MINNEAPOLIS –Get off the block, get to the rock, and make a play.
Anthony Barr shared his philosophy for when he steps on the field, and it showed up in a big way in Minnesota's 24-16 win over Baltimore Sunday.
He snagged his first sack of the season five minutes into the third quarter, getting to Joe Flacco on third-and-8 for an 11-yard loss that forced a Ravens punt.
"They kind of just turned me loose," Barr said. "You gotta make the play when it's there. You gotta make the layup, and I made the layup."
From the second snap of the game – a run stop for no gain that helped hold the Ravens to three-and-out – Barr made big plays throughout the afternoon.
"Phenomenal," Danielle Hunter said of Barr. "That's a guy that we see every day at practice, and he came out there today and performed."
Added Everson Griffen: "He's hitting, he's running, he's coming in [and] making big plays. That's what he's supposed to do."
Barr made a number of tackles on Baltimore's running backs and said it had been a focus going into the game.
He and the defense were well-aware of the Ravens lack of depth at wide receiver due to injuries, which was amplified by losing Mike Wallace early in the game, and anticipated them turning to other options.
"**Their receivers are kind of banged up, and I think they were down a tight end too, so you've got to figure they're going to try to get the ball in their playmakers' hands, easy catches, easy throws," Barr said. "It was an emphasis to try to slow down their running attack today."
Another emphasis was keeping the Ravens out of Vikings territory.
Up until the final drive of the game, Minnesota's defense kept Baltimore entirely out of the red zone. The closest the Ravens came was Minnesota's 26 in the first quarter. An ensuing Flacco fumble and recovery, however, forced the Ravens to kick a field goal from the 30.
Justin Tucker made field goals from 48, 57 and 47 yards out.
"They have a great kicker, so get that guy across midfield and he has a chance," Barr said. "So that was a big emphasis, try to keep him behind the 50-yard line. They were able to get past it a couple times, and he made some tough kicks. But for the most part, we played well."
Barr had said during the offseason that he wanted to increase his focus in some areas, and it seems to be paying off.
"I'm in a good place mentally. I think that's the biggest part," Barr said. "Physically, that's going to come and go, but mentally I'm in a good place and confident. It's a testament to my teammates and coaches continuing to believe in me and believing in myself."
Barr finished the day with 11 total tackles (second on the team behind Eric Kendricks, according to the press box tally), 1.0 sack, 2.0 tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a pass defensed. The performance came in the wake of the linebacker suffering a concussion against the Packers last week and Friday being his only full-participation practice.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer praised Barr's performance not only on Sunday but through the first seven games of the season.
"Anthony's been playing great. He's been playing with a lot of fire, tenacity," Zimmer said. "He was able to get the one sack, but I know there was another time he was free off the backside that he almost got there.
"The guy's just playing really good right now," Zimmer added. "I love big, fast, physical guys, and he kind of fits that bill."
The Vikings had five sacks of Flacco. Barr was joined on the stat sheet by Hunter and Tom Johnson, who had a sack apiece, and Griffen, who notched two to increase his season total to 9.0.
The defensive end didn't get his takedowns until the fourth quarter, but Hunter said he never doubted that Griffen would extend his streak to seven games with at least one. Hunter called his teammate "a high-energy dude."
"I knew he was going to get a sack. Every week I believe he's going to get a sack, because I feel the energy from him," Hunter said. "That's something I've never seen before, but he's going to keep it going."
Griffen's fellow defenders often are unable to witness the live play but appreciate the outcome.
"I see the aftermath – the quarterback on the ground, him doing his sack dance," Barr said. "I like that a lot. I'm sure he's not going to let up anytime soon."
Zimmer said Griffen has power, strength and get-off needed on the defense line.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Baltimore Ravens at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.
"He's got a great spin move, he's great with his hands, he's just an all-day of work for whoever he's playing against," Zimmer said. "If the guy slips up one time, and the quarterback holds the ball a little bit – they were getting the ball out really quick today, like most teams do against us, they were chipping them, like most teams do against us. He's not going to take plays off. He's going to keep fighting."
Together, Minnesota's defense recorded 59 tackles (39 solo), six quarterback hurries, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and 11 tackles for loss.
The Ravens were limited to just 208 net yards on offense – 64 rushing and 144 passing – and had only 11 first downs in the first 57 minutes of play. Baltimore gained five first downs and 64 yards on its final possession.
Barr credited the cohesiveness of the Vikings defense for being so effective each game this season.
"We're understanding our assignments and gaps and trusting one another to do our job. It's really more of a trust thing, and when we play together, it's hard to beat us," Barr said. "The trust that we've built, the friendships we've built. We're a pretty close group and play for one another. I think that's the biggest thing.
"We're not a selfish group. We all want to see each other do well individually and as a unit," Barr added. "It's fun when everybody has that mentality to get excited for the next guy, knowing your time is going to come.