and Marie’s children Vanessa and Zachary.
Green was the third Black coach in NFL history, the second in the modern era, when he was hired January 10, 1992. He died the same day the U.S Bank Stadium celebrated the ribbon cutting for the grand opening; he was 67.
Green is the second-winningest coach in Vikings history. He coached in 171 games total, including playoffs, in 10 years and was 101-70. He led the Vikings to the playoffs eight times.
Green won four division titles, two NFC Championship game appearances, and in 1998 his team finished 15-1 and scored an NFL-record 556 points.
Only seven coaches in NFL history won as many as 15 games in the regular season. While coach of the Vikings, Green wrote a weekly column for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He founded the NFL’s and Vikings’ Community Tuesday initiative through which players used their day off during the regular season to make positive differences around the community, a lasting legacy.
With the Vikings, Green coached Cris Carter, Chris Doleman, Randy Moss, Warren Moon, Randall McDaniel and John Randle, all Hall of Fame players. That should be enough, you would think, to join the greatest Vikings ever in the Vikings Ring of Honor.
Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy was Green’s first defensive coordinator 1992-95. He and Brian Billick, 1992-98, both won Super Bowls as head coaches for Indianapolis and Baltimore. Emmitt Thomas was his assistant, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. Tyrone Willingham, 1992-94, became the first Black head coach at Notre Dame and the University Washington.
While head coach of the Cardinals, Green also drafted my son Larry Fitzgerald Jr. with the third pick of the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Green hired Fitzgerald as a Vikings ball boy when he was head coach of the Vikings and developed him. Fitzgerald is certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.