MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings defense is starting to click in Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores' new system.
And safety Camryn Bynum is a prime example of Flores' scheme putting Vikings defenders in advantageous game-altering positions. Bynum had a career night, notching two interceptions and a team-high nine tackles.
Playing with his mother's home country flag of the Philippines on his helmet as part of the NFL's Heritage program, Bynum intercepted 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy on back-to-back fourth-quarter possessions to help seal a 22-17 Monday Night Football victory over San Francisco at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"Every time I have an opportunity to put the flag on, I gotta show out," Bynum said. "So I'm just glad to be able to represent my people. … To be out here and doing things that are bigger than me. It's all for God and for my people back home and the people we help with our foundation and bringing football to the Philippines."
Facing a high-octane 49ers offense, Minnesota forced two takeaways and held San Francisco to a season-low in points (17) and rushing yards (65). Purdy finished 21-of-30 passing for 272 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and an 81.5 passer rating.
With aid from a solid pass rush from Danielle Hunter, Dean Lowry, D.J. Wonnum, Harrison Phillips and Jonathan Bullard, Bynum forced Purdy into the first multi-interception game of his career (15th regular-season game).
Monday also marked the first time Purdy has lost back-to-back games.
"To me, all year long, his tackling has really jumped out," Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said of Bynum. "He's been consistently right around, if not near the top five in tackling in the NFL. He's in a different kind of position than he was, quite honestly, a year ago. … But Cam [Bynum] still is really, really good in the deep part of the field.
"Both times tonight, that last interception, as far as him going up to get it with the very tip of his fingers, looks familiar, going back to the Kansas City game, and he makes that play," O'Connell added. "And that's why I'm just so proud of our guys. Not worrying one bit about what's transpired but letting that fuel us to know a we're capable and confident. And we're gonna go make those plays, just go out there and play. Let's not think about it. We didn't talk a lot about what we couldn't do. We just emphasized the things we had to do to win the football game."
With 1:11 to play, the Vikings defense needed to protect a five-point lead. The 49ers got the ball at their 40-yard line after Greg Joseph missed a 50-yard field goal that would've pushed the Vikings lead back to eight.
After gaining a first down, Purdy threw a looping pass over the middle of the field from the Minnesota 40-yard line. The throw was intended for an in-breaking Ray-Ray McCloud III. But Bynum elevated for the ball, fully extended, and secured the interception.
"That's all [Bynum]. He's playing great football right now," safety Josh Metellus said. "He's doing a great job. We knew where they wanted to throw the ball, and we just flooded those spots, and players made plays."
Bynum's first interception came with less than five minutes to play. Bynum drove on an off-target Purdy throw and made a clean catch going to the ground. Bynum was down by contact but celebrated in the Vikings end zone with his teammates by doing the worm.
After the game, he said cornerback NaJee Thompson is the defense's "celebration coordinator."
"Our offense did a great job putting points on the board, giving us a lead, and forcing the hand of making them put it in Brock's hands to try to go win it," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "Then Cam [Bynum] made two big plays. Obviously, their game plan is to run the ball. We did a great job against that and played really good complimentary football."
The Vikings defense had plenty to celebrate. Minnesota has forced five turnovers over the past two weeks and won their first home game of the season to improve to 3-4.
All night, Flores put his best defenders in positions to alter the game.
The 49ers were driving on their first possession after intercepting Kirk Cousins on the third play from scrimmage. Purdy started sharp. He completed consecutive passes of 10 and 11 yards on the opening drive. The first was to tight end George Kittle, followed by a deep out route down the right sideline to Brandon Aiyuk.
But the Vikings defense forced a Christian McCaffrey fumble on just his second carry. McCaffrey, who is dealing with an oblique injury, lost the ball when safety Harrison Smith punched it out while both were going to the ground. In an example of all 11 players pursuing the ball, Lowry recovered the ball just before it rolled out of bounds.
Minnesota's seventh takeaway of the year eventually led to the game's first points. Cousins quickly bounced back, leading a 10-play, 89-yard touchdown drive.
The Vikings defense was situationally sharper than the 49ers in the first half. San Francisco only had three first-half possessions, but two drives ended in a fumble and a missed field goal.
To start the second half, Wonnum tackled McCaffrey for a loss of 3 yards, which sparked a wave of explosive Vikings plays. On the next play, Hunter strip-sacked Purdy, and Metellus recovered the ball on the 49ers 20-yard line.
The play was reviewed, however, and contact deemed Purdy down. The sack was Hunter's 80th of his career, passing Everson Griffin (79.5) for seventh on Minnesota's all-time list and fourth in team history since sacks became an official stat in 1982. Hunter's nine sacks this season lead the NFL.
Then Purdy threw incomplete on third-and-long, forcing the game's first punt just four minutes into the second half. The Vikings added three points on their next possession.
But the 49ers started to rally down 12 points.
McCaffrey notched his first reception of the game late in the third quarter. The 12-yard gain set up a quick 49ers touchdown. Two plays later, McCaffrey housed a 35-yard swing pass that was blocked well. 49ers receivers Jauan Jennings and Aiyuk walled Bynum and Andrew Booth, Jr. McCaffrey then made Byron Murphy, Jr., miss and glided 35 yards untouched into the end zone.
Minnesota opened the fourth quarter up eight points following a 54-yard Greg Joseph field goal with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
San Francisco cut the lead back to five points when kicker Jake Moody hit a 55-yard field goal with 13:21 to play.
Those points – which made it 22-17 – would be the game'sfinalscore.
On the 49ers final two drives, they gained 51 yards, ran 12 plays, and threw two interceptions to Bynum.
"Thankfully, I was able to get the pick and really shut it down for the game and really make it a movie," Bynum said. "I keep saying movie because that is the best ending. You can't imagine it."