The Minnesota Vikings' 35-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium last December was arguably the team's most impressive in 2008.
Conversely, the Vikings' 30-17 loss to the Cardinals at the same stadium Sunday night was the team's least impressive in 2009.
The Vikings were thoroughly outplayed on offense, defense and special teams. But, more significantly, Viking players suffered injuries throughout the game, most notably middle linebacker E.J. Henderson.
Arizona Cardinals dominate Minnesota Vikings
In the fourth quarter, with about six minutes left, Henderson was attempting to tackle Cardinals running back Tim Hightower. But his left leg was twisted grotesquely, and he was carted off the field, with team doctor Joel Boyd stabilizing the injury. Henderson was comforted by his younger brother, Erin, who was inactive for Sunday's game.
With the exception of Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield, who has missed the past six games because of a fractured right foot, the Vikings largely have avoided major injuries.
But in the midst of Sunday's loss, six starters had to leave the field with assorted injuries. Right tackle Phil Loadholt, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, cornerback Cedric Griffin and safety Tyrell Johnson all left the field because of injury. Loadholt, McKinnie and Shiancoe did return to the game, however.
The Vikings will have little time to recover with the physical Cincinnati Bengals coming to the Metrodome
next Sunday. The Bengals are 9-3 after beating the Detroit Lions 23-13, and they have a commanding lead in the AFC North over the Steelers (6-6) and Ravens (6-5), two teams that played the Vikings tough in October.
In fact, leading up to Sunday's game, Vikings coach Brad Childress reminded his players what happened the last time they faced a conference champion on the road. On Oct. 25, the Vikings traveled to Pittsburgh and lost to the Super Bowl champions 27-17.
The Vikings had a chance to drive for a game-winning touchdown in that one. But they were held without a point in the third quarter, and they didn't score in the second half against the Cardinals until rookie Percy Harvin caught a 31-yard touchdown with 80 seconds remaining.
Brett Favre's MVP hopes took a blow as well. He completed 30 of 45 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was outplayed by Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who was 22 of 35 for 285 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
In the second quarter, the Vikings' defense committed two costly penalties.
On the first play of the quarter, on third and nine, cornerback Benny Sapp and linebacker E.J. Henderson were flagged for separate infractions, giving the Cardinals a first down. That play didn't hurt them.
But the next defensive penalty did.
With the ball at the Cardinals' 23, quarterback Kurt Warner had a pass tipped and intercepted by Johnson. But defensive end Ray Edwards was flagged for defensive offsides.
Later on the drive, Warner connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals a 21-10 halftime lead.