Waynes played all but four of the defensive snaps, 67 in all. No offensive players had more snaps and only five defenders had more.
And no one was targeted more than Waynes, who gave up his share of receptions but came up with the biggest defensive play when it mattered most, stepping in front of Davante Adams with less than two minutes to play for the interception that sealed the Vikings’ win.
In typical Waynes fashion – and seemingly atypical cornerback fashion – Waynes had little say about it.
“I read pass. I was lucky enough to make a play,” he said of the interception, adding later: “Football is a game of ups and downs, and there’s a point where you have to have a short memory.”
Good thing he did.
While many viewed Waynes as being picked on by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, he held up well in the first half. He was targeted six times in the first 30 minutes, giving up only two receptions for 22 yards and drew an offensive pass interference penalty on Adams, who grabbed Waynes when he was in position to make a play on the ball and tossed him to the ground as the Packers were trying to scramble late in the half and get into scoring position.
Waynes was also called for defensive pass interference twice, costing the Vikings a total of 41 yards.
“I thought Trae played great. He was in tight coverage all night. Sometimes you’re going to get those calls, it’s a tightly watched position, obviously,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “It’s always a battle on the outside, but you can’t say he was just letting guys catch balls. He was playing very hard, he was playing tight coverage, at the end of the day sometimes you’re going to get those calls. You’re playing against one of the best quarterbacks in the league. They have a great passing game with great receivers. Trae stood up at the end and made a huge play. We know he’s going to do that because that’s what he’s done all the time.”
Both of Waynes’ penalties came in the second half before his big interception.
So did a number of balls caught on him. In the second half, he was targeted 10 times, allowing six receptions for 79 yards, committing two penalties and getting the interception.
“That interception he made was huge, obviously. He competed good all night long,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He knocked some balls down; he had some pass interferences obviously and then there was a couple of balls that got caught on him. It’s all part of a learning process. I could’ve done a better job of helping him at times. It wasn’t really in the game plan to work too much with (Davante Adams). I’ll make sure that I do a better job next time of helping him some. The great thing about it was he fought. He fought and competed. At the end there, that was a great play.”
Minus the penalties, Waynes was targeted 13 times, giving up eight catches for 101 yards, a touchdown and had an had an interception. In other words, Rodgers had a 79.3 passer rating when targeting him.
It was a good first half and a mixed bag in the second half, but several teammates said they kept encouraging him to be aggressive and the result was his interception to cap the win.
“That’s being in the life of a defensive back, life of a cornerback,” Captain Munnerlyn said. “You always got to forget the past and move forward to the future.”
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The 79.3 rating that Rodgers had against Waynes isn’t bad considering Rodgers’ work against the Vikings over his career, and it was even better than the 94.1 rating that Marcus Mariota had in targeting Waynes 12 times in the season opener. Much of that improved rating came because of Waynes’ aggressiveness to get that final interception.
“It’s phenomenal,” defensive end Everson Griffen said of Waynes. “He’s a second-year guy coming in, taking big strides. We have to see him make strides like that, and he has to keep playing well for us. We need every guy to step it up.”
There is little doubt Waynes was targeted often, but he did step up when needed most.