MINNEAPOLIS – That was quite the spin move, Cam Dantzler, Sr.
The young cornerback initially missed a tackle after being stiff-armed by Bears receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, but Dantzler jumped up and kept his eyes on his former Vikings teammate. Dantzler wrapped up Smith-Marsette from behind, stuck his hand through the crook of the wideout's arm and stole the football.
Minnesota's sideline went crazy, as did a majority of the 66,929 fans at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"If you miss a tackle, don't ever give up," FOX Analyst Mark Schlereth said during the replay.
Dantzler's strip and recovery sealed a Vikings 29-22 win that once again came down to the wire.
Following the play, Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks led Dantzler – followed by defensive teammates – to the end zone for celebratory photos. Veteran corner Patrick Peterson took it a few steps farther, grabbing the front of Dantzler's jersey and pulling him into Minnesota's tunnel.
"I always wanted to do that, man, especially as a defense," Peterson laughed postgame. "When you make a play, there's nothing the other team can do – 'The game's over. Let's go take a shower early.' "
Dantzler told reporters that he anticipated the exact play Chicago ran.
"Our coach did a great job getting us prepared for plays we were gonna get, so when I saw the motion, I knew it was coming, and I made a play," he said.
He also noted familiarity with the way Smith-Marsette carries the ball and knew it could present the chance for a takeaway.
"I was stiff-armed, so I was like, 'Let me get up quick, because he's gonna try to go out of bounds.' … It's a drill that we work on, a turnover drill," Dantzler said. "I just saw an opportunity and took it."
Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum and Brian Asamoah II all were nearby the play when it happened, and Dalvin Tomlinson had a front-row seat from the Vikings sideline.
"It was crazy," Tomlinson said. "It took everything not to run out there when he got it. You love to see stuff like that.
"Cam's a great player, man, and just to see him go out there and – it's just straight effort," he continued. "That shows you what kind of player he is, to go out there and just rip the ball out and finish the game right there."
Smith also commented on his vantage point, saying he'd been prepared to tackle Smith-Marsette should he get past Dantzler.
"First of all, it was Ihmir, and he was here [with the Vikings], and he's shifty," Smith said. "I was like, 'He's going to try and get me. He's not going out of bounds, so I'm going to slow play it.' I saw Cam getting up and, 'OK, let's see what happens.' Cam made a heck of a play."
In addition to the forced and recovered fumble, Dantzler led Minnesota in tackles Sunday with eight (seven solo).
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell complimented Dantzler's performance and emphasized the natural talent he demonstrates time and time again.
"I just continue to tell him, 'Be confident in your abilities. You can get around the football when we're competitive and trying to be tight in our coverage and trying to fit into the scheme and our disguise, but ultimately go play football and be physical.' He's been great in the run fit. He's been great tackling," O'Connell said.
"I'm proud of the way Cam played," added O'Connell, who gave game balls to Dantzler, Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins after the win.
Dantzler was part of a Vikings defense that had ups and downs throughout the afternoon.
The unit executed well early on and had success against Justin Fields and the rest of the Bears offense, limiting them to just one field goal until 1:08 remained in the first half, when David Montgomery recorded a 9-yard rushing touchdown. The Vikings entered halftime up 21-10.
Chicago essentially double-dipped, though, starting the third quarter on offense and capping the drive with another 9-yard touchdown on a catch by Velus Jones, Jr.
The Bears clawed their way back into the game and partway through the fourth quarter took a 22-21 lead with a 51-yard field goal.
Fortunately for Minnesota, Kirk Cousins led the offense down the field before scoring a 1-yard rushing score and successfully connecting with Justin Jefferson for the 2-point conversion.
Then it was simply up to the Vikings defense to hold Chicago for 2:26, and Dantzler delivered.
"We knew as soon as our offense was on the field, they were gonna score. Kirk has been playing incredible," Eric Kendricks said. "Our offense, you know, they're so focused. We knew they were gonna get that job done, and we were already talking situationally about what we can get on the sideline.
"At that point of the game, it was clockwork. We knew what we had to do," Kendricks added. "Shout-out to Cam again, shout-out to our offense for putting it in when we needed it the most."
Kendricks and Hicks each noted that Chicago dialed up its offense a little differently than the Vikings defense had expected heading into Sunday.
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 29-22 win over the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on Oct. 9.
"Things that we practiced during the week, you've gotta kind of eliminate those from your mind. You've gotta play it fresh," Kendricks explained. " 'What did they give us so far? How have they attacked us so far? Who are their players they're trying to get to?' And you've gotta see it from a bigger picture, from the outside in."
"We just settled down. We make adjustments on the sideline. Make sure the communication's good," Hicks added. "Number one, communication has to be on point when they're showing different stuff. That's really it. Everything that they have, we have an answer to; everything that they show, we have an answer to. We just talk about it on the sideline and keep it moving."
O'Connell called the defense's overall performance Sunday "kind of back-and-forth" but commended the group's physicality up front.
O'Connell also said he appreciated the way Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell mixed up personnel to create favorable matchups when possible.
"Saw some different guys in there at times, both on the front and in the secondary and linebackers, just to try to fit with how we want to play and turn guys loose in those situations," O'Connell said. "I thought that contributed to the strip sack there toward the end of the game, and then ultimately Cam going to get the ball."
It feels a little like déjà vu, but I'll say it again: a win is a win, pretty or not.
"We're always going to fight until the last whistle. We're not gonna give up, no matter what the circumstances are," Tomlinson said. "Don't look at the scoreboard – you've got to make a play each and every [down].
"[Today] felt like an NFL football game. At any moment, it can go any way," Tomlinson said. "You have to play all 60 minutes and finish."