View the best photos from Vikings team photographers of defensive backs during the 2019 season.
EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings starting safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris combined to be the best ball-hawking tandem in the NFL in 2019.
Smith recorded three interceptions (the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of his career) to move into sole possession of seventh in Vikings history.
Harris snagged a whopping six picks to tie for the NFL lead and give him nine in the past two seasons.
Smith also tied for the team lead with 12 passes defended, and Harris added 11 more. The two players accounted for 23.7 percent of Minnesota's 97 passes defended on the season.
They weren't the only Vikings safeties who snagged opponents' passes.
Andrew Sendejo recorded a career-best three interceptions, including one against Minnesota in Week 6 while with Philadelphia.
After Sendejo was released by the Eagles, the Vikings claimed him off waivers on Nov. 6. He didn't play at Dallas four days later but returned to action the following week and recorded a pick against Denver. He snared another one against Detroit two weeks later.
Jayron Kearse also recorded an interception when he picked off a Hail Mary attempt by Dak Prescott in Dallas to seal a 28-24 victory in Week 10. Kearse came up big late against Denver the following week by challenging the final two passes to the end zone by the Broncos.
Marcus Epps, a sixth-round pick in 2019, played primarily on special teams in Minnesota's first eight games. He was placed on waivers and picked up by the Eagles when the Vikings brought Sendejo back to Minnesota.
View the top photos of Vikings S Anthony Harris from the 2019 season.
91.6 and 91.4 — Analytics site Pro Football Focus graded Harris at 91.6 and Smith at 91.4, for the two highest grades awarded to safeties in coverage in 2019.
Kearse made the most of opportunities in back-to-back weeks to seal Vikings victories. Used primarily as a reserve or in special packages, Kearse was called on at the end of Minnesota's games in Dallas and at home against Denver.
He high-pointed a Hail Mary, outjumping and reaching everyone else who wanted to snag his first career interception.
The following week, after a dramatic comeback by the Vikings, the Broncos had a great opportunity for a game-winning touchdown, but Kearse defended a pair of passes intended for rookie TE Noah Fant.
The plays helped the Vikings win two games by four points each and improve to 8-3 on the season.
View the top photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith from the 2019 season.
84 total tackles (team stats) with 5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions and 12 passes defensed
60 total tackles (team stats) with 1 tackle for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 6 interceptions and 11 passes defensed
27 total tackles (team stats), 1 interception and 6 passes defensed
12 total tackles (team stats), 2 interceptions and 2 passes defensed
1 total tackle (team stats)
1. Harris claimed NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after a monster game against the Falcons to start the 2019 campaign. He intercepted Matt Ryan in the first quarter at the 41-yard line to set up Minnesota's second touchdown of the game, recovered a fumble in the second quarter at the Minnesota 21 and picked off Ryan in the end zone in the third quarter to protect a 21-0 lead. The Vikings followed the second interception with another touchdown and 28-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
2. Smith recorded an interception and fumble recovery against the Chargers in Los Angeles. The pick was his second in as many weeks and marked the sixth time in his career in which he nabbed a pass in consecutive games. He also moved into third place among Vikings defensive backs all-time with 778 career tackles, according to team stats. Smith passed Carl Lee (702), Robert Griffith (714) and Antoine Winfield (769) along the way and trails only Tommy Hannon (1,056) and Joey Browner (987).
1. The Vikings run defense improved on average from 2018 to 2019, but Minnesota gave up a 91-yard touchdown at Kansas City when Damien Williams broke through the line, made a subtle cut to dodge Harris, who slipped, and ran past a diving tackle attempt by Smith. There are multiple factors that can or should happen in front of safeties before a play like the 91-yarder, but the last line of defense was unable to prevent the critical play that turned a six-point margin in favor of the Vikings into a 17-16 lead for the Chiefs in the third quarter.
"The ball just came in the air, and I did my best to track the ball and try to come down with it. I'm not a normal size for a DB, so being able to get up there and track the ball … I was reaching higher than anybody else was."
– Kearse on his interception at Dallas
"It's no surprise, it's who he's always been. I think people notice more when there's splash plays, but whether it's a splash play or whatever … even at the end of the game, he's making the stop on the 2-point conversion. It was a really good play. And both of his picks led to points, those are big-time plays in the NFL."
– Smith on Harris after Minnesota's Week 1 win over Atlanta in which Harris started a season opener for the first time and recorded two interceptions