Harrison Smith took one football away and received another.
Smith intercepted Eli Manning Sunday night and returned the football 35 yards for his franchise-record fourth interception return for a touchdown.
Prior to the pick six, the Vikings were managing a seven-point lead. It sparked a run of 22 unanswered points by the Vikings in their 49-17 takedown of the Giants, and has been selected as the Bridgestone Performance of the Week.
"I was the middle-of-the-field safety, so I got a little freedom and a break on the quarterback," Smith said. "Nothing crazy, but just playing football."
The pivotal play is the kind that turns games this time of year and was recognized by the *Sunday Night Football *crew with one of three "Player of the Game" balls handed out at night's end.
"Harrison is a good football player," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "He's instinctive, quick-thinking, active."
Smith became the first player to intercept Eli and his brother, Peyton Manning, since former Falcon Thomas DeCoud in 2012.
It also was an encouraging sign for a defense that had played without one of its top playmakers and emerging leaders since the first quarter of the Dec. 6 game against Seattle. Smith, linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Linval Joseph returned to action after missing most (Smith, Barr) or all (Joseph) of the month.
Offensive players recognized the importance of the play by Smith that was one of three interceptions of Manning (Andrew Sendejo and Captain Munnerlyn had the others).
"To come out in his first game with a pick six, he's a warrior," said Adrian Peterson, who joined QB Teddy Bridgewater in receiving the other game balls from Sunday Night Football. "He's a guy that, if I'm starting a team, he's my first pick. So I got to take my hat off to him. He's the ultimate competitor, and he's a great talent."