EAGAN, Minn. — For the first time since Week 5, Danielle Hunter did not record a sack, but Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores said the Pro Bowl edge rusher played one of his best games of the season in Sunday's 31-24 win at Atlanta.
Star Tribune writer Andrew Krammer broke down Hunter's game, detailing his "monstrous" plays against the Falcons.
Hunter and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips were the stars of the front in Sunday's win, but Flores' aggressive style brings safeties Camryn Bynum, Harrison Smith and Josh Metellus to the line, where they've been sure tacklers.
The Falcons are one of the NFL's best rushing attacks, but they couldn't buy a yard against the Vikings in the first half. Running back Bijan Robinson, the eighth overall pick in this year's draft, had just 19 rushing yards on six attempts at halftime.
There was no better example than the goal-line stand in the second quarter. While Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell and quarterback Joshua Dobbs pieced together a winner on their side, Falcons Head Coach Arthur Smith made two head-scratching calls with consecutive running plays directly at Hunter — the Vikings best defender — from the 1-yard line.
Krammer then shared a three-play sequence highlighting the Vikings goal-line stand that began with Khyiris Tonga defending a screen pass on first-and-goal.
On Hunter's first stop, he obliterates Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts to stall Jonnu Smith on the sweep. Hunter's second stop is more impressive. He takes on two blockers — the second, Smith, motions across the formation to hit Hunter. With a herculean second effort, Hunter pushes Smith back into Tyler Allgeier, who runs into Smith's back, stumbles backward and loses 4 yards.
The Athletic highlights the Vikings Commitment to Defense
Phillips knows his role, and he plays it well.
The Athletic's Alec Lewis explained how Phillips helps set up the other 10 Vikings defenders on the field to make plays. Lewis likened it to the player who makes the second assist in hockey or the key pass that occurs two before a shot in basketball.
He is the man in the middle who operates as a vacuum, sucking up all of the gunk to clear the way for whoever is supposed to beeline to the ball carrier and make the tackle.
Clamping down as a unit has helped the Vikings during their four-game win streak.
Especially when the defense performs the way the Vikings are. Opposing teams are averaging just 17 points per game against them in the last four weeks. Over that same span, the Vikings defense ranks fifth in the NFL in EPA per play, according to TruMedia.
Their performance is not always sexy. Only one Vikings defensive starter was a first-round draft pick: Harrison Smith, who's 34 years old. Flores cares not.
"This is really a team game," Flores says. "It's about a group that can play as one."
Things like ego and pride can undermine this pursuit. Immaturity, a lack of accountability and miscommunications don't help, either. What this Vikings defense may lack in explosiveness, speed and acclaim, it makes up for in commitment.
Click here to read Lewis' feature on Phillips and the Vikings defense.
Vikings Kirk Cousins partners with Hy-Vee
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is on the mend, but while in the early days of his rehab process, he also announced a **charitable partnership with Hy-Vee**.
I'm teaming up with Hy-Vee to help others do more. When you sign up for a free Hy-Vee PERKS membership, Hy-Vee will donate to the Julie and Kirk Cousins Foundation.
Cousins shared a sign-up link on his X account.
Sign up today: http://hy-vee.com/cousins
In a statement, Hy-Vee said:
We're teaming up with Kirk Cousins to support the Julie and Kirk Cousins Foundation. For each Hy-Vee PERKS sign-up, Hy-Vee will donate to the Julie and Kirk Cousins Foundation, a charitable organization that supports disaster/ famine relief, promotion of human rights, community development, faith initiatives and more.
Greg Coleman Book Signing on Saturday
Vikings Legend Greg Coleman has authored his first book, PUNT & Flip the Field: Get a Leg Up on Life. Coleman will be in the Twin Cities this weekend and signing copies of the book from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Minnesota Vikings Museum.
The book reflects on Coleman's extraordinary journey through pro football and provides insights on resilience and determination that helped the NFL's first African-American punter.