Murray, Vikings trample Cardinals on way to 27-17 victory
Latavius Murray helped the Minnesota Vikings revive their running attack with 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, wearing down the Arizona Cardinals on the way to a 27-17 win on Sunday.
Even Kirk Cousins joined the fun for the Vikings (3-2-1) with an option-style run across the goal line in the third quarter, before throwing to Adam Thielen for a score on the following possession.
Thielen had 11 receptions for 123 yards, his sixth straight 100-yard game to become the first player in the NFL since 1961 to start a season with a streak that long. Thielen's 58 catches are the most in league history through six games.
Budda Baker returned a fumble off a sack by Chandler Jones for a 36-yard touchdown and Tre Boston had a diving interception later in the second quarter, and the Cardinals (1-5) constantly pressured Cousins with four sacks, seven hits and seven deflected passes.
Cousins managed to complete 24 of 34 attempts for 233 yards, thanks mostly to Thielen and his exceptional ability to get open anywhere on the field and turn off-target throws into clutch catches. He made a toe-dragging sideline grab on third-and-13 right at the first-down marker to extend the opening possession of the third quarter, before capping the drive in the end zone with a 13-yard reception on a seam route after leaving linebacker Josh Bynes in his wake with a stutter step.
The Vikings emerged from their early season gauntlet of road games at expected NFC contenders Green Bay, Los Angeles and Philadelphia with only one loss, with that ugly defeat at home by Buffalo the biggest stain of the first five weeks.
This matchup with Arizona presented a similar trap against a struggling opponent and a raw rookie quarterback, but the Vikings took a first-quarter lead on Murray's 21-yard touchdown run when he flattened Antoine Bethea with a stiff arm. That put the defense in position to turn loose the pass rush and fluster Josh Rosen the way they failed to do with fellow rookie Josh Allen against the Bills three weeks ago.
Coming off his first career NFL victory last week against San Francisco, Rosen didn't have much of a chance to start a winning streak.
He went 21 for 31 for 240 yards, but the Cardinals failed to move the chains on all 12 of their third or fourth down plays. That included a third-quarter interception by Anthony Harris and a fourth-and-goal stop of David Johnson by Xavier Rhodes at the 1-yard line in the second quarter.
Larry Fitzgerald, the intended target when Harris jumped his route, had five catches for 39 yards in his hometown. The 15th-year veteran fell to 0-6 in career visits to Minnesota, where the Cardinals have lost 10 straight games since they were in St. Louis in 1977.
The Vikings missed left tackle Riley Reiff (foot) badly, with Jones often overpowering Rashod Hill, who switched over from the right side as rookie Brian O'Neill made his first start in Hill's place. Jones had 1 1/2 sacks, and Benson Mayowa had two deflected passes from the other defensive end spot while rotating with Golden.
BY THE NUMBERS
Johnson had a late touchdown run and 55 yards on 18 attempts. ... Danielle Hunter had two of Minnesota's four sacks, giving him at least one in each of the first six games for the third-longest streak in team history. ... Murray, starting for Dalvin Cook (hamstring) for the third time in the past four games, had 66 yards by halftime to top the team average over the first five games. The previous long gain by a running back was Cook's 15-yarder, which Murray topped four times.
Cardinals: Five starters listed as questionable all played: RT Andre Smith (hamstring), LG Mike Iupati (shoulder), LT D.J. Humphries (knee), DT Robert Nkemdiche (foot) and Golden (knee). ... Iupati suffered a back injury and was replaced in the third quarter by Jeremy Vujnovich, who hurt his hamstring in the fourth quarter. RG Justin Pugh also went out with a hand injury, forcing John Wetzel and Daniel Munyer to man the guard spots.
Vikings: With strong safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) inactive, George Iloka got his first start after joining the team in training camp. Harris frequently rotated in, too. ... CB Mike Hughes limped off in the fourth quarter with an apparent left knee injury.
Cardinals: Host the Denver Broncos on Thursday night.
Vikings: Play on the road against the New York Jets next Sunday.