Wasn't it Jared Allen that was supposed to have the grudge match with Lions offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus? On Sunday, it was the Vikings' other starting defensive end, Ray Edwards, that was abusing Cherilus.
From the outset of the Vikings' 27-10 win, it looked like Edwards could be in for something big.
During the Detroit Lions' first series, Edwards was all over quarterback Matthew Stafford. He knocked him down, had him in his grasp and chased him out of the pocket. No doubt, Edwards had Stafford in his sights throughout the game.
"It's more of what they do in the shotgun and when they're in a noisy environment. I don't want to give it away because hopefully they're going to keep doing it," Edwards said.
The defensive end was relentless in his pressure and entered the game feeling good about his matchup with Cherilus.
"I see that he turns his shoulders quickly. If you are out wide on the lineman, he turns his shoulders quickly, so I tried to beat him around the corner quickly and he shoots his hands a lot," Edwards said.
The result for Edwards was two sacks, four quarterback hurries, three tackles-for-loss and five tackles total in one of his best games a Viking. He ended up tying his career high with sacks and having his best game of the season for quarterback hurries and tackles-for-loss.
"Ray has had a good year," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Ray is a nice complement to what is going on with the other side. He holds his own as a base end. He gets a lot of runs. Most teams are right-handed running the ball that way. So he's able to play the run very well and pretty doggone good in pass rush as well."
Edwards already has a career-high 5.5 sacks this season.
On Sunday, he was part of a pass defense that gave up 224 yards to the rookie Stafford, but the Lions needed a whopping 51 pass attempts. After a harassing first half during which Stafford was hit numerous times, the Lions decided to go with a quick passing game in the second half.
"He started to get the ball out quicker as we started to hit him more and more. We expect that once they get the ball out quicker, though," Edwards said. "We just keep trying to keep rushing and hopefully he holds the ball enough."
Edwards now has three two-sack games in his career. All three of those have come in the last 12 months, and two of those have come in consecutive games with wins against Green Bay and Detroit.
He gave some credit to working with Allen, who entered the game tied for the league lead in sacks, but Allen said their styles are different.
"We're two different people. I try to help him out where I can, but I just go out there and play ball," Allen said. "He's doing good. He's playing. That's two more games. He's been playing well all season. I felt like he could have had four or five sacks today but we missed."
The biggest play of the game for Edwards may not have been a sack or a controversial penalty (Childress defended a play on which Edwards was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Stafford). The game-turning play came on the first snap of the second half.
Edwards came across the line to tackle Lions running back Kevin Smith and punched the ball out. He also recovered the fumble, and two plays later the Vikings extended their lead to 17-3.
"I kind of got beat on my six technique and just tried to reach out and hustle to the ball. Just tried to make a play, and as backs try to get extra yards they can put the ball away from their body, so I just tried to punch it out and make a play," Edwards said.
"I rolled over and just seen the ball right there, so I just tried to scoop it up. I don't know if it came out after he was on the ground, but I just punched it."
That may have been the biggest defensive play of the game, but Edwards provided a lot of them in the Vikings' eighth win of the season.
"We just felt that we were a better team. They're great up front, but we're just trying to enforce our will upon them," he said. "As long as we do our job, we don't think nobody can beat us."
Edwards coming on strong
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