The Minnesota Vikings coaches like to classify turnovers and big defensive plays as "splash" plays.
Minnesota has relied on linebacker Chad Greenway making many of those types of plays in the past four seasons. Greenway had 5.5 sacks in 2008, the fourth-highest single-season total for a linebacker in Vikings history. The versatile linebacker also had eight fumble recoveries the past four years, tied for the most in the NFL over that time.
After making a big splash by signing a new contract during the preseason, Greenway is hoping for more "splash" plays. He leads the team with 79 tackles, but has only one fumble recovery and two pass deflections to his credit this season.
"You've got to keep those coming," Greenway said. "I haven't had as many in the first half of the season, but they come. It's not a thing about effort or anything like that, just about situations. Just have to keep playing hard. I haven't had as many opportunities. I have to create some opportunities, too. I'm not down on the way I'm playing at all."
Realizing Greenway's importance, the Vikings signed him to a five-year, $41 million contract extension in the preseason with $20 million guaranteed. Greenway knows expectations have been raised because of his new deal.
"Expectations are going to be there," Greenway said. "When the public and people who are fans of the game, fans of the team, see that happen, they don't realize maybe you haven't been getting paid what you should have been getting paid before, or vice versa. The expectations are going to get there and when you are losing, everybody looks at it in a scrutinizing way. Individually you've got to go out there and just keep playing.
"People who are getting paid a ton of money have really down years and I'm not at that point. Just try to keep getting better as the year goes on and those big plays will come."
Greenway's responsibilities as an outside linebacker typically involve more run-stopping and pass coverage, but he has just one sack in his last 40 games. He had 10 tackles-for-loss last season while leading the team in tackles for the third straight season. This season he has yet to register a tackle-for-loss or sack.
He's registered double-digit tackles in four straight games and has been a big part of Minnesota's fifth-ranked run defense.
"I see him as one of our most consistent football players," defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said. "Obviously he would like to make some more splash plays. When he has an opportunity to make them, he has to make them. But again, he is continuing to work and as soon as he starts making some splash plays everybody will say he is doing his job."
Two weeks ago, the Carolina Panthers were driving on Minnesota's defense late in the first half looking to add to an already seven-point lead. Unlike much of the first half of the season, the Vikings responded with a "splash" play.
The one player who's splashed for Minnesota's defense this season, defensive Jared Allen, came up with a strip-sack of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. Greenway came up with the fumble recovery and the Vikings tied the game two plays later on the way to a 24-21 win.
"I think he's done a lot of good things for us, but like a lot of our team, we haven't made enough plays in key situations to turn games," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "Chad's been solid. He's been a guy who's contributed on defense. He's done a good job making tackles and being where he needs to be. We would like to get more splash plays from him. But not only him, more guys maybe besides Jared and (defensive end Brian Robison). Now getting Antoine (Winfield) back we're hoping we'll get some of that from him as well."
Frazier said he hasn't seen a change in Greenway since the team's 2006 first-round pick signed his new deal. Greenway said he is trying to remain consistent and trying not to do too much to justify the contract.
"You can't go out there and try to make other plays that aren't your plays to make because then you're hurting the defense," Greenway said. "What you have to do is go play. You can't judge about the way you play by how much money you make. You have to go out there and just play the game and make the plays that come your way."
Brian Hall writes about the Vikings for Fox Sports North.
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