Earlier this season, Vikings defensive players weren’t throwing the offense under the bus, but more than a couple were talking in terms of kicking themselves for not throwing a shutout – or at least allowing fewer points than the offense put up.
A week ago in Tampa Bay, rookie linebacker Anthony Barr was judge, jury and executioner in terms of making a defensive statement. Defense won the game, but, for all intents, had yet to close out a game – putting hammer to nail and sealing the deal.
On Sunday, the defense was able to close the coffin.
When Washington’s last gasp one-hopped the turf at TCF, the Vikings defense didn’t execute a Lambeau Leap. The pulled off a Bank Vault.
Two of the leaders of the Vikings secondary had similar yet unique reactions to the final play.
Captain Munnerlyn had drawn the assignment of speedy DeSean Jackson. If the Redskins were going to have a miracle finish involving a big play, it would likely have to involve Jackson. When the last pass of the day hit the turf incomplete, Munnerlyn was elated.
“It was great,” Munnerlyn said. “They came out and I don’t know what they’re doing. They came out in trips (three receivers to one side of the formation) and I was like ‘Let’s just get off the field.’ They threw the ball and I just looked around. I was focused on my man. I was playing DeSean. I was like ‘No, he’s not catching the ball on this one. I don’t care. He’s not catching the ball.’ I just turn around and heard the fans go ‘Wow!’ They were cheering. I looked around and Xavier (Rhodes) was doing his hand signal and I was like ‘Wow!’ We finally closed the game out and got the win.”
Harrison Smith had a similar reaction to the fourth-down play from the Washington 43-yard line. On the previous play, Smith had been called for defensive holding because he was trying to prevent a conversion and had been called for holding on tight end Jordan Reed.
His response was equally emphatic. What happened against Buffalo wasn’t going to happen again if he could help it.
Asked how he reacted when he heard the roar of the crowd that the drive had ended, Smith had a similar reaction as Munnerlyn’s from a different spot on the field.
“Excitement,” Smith said, “especially from the play before. I’m not going to let him get a first down on a little hitch and I wasn’t going to give up a touchdown either. I had to do what I had to do. Luckily, they had a hold in the backfield as well.”
Fourth down was replayed by the offsetting penalties and the Vikings won the second battle.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has been preaching to players that they need to finish games off when they have the opportunity and, for the second straight week, the defense has taken matters into its own hands to get the job done.
Despite being 4-5 and wondering how much different their season could be if not for Buffalo’s improbable comeback, the Vikings are heading into the bye week on a high note and are looking to build upon what they’ve accomplished the last couple of weeks and move forward from there.
“We’re fighters,” Munnerlyn said. “We’re not giving up. We’re just going there and competing. That’s all Coach Zimmer asks us to do – go out there and compete and do our job. He talked to me a couple of weeks about just doing my job – don’t worry about everything else going on, just do my job. I think it’s really playing out for us.”
Vikings defenders elated to close out a win
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