Vikings hold off Cardinals 34-26 for 5th straight win, improve to 6-1

Johnny Mundt #86 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates a touchdown during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings are nothing if not entertaining, and they came back from an early second half deficit to earn a 34-26 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings improved to 6-1, have won five straight since a Monday Night Football loss at Philadelphia and have a 3.5-game lead in the NFC North Division, after the Packers, Bears and Lions all lost on Sunday. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense looked as good as it has all season, and the Vikings needed every point as the Cardinals tried to make things interesting in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings’ five straight wins have all been one-possession games in the fourth quarter. Last year, not being able to close out those close games was a huge factor in missing the NFC Playoffs, and changing the coaching staff.

"The feeling you get on our sideline, in our locker room no matter what the circumstances are, I do feel like these guys believe in each other, they believe in what we’re doing and ultimately believe we’re one play away from being where we want to be when momentum maybe isn’t on our side," Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said. "That’s a proud feeling for a coach."

A big emphasis for the Vikings coming out of the bye week? Getting back to running the ball. Dalvin Cook had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, with 20 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown. He had nine carries for 80 yards in the first half, and finished with 141 all-purpose yards.

"I feel great, one of those games where KO got me going early, setting the standard with what type of day it was going to be. Just having to stick with it all game and finding some plays," Cook said. "We’re 6-1 and just keep stacking."

The Vikings as a team ran for 173 of their 381 total yards, and averaged six yards per carry.

Cousins was 24-of-36 passing for 232 yards and two touchdowns, but set the tone early with his feet. Sensing pressure on the Vikings’ opening drive, he scrambled and won a race to the pylon for a 17-yard touchdown to give the Vikings the early lead.

"Usually the cavalry gets there a lot faster, but on that one for some reason I was able to get to the front pylon. I had no idea how much it means to the O-linemen when I run," Cousins said. "If I had known that, maybe I’d run more. Garrett (Bradbury) said it was the greatest thing he’s ever seen."

"Kirk Jackson," Za’Darius Smith joked.

Cousins also hit Johnny Mundt for his first career touchdown in his 54th career game to give the Vikings a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. The other score went to KJ Osborn, which ended up being the game-winner with 8:36 to play after the Cardinals muffed a punt.

The Vikings’ defense got big days from Za’Darius Smith, and former Cardinals Patrick Peterson and Jordan Hicks. Smith had three sacks, including one on the Cardinals’ final drive that helped seal the win. His first sack came in the first quarter, and he paid tribute to Jared Allen, inducted to the Vikings’ Ring of Honor Sunday, with a calf-roping celebration.

Harrison Phillips ended the game with a sack to run out the clock. A fitting end with Allen in the house.

"When he came in earlier this week, we was telling him we were going to try to do that on our first sack. He had to be OK with it, so we kept it going," Smith said. "As you could see on the first sack, we hit it for him. Happy for him with the Ring of Honor."

"Right before that last play he made, I went over and said ‘Hey I need one more.’ He goes out and gets it, and he was the first one to tell me about it," O’Connell said.

Hicks, who addressed the team Saturday night about hitting the Cardinals in the mouth first, made a key stop for a turnover on downs in the fourth quarter and finished with six tackles. Peterson had three pass break-ups, did plenty of jawing with the Arizona sideline and even mocked Kyler Murray with a dance after a Harrison Smith interception.

Peterson spent his first 10 seasons with the Cardinals before signing with the Vikings, and had plenty to say about them in the locker room after the win.

"I’ve been told a lot of different things about me and the organization. Get fan mails from the owner saying that I can’t tackle, I’m old, I’ve lost it. I wanted to go out there and show them. They said that if I was on the team there would not be a single season-ticket holder. Now they see me," Peterson said. "I still got it. All I heard the last two years he’s washed up, he’s done. We still got a half a season going, but I’m just getting started. I’m in a zone right now, I’m in a groove. I promise you this, if I get challenged I will show up on the stat sheet."

Murray threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, but had a pair of costly interceptions to Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum. The Cardinals also muffed a punt with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals managed 375 total yards, including 12 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown from DeAndre Hopkins, but were just 3-of-9 on third downs along with the turnovers.

Justin Jefferson had six catches for 98 yards, while Adam Thielen added six for 67 yards. Alexander Mattison added five carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. After having issues scoring touchdowns in the last five games, the Vikings were a perfect 5-for-5 in the red zone on Sunday.

"Every single week we talk to our team about what it’s going to take to win the game. Real definitive things, not just coach speak," O’Connell said. "When you do that to a smart football team that has great leadership, you’d be shocked at how much you see those things come to life."

They’re 6-1 heading to Washington to face the Commanders next Sunday. The Vikings are one of five teams in the NFC above .500, and in their eyes, they’re not getting enough attention.

"It feels good, I just hate that people still aren’t talking about us. But it’s OK, we’ll continue to be the underdogs man, and keep going to work each and every day. As you can see, 6-1, it’s a great feeling," Za’Darius Smith said.