Notebook: Brian Robison leads way as Vikings get seven sacks vs. Cards
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Arizona Cardinals entered Sunday having given up an NFL-worst 28 sacks, including 22 in the past three games.
The Minnesota Vikings did their best to add to the woes of the Cardinals offensive line by getting a season-high seven sacks on quarterback John Skelton. Left end Brian Robison had a single-game career-high three, right end Jared Allen had two and defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield finished with one apiece in the Vikings' 21-14 victory.
"(The defensive line) all wanted to get in there and rush the passer and fortunately we got up a couple of scores where we could and there ended up being some drop back situations," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Brian (Robison) had a terrific game.
"We worked all week long, (defensive line coach) Brendan Daly did, with our D line and what we thought our best rushes were against their offensive line. I think every guy on our defensive line got pressure on the quarterback at some point. So kudos to our defensive line. We needed that pressure."
Robison had only one sack before Sunday and had been at least partially slowed by a left elbow injury he suffered in Week 2 at Indianapolis. That required him to wear a large brace. Robison said he's stuck wearing the brace for a while but he did get a newer one this past week that is a bit lighter.
As for getting three sacks, Robison said: "It's always fun to get any sacks, so three I guess is triple fun."
Robison, who had eight sacks last season, admitted he did some "soul searching" after the Week 4 game in Detroit when he didn't have a sack.
"There was a time I was getting pretty frustrated," he said. "I was getting to the quarterback, just wasn't able to get him down. Bottom line is I had to do a little soul searching I guess you would say. ... There's nothing you can do about (not having a sack). The only thing you can do is just keep going out there and playing 100 miles an hour and things will come to you."
The Vikings took possession with 50 seconds left in the first half and the ball at their own 13-yard line.
The Vikings then called timeout with 14 seconds left on the clock, despite being deep in their own territory. Facing a third-and-2 from the 21, Ponder lined up in shotgun. He came under heavy pressure, scrambled to his left and then let go of a pass as his arm was being hit.
The ball was intended for Adrian Peterson but instead ended up being caught by Cardinals linebacker Sam Acho at the Vikings 29. Jay Feely came on to attempt a 47-yard field goal that could have pulled the Cardinals within four points but he missed wide right.
Ponder probably would have been best to throw the ball out of bounds but the play call also was odd.
"We felt like we could get a field goal with 58 seconds left," Frazier said. "We felt like there was enough time, we had been out there in situations like that with less time where we could have gotten a field goal. We ended up not getting anything out of it and fortunately they didn't either so it was good."
Ponder, when asked exactly what the Vikings were trying to accomplish in that situation, said:
"We were trying to get points. We did it (against) Jacksonville with 14 seconds (to go), we got points. We figured that the offense is really good at what we do and we just didn't perform as well as we should have."
Bring it back
The Cardinals appeared to make a major mistake when they won the coin toss Sunday and elected to defer.
Feely's kick was taken by Vikings standout return man Percy Harvin 3-yards deep in the end zone. Harvin got up a head of steam and raced to what appeared to be a touchdown.
The only issue was a flag was thrown and the Vikings were called for an illegal block above the waist. Referee Terry McAulay did not identify the player who threw the illegal block when he announced the penalty, but he told Frazier that linebacker Marvin Mitchell was the guilty party.
"We won the game and battled through it," Frazier said. "You hate when points are taken off the board, but I think it's a credit to the maturity of our football team, not to swoon and say, 'Oh, no.' They didn't do that. They kept playing and kept playing. ... I don't think it affected what we were trying to get done."
The return for a touchdown would have been Harvin's second this season and his second to open a game. He did the same thing in Week 4 at Detroit, running back a kick 105 yards.
"You hate those ones," Harvin said of having a return nullified by a penalty. "Especially when you take it all the way back. ... Those suck. But it's part of the game."
Back in action
After sitting out last Sunday's game at Washington because of a back problem that caused numbness and weakness in one of his legs, Jerome Simpson played a substantial amount on Sunday.
He finished with only one reception for 8 yards - officially that was the only pass on which Simpson was targeted - but he also drew a 29-yard pass interference penalty on Cardinals cornerback William Gay in the first quarter that put the ball at the Arizona 13-yard line.
That set up an Adrian Peterson touchdown run that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
Simpson also drew two pass interference penalties in his first game of the season against Detroit on Sept. 30.
Simpson said the Cardinals took a different approach to him after the penalty flag was thrown.
"They started to push their safety over me and kind of put their corner underneath me," he said. "They tried to just bracket me, so they kind of took a little bit away from what we like to do."
As for his back issue, Simpson said it is "healed" and he's now "good." Simpson wasn't happy to be left off the 46-man active roster on Oct. 14 at Washington, in part because he earns a $59,375 roster bonus for each game he's active.
The Vikings won't have much time to enjoy Sunday's victory.
The team will be back in action on Thursday night, playing host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"For an old guy, it's definitely a quick turnaround," said Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who is in his 14th season. "But we'll be ready. Every time, it's almost game time, the body snaps back. So, we'll be good."
Frazier has given his players Monday off and will install the game plan on Tuesday.
The Vikings won't play again after Thursday until Nov. 4 when they will visit Seattle.
The Vikings scored touchdowns on both their trips into the red zone against Arizona after going only 2-for-7 in last Sunday's loss at Washington.
The issue, of course, was that the Vikings only got inside the Cardinals 20-yard line twice. Peterson had a 13-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Harvin caught a 3-yard scoring pass from Ponder in the second quarter.
"We want (Peterson) to run it in any time we get in the red zone," Harvin said. "That's one thing that we kind of got away from that we're going to get back to. So any time we get in the red zone, our first thing to do is to run it in with Adrian.
"If that doesn't work, try it again. It that doesn't work, try it again. If that doesn't work, we'll try something else. But our first objective is to try and run the ball."
Allen limped off the field in the third quarter after a third-and-7 play on which Skelton escaped pressure to complete a 5-yard pass to running back William Powell.
"Someone fell on my knee," said Allen, who was able to return. "It didn't feel good. I think my feelings were a little hurt, too, because I thought I had a sack and then I heard he got the ball out with like his left hand. Someone fell right on my knee. I thought they were kicking a field goal. I didn't realize they were going for it on fourth down. If I had realized there was a fourth-down play, I would have stayed out there."
Allen also is dealing with a groin injury that limited him in practice last week.
On fourth-and-2 from the Vikings 18, on the play for which Allen departed, Skelton was sacked by Winfield after Robison also gave chase.
"I'm sure Alan (Williams, the Vikings' defensive coordinator) and the rest of the coaches want to take credit, but that's an incredible play by a great pro," Frazier said of Winfield. "It was just a great play by Antoine. We've all seen him do that so many times through the course of his career here in Minnesota."