Munnerlyn admits to ‘worst game’ of career

Captain Munnerlyn wasn’t happy with his performance Sunday, for good reason. The veteran cornerback struggled and admitted to having “my worst game of my career.”

The Captain wasn’t playing like a well-ranking officer Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Captain Munnerlyn, one of the biggest free-agent acquisitions for the Minnesota Vikings, said he had the worst game of his career, despite the Vikings getting the 41-28 win.

Munnerlyn is the veteran cornerback on the team, but he struggled Sunday. Two plays were especially striking and stood out as they went for long touchdowns for the Falcons.

On Atlanta’s second drive, Munnerlyn and Josh Robison were lined up on the offensive right side of the formation covering Julio Jones and Roddy White. Jones was on the outside with Robinson lined up across from him and White was inside of him with Munnerlyn facing him. When Jones released to the flat, both Munnerlyn and Robinson ran to him … and White ran by them both uncovered. QB Matt Ryan connected on the easy completion and White ran 24 yards for the touchdown.

“It was a great play. They made a great play,” Munnerlyn said. “Me and Josh communicated and they beat the coverage. They got us.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t quite as gracious in simply giving credit to the Falcons.

“Defensively we had a few bonehead things that we’ve got to fix,” Zimmer said.

“It was a miscommunication. It was a fake screen play and both of them jumped the screen. I’m not sure which one messed up, but one of them obviously and we were zero blitzing so it was probably my fault.”

That gaffe tied the game 7-7, but the Vikings were starting to mount a big lead after scoring a field goal on their first drive of the second half. This time, it was a missed tackle by Munnerlyn that brought Atlanta back into the game.

Down 27-14, Ryan needed to convert third-and-7 from the 36-yard line and slung a short pass to receiver Devin Hester in the right flat. Munnerlyn had Hester where he wanted him but missed the tackle.

“I had him squared up. I didn’t go for the tackle. Had him, but I was trying to strip the ball,” Munnerlyn said. “I was trying to go for the ball. That’s a mistake I made. With a punt returner and an explosive guy like that, just make the tackle. Know your personnel. He’s a guy that likes to make people miss.”

What could have been a third-down stop and at least a long field goal try turned into a 36-yard touchdown and cut the Vikings lead to 27-21. Atlanta took a 28-27 lead on its next possession.

Munnerlyn has talked all preseason and the first quarter of the regular season about cornerbacks needing short memories. He was hoping the same for himself and trying to get his teammates to forget the past – last year the Vikings were known to fold late in games for last-minute losses.

“We knew we blew a lead and I didn’t want guys starting to get flashbacks, what happened in the past here,” Munnerlyn said. “… We got a big stop and the offense scored a big touchdown and we came out and Harrison (Smith) caught the big pick.”

As the game moved to the fourth quarter, the Vikings were down 28-27, but a 78-yard drive was capped by a 1-yard Matt Asiata touchdown run, his third of the day, and the defense went into shutdown mode.

After taking the lead, the defense gave up two first downs, but an Anthony Barr sack ended one Falcons drive, and after Blair Walsh extended the lead to 38-28 with a 55-yard field goal, a Harrison Smith interception ended all realistic hopes.

After a second Walsh field goal finished the scoring at 41-28, Robinson ended the game with a final interception.

This time, it was Xavier Rhodes and Robinson providing the best coverage of the game. Munnerlyn, meanwhile was targeted six times. The first one went for an incompletion, but then he gave up receptions of 7, 20, 24, 36 and 14 yards.

“I didn’t get that much action, but when I do I’ve got to make plays. I can’t let these guys catch the ball and then make the tackle. I’m just a competitive guy,” he said. “I don’t feel I’ve played my best game at all. To me, I feel like it was my worst game of my career, but we got the win. The guys in the back end, they picked me up and made plays. At the end of the day, we got the win.

“… I’ll pick my game up.”

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