For most of his Minnesota Vikings career, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway has been an every-down player. In what may well be his final NFL season, he has transformed into a role player, but that doesn’t mean he’s done.
In Sunday’s 31-14 win over the San Diego Chargers, Greenway had the “kill shot” play – a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown after San Diego had driven into the red zone in hopes of a late comeback.
It wasn’t easy for Greenway – he was gassing out a little bit at the end – but he was surrounded by five teammates who weren’t going to let any Chargers bring him down before he got to the end zone.
“It was quite the convoy,” Greenway said. “I saw Captain (Munnerlyn) peel back behind me to get the guy behind me that you knew was going to catch me. It was pretty amazing to see all my teammates on the sidelines. I must be doing something right. It was pretty awesome.”
Had it been a typical game for Greenway, he might not have made it the 91 yards for a score. But in his new role as a part-time defender, he was a lot fresher toward the end of the game while other defenders were getting their time cut into. He credited that to his ability to keep the legs churning for the fifth-longest interception return in franchise history.
“I hadn’t played a lot of reps up until that point so I was getting some playing time at the end,” Greenway said. “I was feeling pretty good until the last 15 yards. I don’t run 91-yard sprints much … and I’m not going to start because of this play either.”
Sunday’s dominating performance was the second straight game in which the Vikings got physical on both sides of the ball and imposed their will. Offensively, the running game was working and Adrian Peterson looked like the same back fans remember before his lost 2014 season.
Defensively, the Vikings are showing what they can do as well, dominating opponents at the point of attack and feeding off that pressure. It was a far cry from the embarrassing performance the Vikings put in on opening night of the season and this is the team he has been expecting to see all along.
“We’d like to think this was the team we designed in training camp,” Greenway said. “The feeling we had after that Monday game, just the way everybody felt, was kind of the biggest football hangover we’ve ever had. We felt terrible about what we were doing and who we were.”
It seemed fitting that Greenway would have one of the greatest plays of his career come on Sunday in front of a slew of family and friends. His grandfather Tom Greenway, who turns 83 later this year, was on hand to see his grandson play for the first time as a professional. He was surrounded by family and felt his big play seemed apt given the circumstances.
He may not be a full-time player anymore, but he proved he can still be a big-time player.
“To me, you can’t write the script any better,” Greenway said. “I’ve tried to accept a new role a little bit, knowing that things happen throughout the year and there may be a time when I have to be out there every snap again like I have for the previous eight years. I know my role now is to play against certain personnel groups and come in and out of the base defense. I try to just make that my own and be the player I’ve always been at that position.”
GAME DAY NOTES
- Adrian Peterson scored his 93rd career touchdown Sunday, tying Randy Moss for second in franchise history. He remains 17 behind franchise leader Cris Carter and his 110 TDs as a Viking.
- The stats didn’t make it seem as though the game was as lopsided as it was. Because of short drives and defensive scores, San Diego ran 72 plays as opposed to just 55 for the Vikings, which helped explain why the Chargers outgained the Vikings 369 yards to 284.
- The Vikings offense converted just 3 of 9 third downs, almost half the chances the Chargers had. San Diego converted 8 of 19 third-down plays.
- The Vikings dominated the running game, averaging more than 5 yards per carry, gaining 163 yards on just 31 carries. The Chargers managed just 90 yards on 28 carries (a 3.2-yard average).
- Once the Vikings had their big lead in the fourth quarter, the yardage numbers got skewed. San Diego outgained the Vikings 182-5 in the fourth quarter, running 32 plays as opposed to just four for the Vikings, who were content to sit on their big lead.
- Cornerback Xavier Rhodes wasn’t in the locker room following the game after suffering a scary head injury when teammate Andrew Sendejo collided with him and appeared to knock him unconscious. He walked off the field with some assistance and eventually left the field under his own power and was put in the concussion protocol. He was seen walking in a hallway after the game with sunglasses on.
- The Vikings sacked Philip Rivers four times, while Teddy Bridgewater was kept clean with no sacks. But the key for the Vikings defense was dialing up pressure.
- “You don’t always get sacks when you’re getting pressure, but you change the clock in the quarterback’s head,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “We were able to consistently get in and put pressure on him and he was trying to get ball out quicker than he wanted.”
- The Vikings had just three penalties accepted on the game. San Diego was called for seven penalties.
- Bridgewater wasn’t needed much as the Vikings had more rushes (31) than passing attempts (24). He finished the game completing 13 of 24 passes for just 121 yards and a passer rating of 50.9.
- San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen was targeted 18 times Sunday, catching 12 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns – the second time this season he has caught 12 or more passes in a game.
- Allen spread the wealth around with his receptions. In the first half, he caught six passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, he caught six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
- The Vikings effectively put the game away in the third quarter with a 16-play, 81-yard drive that ate 7:19 off the game clock.
- Eric Kendricks led the Vikings with nine solo tackles.
- Everson Griffen added 1.5 sacks to his season total and had five quarterback hurries on top of the times he got to Rivers.
- The Vikings haven’t had an interception from its secondary this season. Their two picks have come from defensive end Justin Trattou and Greenway.
- The Vikings held the ball for 16:41 of the first half. In the final 30 minutes of the game, the Vikings had the ball for just 9:50.
- The Vikings had the first sustained drive of the game in the second quarter, marching 67 yards in 11 plays. Bridgewater didn’t have a big statistical day, but he did on that drive, going 5-for-5 passing for 49 yards and converting a pair of third downs before Peterson scored his first touchdown since Christmas Eve 2013 on a 2-yard run to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead.
- The Vikings got the first big turning-point play of the game when Anthony Barr slapped the ball out of Rivers’ hand and Captain Munnerlyn recovered on the San Diego 12-yard line. The Vikings didn’t take full advantage of the turnover, but came away with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
- Wide receiver Charles Johnson left on a cart in first quarter with a rib injury. He returned to the sidelines in uniform and got back in for one play, but was never given his helmet again.
- Defensive end Justin Trattou injured his left ankle in first quarter. It appeared serious as he was helped from the field and he didn’t return. His foot was in a boot after the game but initial tests showed no broken bones.
- Safety Andrew Sendejo suffered a leg injury in the second half.
- Neither team has ever won back-to-back games in the history of the Vikings-Chargers series. The Chargers had won the last meeting in 2011.
- Vikings Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton sounded the Gjallarhorn prior to the game as the Vikings took the field.
- The paid attendance was 52,400.