MINNEAPOLIS - Adam Thielen had another 100-yard game. Ho-hum.
Latavius Murray also cracked 100 yards. Now that was a big deal.
In the Vikings’ 27-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Oct. 14, at U.S. Bank Stadium, Thielen caught 11 passes for 123 yards and became just the second player in NFL history with 100 yards receiving in each of the first six games.
Murray rushed for a career-high 155 yards on 24 carries. The Vikings entered the week second to last in NFL rushing with an average of 65.8 yards per game.
“It was good to see the running game got going,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought Latavius ran with a purpose.”
Murray stepped up after Dalvin Cook was ruled out for the third time in four games because of a hamstring injury.
Murray, who had just 106 yards in the first five games, made his presence known early. On Minnesota’s second possession, he had a 26-yard run and then a 21-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 lead with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
“We’ve been wanting to run the ball like that all season,” Murray said.
Meanwhile, Thielen has been piling up yards at a record pace since the opener.
He is one game shy of Charley Hennigan’s 1961 record for opening the season with seven straight 100-yard games.
Hennigan did that playing for the Houston Oilers in the American Football League; AFL records were absorbed by the NFL after the leagues’ 1970 merger.
“I feel like I sound like a broken record, but it’s such a team stat,” Thielen said.
Thielen’s 100-yard games look routine to Vikings rookie Brian O’Neill. With Riley Reiff out with a foot injury, Rashod Hill moved to left tackle and O’Neill got his first NFL start at right tackle.
“I’ve never seen anything else,” O’Neill said. “That’s all I know is (Thielen) getting over 100 yards. Hopefully, that’s all I know for a long time.”
Thielen’s 13-yard touchdown reception from Kirk Cousins gave the Vikings (3-2-1) a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter. Cousins scored on a 7-yard run later in the quarter to give Minnesota a 17-point lead.
When Thielen scored, he danced in the end zone with several players. When Cousins scored, he followed suit.
“It’s the dead-arm dance,” Thielen said. “Everybody’s doing it. It’s the cool thing.”
The Vikings did not have as much fun as that in the first half. Late in the second quarter, Chandler Jones had a strip sack of Cousins, and Cardinals safety Budda Baker scooped up the ball and ran 36 yards for a touchdown to tie the score 10-10.
Cousins has an NFL-high five lost fumbles, all in the past four games. He was sacked four times Sunday.
“If I’m going to drop back scared about fumbling, I’m never going to make a throw or a play,” said Cousins, who completed 24 of 34 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “I thought I could get rid of it, but he clearly was able to punch it out.”
The Vikings had other uneven moments in the first half against the lowly Cardinals (1-5). They allowed rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to complete a 35-yard pass to Christian Kirk to the Minnesota 11 in the first quarter and a 40-yarder to Ricky Seals-Jones to the 7 in the second.
The Vikings’ defense held the Cardinals after Kirks’ catch to a field goal, which gave Arizona a 3-0 lead. After the Seals-Jones grab, a goal-line stand forced the Cardinals, trailing 10-3, to turn the ball over on fourth down at the 1.
Minnesota’s defense held the Cardinals to 269 yards. Arizona was 0 of 10 on third-down conversion attempts and didn’t score an offensive touchdown until David Johnson’s 1-yard run with 6:57 left in the game.
Safety George Iloka called the efforts after the two long passes crucial in getting the defense going.
“Any time you can prevent points on the board with the offense that we have, that lead is going to expand,” said Iloka, who made his first start of the season in place of the injured Andrew Sendejo.
It eventually did. With the score tied 10-10, the Vikings reeled off 17 points to take control. Then they really turned to Murray, who had 89 yards in the second half.
“We were trying to run the ball and keep a great player like Chandler Jones from ruining the game,” Cousins said.