EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings put up 30 points on the Arizona Cardinals to finally snap a four-game losing streak that had soured their season.
On paper, that should be reason to celebrate for an offense that has struggled this season to sustain drives, open holes in the running game and put the ball in the end zone. But one of those touchdowns came on a 100-yard interception return by Xavier Rhodes, and another came on a 104-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Vikings followed a similar path to victory on Sunday as they did during their 5-0 start to the season, during which they got two TDs and a safety from their defense and two more TDs from special teams to inflate their scoring numbers. They know that they can't expect to sustain that kind of production over the final six games of the season, starting in Detroit on Thursday.
"Any time we get help from our defense or special teams, obviously, it's a huge help," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "And it's great to have that, but as an offense, we can't rely on that. We've got to go out there expecting for us to go out and play well and put up enough points to win."
The Vikings offense did score twice in the first half against the Cardinals, but managed just three points in the second half and put up 217 yards in the game. New offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur pulled out several different trick plays to try to loosen up the defense, using some wildcat formations to get a little production out of the league's worst running game and even going to a flea-flicker that drew a penalty and set up another touchdown.
"I still think there's a lot of room for improvement," Bradford said. "We've got to be better in the second half. But there were some positives, and obviously, just to get a win. I think that just does a lot for this team and does a lot for this group. Hopefully that's something we can build on going forward."
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combined to rush for 64 yards on 21 carries. That's not a number that jumps out, but considering they entered the game on pace to become the first team to average under 3.0 yards per carry since the Patriots in 1994, it was viewed as a step in the right direction.
Coach Mike Zimmer was encouraged by the ability to convert a third-and-1 and for Asiata to pound into the end zone from two yards out after watching his team fail over and over in short yardage situations during that four-game skid.
"We're not going to be Eric Dickerson yet," Zimmer said. "We're working on the little things."
There remains a possibility that injured star Adrian Peterson could return to the field sometime in December, though he still has a long way to go in the rehab process following surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee. Peterson has been out since Week 2 against Green Bay, but he was only averaging 1.6 yards per carry before he went down.
In Peterson's absence, Patterson has emerged as a playmaker that the Vikings offense sorely needs. The 2013 first-round draft choice went through a 20-game stretch from 2015 into this season where he had just four catches for 24 yards. But in the last seven games, Patterson has caught 32 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Those aren't numbers that will make Julio Jones jealous, but it's a start.
"Nothing is good as it seems and nothing is as bad as it seems," Zimmer said. "Somewhere in the middle is where reality falls."
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