Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison has seemed re-energized in his 10th NFL season. He has been a key contributor for both of the Vikings’ wins so far during the 2016 season, making key plays when he needed to the most.
He was able to strip quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the ball Sunday, which teammate Tom Johnson recovered. It was a great play on its own, but the situation of the game made it even more important to his team’s success.
The Green Bay Packers just scored to start the fourth quarter, cutting the Vikings’ lead to three points. The Vikings offense then went three-and-out on their next possession, giving the ball right back to the Packers. All the momentum appeared to be in their favor.
Rodgers and his teammates received the ball with 10:32 remaining in the game at their own 15-yard line and began to drive down the field. They reached the Vikings 40-yard line and it was clear that someone on the Vikings defense needed to make a play or else the Packers were likely going to score again. Cue Robison.
It was first-and-10 with 7 minutes remaining in the game. Rodgers dropped back to pass, felt some pressure and moved to his left. Robison approached from the backside and hacked at the quarterback’s hand holding the ball instead of going for the sack. A player will usually go for the sack in that situation, but Robison’s instincts told him to go for the strip.
“It’s a calculated risk. It’s one of those deals where when you see it enough you understand when it’s the time to go for it and when there’s time you make sure you secure the sack,” he said. “(Sunday) night I felt like the ball was hanging out there, so it was an opportunity for me to get it out of his hands.”
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That turnover changed the momentum of the game because it gave the ball back to the Vikings offense, and they were able to take some more time off the clock. Robison knew that it was a big play and the kind of lift his team needed and it showed when he was put up on the big screen after the play.
He was sitting on the bench and looked up to see himself on there. The crowd was cheering him on as he stood up and yelled, appearing to mouth, “Let’s go!”
“It was a big play and you understand as you go through the flow of the game, and you’ve been in this game long enough, there are certain things that happen that can change the pace of the game,” Robison began. “I felt like (Sunday) night there were a lot of emotions because that was an opportunity that gave the ball back to our offense when they were driving. You don’t know what’s going to happen if that doesn’t happen, so definitely the emotions were high.”
There was a very similar situation during the Vikings’ Week 1 victory when Robison was seemingly able to give his team a lift when they needed it the most. However, instead of at the end of the game like he did against the Packers, the veteran defensive lineman made this one early on.
The Vikings came out very flat footed a year ago when they faced the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night football to end Week 1 of the regular season. The same appeared to be happening Week 1 in 2016, as the Tennessee Titans were driving down the field during the first series of the game.
They began on their own 29-yard line and made it to the Vikings 35-yard line before Robison intervened. He started out by knocking down one of Marcus Mariota’s passes and then dropped DeMarco Murray for a 1-yard loss on the very next play. Mariota’s next pass was incomplete and the Titans were forced to punt.
“That’s the B-Rob we know, always there when you need him,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “He’s a guy that’s been on this team for a very long time; he’s a leader. He’s a captain this year, so he definitely stepped up his game a little bit more and he’s just going out there doing his job, making plays.”
Robison said that even though it is him making the plays, praise should also be given to the other 10 defenders on the field because he wouldn’t be able to make the plays if they weren’t doing their jobs. The receivers were covered up just long enough for him to get to Rodgers when he stripped the ball and at least one of the defensive lineman was taking on an extra blocker when he made the plays against the Titans.
It’s that ability to come together as a unit that has made the Vikings defense so dominant the past two weeks, but Robison has definitely seemed to be one of the catalysts.