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Johnson spoils Green's return to Minnesota

Nov 26, 2006 - 11:46 PM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Brad Johnson enjoyed his best game of the season to spoil Dennis Green's homecoming.

Johnson passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns as the Minnesota Vikings snapped a four-game losing streak by holding on for a 31-26 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

The game marked a return to the Metrodome for Green, who compiled a 101-70 record as Vikings coach from 1992-2001. He is in his third season on the Arizona sidelines.

"I coached a lot of places before I came here in 1992," Green said. "I wasn't a virgin when I got here."

Johnson, who played under Green in Minnesota for six seasons, picked an opportune time for his best game of 2006. He completed 27-of-41 passes, helping the Vikings surpass 30 points for the second time this season.

"They brought blitzes from everywhere," Johnson said. "Nobody does more exotic blitzes than they do. We caught them in some man coverages. They didn't give up the big play, we had to take what they gave us underneath."

"We knew there would be opportunities, we knew we'd have to be patient, and they would be primarily opportunities underneath the defense in lanes that they voided due to the blitz," Vikings coach Brad Childress said.

After throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Robinson with 31 seconds left in the first half to give the Vikings a 14-13 lead, Johnson found Billy McMullen for a nine-yard TD early in the third quarter and Jeff Dugan for a three-yard score early in the fourth, giving Minnesota a 31-13 lead.

Johnson entered with just five touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 10 games.

Chester Taylor also rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (5-6), who entered 27th in the NFL in scoring at 16.7 points per game.

"Our red-zone offense was big," Taylor said. "We always talk about getting seven points when we are in the red zone, and we did a great job of it today.

Green, who utilized the game plan of spreading the field, nearly saw his team battle all the way back under rookie Matt Leinart.

Leinart completed 31-of-51 passes for 405 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. His nine-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin with 39 seconds remaining pulled the Cardinals (2-9) within 31-26.

"We moved the ball well all game, the only time we got stopped is when we turned the ball over," Leinart said. "Four turnovers including a bad interception by me. I thought we threw the ball well, our receivers made the plays, our offensive line did an excellent job. We should be proud of the way we fought 'til the end.

Larry Fitzgerald, who was a ball boy under Green in Minnesota, had 11 catches for 172 yards. Bolden finished with nine receptions for 140 yards.

"Fitzgerald and Bolden showed why they are two of the top receivers in the game," Green said.

After the Cardinals recovered the onside kick, Leinart was intercepted in the end zone by free safety Dwight Smith with two seconds left.

With Leinart throwing the ball, Edgerrin James rushed for just 15 yards on four carries. Fifty-two of the Cardinals' 57 plays were passes.

"It was awesome. To make a team one-dimensional, it just gives us that much more of an advantage. We love it as a defense," Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said.

Minnesota also entered ranked first in the NFL against the run.

"Their run defense is outstanding," Fitzgerald said. "Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are tremendous in the middle. I think we did what we had to do to put us in a position to win."

The Cardinals lost despite a pair of huge plays. J.J. Arrington returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and strong safety Adrian Wilson brought back a fumble 99 yards for a score in the fourth quarter.

Each team finished with 412 total yards. The Vikings rolled up 30 first downs, eight more than the Cardinals.

Robinson finished with seven catches for 82 yards.

"We took advantage of what they were giving us," Robinson said. "Brad (Johnson) got in a rhythm and did a good job of getting us the ball."

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