Vikings Lose to Cardinals On a Heartbreaking Missed Field Goal
It wasn’t enough for the Minnesota Vikings to just lose to an Arizona Cardinals team that rolled the Tennessee Titans in week 1. Once again, they did enough to steal a victory in the desert, but instead, kicker Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal and the Vikings lost 34-33, dropping them to 0-2 on the season.
But there were issues galore long before the final kick. The Vikings jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the second quarter after Kirk Cousins found Justin Jefferson in the endzone. But Joseph missed the extra point, and every fan could sense that the kick would haunt the team.
The lead then began to crumble. Arizona marched down the field on the following drive. After a Danielle Hunter sack set up a 3rd-and-16, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray threaded the needle to Christian Kirk to set Arizona up in the redzone. Three plays later, Murray scampered in from 12 yards out to cut the lead to 20-14.
Minnesota then responded with a three-and-out when Dalvin Cook was stuffed on 3rd-and-1. Arizona, who had no answer for Cook to begin the game, made adjustments and stood him up. The Vikings punted, and one play later, Murray got around Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly and found receiver Rondale Moore wide open for a 77-yard touchdown. In the blink of an eye, the Cardinals were in the lead.
The Vikings answered with an odd two-minute drill, opting to run the ball and throw passes short of the first-down marker. Minnesota’s drive stalled at the Cardinals’ 34-yard line, and Joseph hit 52-yard field goal.
Unfortunately, the Vikings left 21 seconds on the clock for the Cardinals’ offense. They then made the questionable move of squibbing the ensuing kickoff. Instead of kicking the ball out of the endzone and forcing the Cardinals to start at their own 25-yard line, Arizona was set up at the 34-yard line. Two plays later, Moore somehow weaved through defenders to get the ball to the Vikings’ 44-yard line. With kicker Matt Prater, known for his massive leg, this was close enough, and he drilled a 62-yarder to give the Cardinals a 24-23 lead at halftime. This was what made the squib kick a questionable move. Although it killed five seconds, it gave Arizona a shorter field with a kicker who consistently hits long kicks.
Minnesota responded with a pick-six to begin the second half. At 29-24, the team could have decided to go for two points and make up for the earlier missed extra point. Instead, they opted for the extra point, and Joseph gave the team a 30-24 lead.
The two teams then continued to trade momentum. With 6:12 left in the game and facing 4th-and-5 at the Vikings’ 41-yard line, Arizona decided to go for the first down. Down 33-31, Murray held tough in the pocket against a heavy blitz and tossed a 35-yard pass to Christian Kirk. The Cardinals would kick a field goal a few plays later, giving them a 34-33 lead.
The Cardinals opted to get aggressive on their previous drive. The Vikings got stuck behind the sticks and faced a 4th-and-6 at their own 29-yard line. With only 2:52 left, they decided to punt the ball back to a team that accumulated 474 total yards on the day. Minnesota probably should have gone for it, even if in hindsight they held the Cardinals on the ensuing drive. Had they never gotten the ball back following the punt, it would have been a difficult decision to come back from moving forward.
Fortunately for the Vikings, they were able to get the ball back with 2:03 left. Cousins then orchestrated what was setting up as the game-winning drive. On 2nd-and-1 at the Cardinals’ 27-yard line, Cousins found promising second-year receiver K.J. Osborn for an 8-yard gain with 41 seconds remaining.
But with a timeout remaining, and a kicker who hasn’t proven he is reliable, head coach Mike Zimmer allowed the clock to go down all the way to four seconds. Joseph missed the straight-ahead 37-yard field goal, pushing it to the right and the Vikings fell to the Cardinals, 34-33.
It was a painful loss with tons of blame to go around. But a series of poor coaching decisions compounded their way into a loss that fans could feel coming from a mile away. The Vikings face the Seahawks in their home-opener next week. But with this crushing loss, the margin for error is smaller than ever, and the Vikings need to fix their issues sooner than later.