TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals will play their first home game of the 2021 season on Sunday when they host the Minnesota Vikings. Not only will the game see the return of former Cardinals Patrick Peterson and Mason Cole, but it will also be new Cardinal J.J. Watt’s first home game in Glendale.
Watt has played in State Farm Stadium just once before, during week 10 of the 2013 season. In that game, Watt had four tackles, a sack along with forcing and recovering two fumbles. But, the Cardinals prevailed 27-24.
Now that he is a Cardinal, Watt is excited for the Red Sea to be on his side, especially in the first game that will see a full State Farm Stadium since the end of the 2019 season.
“We got a little bit of a taste in the preseason,” Watt said. “But still, I don't think we've seen the full stadium rocking and the Red Sea going crazy. So, I personally can't wait for that. I know they didn't have last season, obviously to show their love for this team. And I just can't wait to see it.”
As for what is going to happen on the field, the Minnesota Vikings bring a similar offense to what the Cardinals saw in Week 1 against Tennessee, where the Red Birds held two-time defending NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry to just 58 yards, along with holding wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones to just 78 yards combined.
The Vikings running game is strong, led by two-time Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook. Quarterback Kirk Cousins also has two Pro Bowl wide receivers to throw to: Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
But Watt said stopping the Vikings will come down to everyone on the Cardinals’ defense doing their jobs.
“There are some similarities, there are some differences,” Watt said. “Certainly, I think they're both very, very good running backs, obviously, I think (Dalvin Cook & Derrick Henry) have a bit different styles and in the way that they do things. But there are also some things that are similar. So, for us, a lot of it comes down to us playing our game and making sure we do what we're supposed to do.”
And while the Cardinals put on a defensive showcase last Sunday against Tennessee, Watt says there are still plenty of things to be fixed.
“I think overall as a defense, we played well, I think that we still have, myself included have a lot of things that we can improve on and get better on,” Watt said. “And that's the exciting part for me. Now we can put together a performance like that and still have so much on the table and so many things that we can improve and get better at.”
However, one area of the defense may not need to be tweaked. That’s the Cardinals’ pass rush that saw Chandler Jones tie a team record with five sacks last week. Watt said it’s a lot of fun to be paired with an elite pass rusher like Jones.
“But you saw again, what Chandler Jones is capable of,” Watt said. “He's incredible. He can do so many things: speed, power, he has so many moves and is constantly studying and working his craft. And so when you're able to combine with a guy like that, and put both of the forces together, it's a lot of fun.”
Watt also discussed the ‘MegaWatt’ package, that saw him and defensive tackle Leki Fotu line up as fullbacks in the Cardinals’ backfield and the moment caught in a ‘Mic'd Up’ video released by the team, where Watt said he had no idea where the ball was going.
“That's not a joke. I did not know where the play was going,” Watt said. “We put the play in and it was kind of like a throwaway conversation like, ‘Hey, we're gonna have megawatt and this week you'll line up in the backfield and go here.’ And I said okay, and we walked through it one single time with me and Leki all week. But even in the walkthrough, I was just focused on what we were doing, I wasn't 100% sure where the ball went. And then I went to block the guy and he wasn't even trying to get me, so I was like, alright, the ball’s probably not here and I looked on the jumbotron and Kyler was in the endzone and I was like, ‘That's fine. That works for me.’”
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