EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Having posted their largest losing margin at home in 31 years, the Minnesota Vikings were given just three days to prepare for what's next.
Traveling to Arizona for a Thursday night game is about as far from a reprieve as the schedule could have afforded the Vikings following their 38-7 defeat by Seattle on Sunday that pushed them back into a first-place tie in the NFC North.
This final quarter of the season sure starts with a flurry.
''Hopefully getting our noses rubbed in it a little bit yesterday helps bring that chip back,'' tight end Kyle Rudolph said.
The Cardinals (10-2) have won six straight games, further establishing themselves as a serious Super Bowl contender. The Vikings (8-4) have been embarrassed often, for one reason or another, in recent prime-time games. Three key players on defense were out against the Seahawks with little time to recover from their injuries. Throw in the fact this is a trip halfway across the country, and the odds have been stacked high against them.
Perhaps that can work in their favor, in light of their latest humbling loss.
''If it wasn't a challenge half of us wouldn't even be here right now. More of these guys like to fight than they like to go into an easy game,'' defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. ''So if it was easy, the pizza man would be doing it. But I'm glad we get the chance to do it.''
Nose tackle Linval Joseph (foot) was previously ruled out and linebacker Anthony Barr (groin) and safety Harrison Smith (hamstring) each limped off during Seattle's first touchdown drive, depleting a usually sound unit. The Seahawks went on to rack up 433 yards.
''Not having them, obviously, we need them back,'' said Floyd, who moved over to fill Joseph's spot. ''Everybody helps. Everybody counts. We've just got to man up and keep playing ball.''
Coach Mike Zimmer produced the defining quote after the game: ''We're not quite as good as we think we are.''
The players weren't about to argue.
''You come out and get your teeth kicked in and you realize you're not as good as you think you are,'' defensive end Brian Robison said. ''For me, it means that we've still got a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be.''
After the Arizona game, the Vikings play at home against Chicago and New York, both 5-7 teams. They'll each still be in contention, though, and can't be counted out. Then there's the finale at Green Bay. The rematch against the Packers is difficult to envision without it deciding the division champion.
So the playoffs are still well within reach, despite the recent duds against Green Bay and Seattle. But the Vikings are likely going to have to strike a better balance on offense to get there, especially with their defense not at full strength.
Running back Adrian Peterson complained about not getting enough carries on Sunday, though the Vikings were in a bunch of third-and-long situations well before they fell behind 21-0 prior to halftime. Teddy Bridgewater's ability to rally the team from a double-digit deficit remains largely in question following his performance against the Seahawks. He has only three touchdown passes against four interceptions over the last six games, with just six completions longer than 25 yards during that stretch.
''As an offensive line, we take it kind of personal that we're not giving Teddy enough time to develop plays and make his reads,'' left guard Brandon Fusco said. ''I think it's just going to have to be an emphasis for the rest of the season. It's got to be a lot better. We're going to put it on our shoulders and see where it takes us.''
Whether Bridgewater's mechanics, the blocking in front of him, the routes by the receivers, the play calls and formations ordered by the coaches or a combination of all of that, the Vikings have been out of sync when the ball's in the air.
''We've put that on tape a couple times now where if you stop Adrian you're going to have a good chance of stopping us offensively,'' Rudolph said, ''and that can't be the case.''
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