Preseason or not, seeing the return of the "Sack Daddy" dance sure feels good.
The Vikings re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen on Monday, and the 33-year-old suited up for Minnesota's final preseason game in Kansas City Friday night.
"We just wanted to see him on third downs, see if he could still rush," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said.
The results were there, although Zimmer pointed out it might be more difficult to sack a quarterback in the regular season.
On third-and-5 late in the first half, Griffen spun, burst around the edge untouched and sacked Chiefs QB Shane Buechele for a loss of 7.
Following the takedown that forced a Kansas City punt, Griffen unleashed his signature celebration moves.
Griffen spoke with Vikings Radio Network's Greg Coleman on the postgame show and reflected on entering an 11th season with the Vikings after spending 2020 with the Cowboys and Lions.
"It felt amazing just to be back where I started my career, with the guys I love: Danielle [Hunter], Harrison [Smith]. It felt great, man," Griffen told Coleman. "It's good to be back, and I enjoyed every minute."
As Griffen left the field, he was greeted on the sideline by Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson, who wrapped his "Picasso" in an embrace.
"There's nothing like the people who love you. The team, the players who love you, the people who love you," Griffen told Coleman. "That love, you can't find it everywhere. And the Purple – the fans, the coaches, the players – that's love."
Griffen added a quarterback hit and tackle for loss to the outing, as well.
"I think the times that he was in there, he had some good rushes," Zimmer told Coleman. "I thought he had some good rushes in there. That will add to the some of the [pass] rush.
"I know that [D.J.] Wonnum had a good rush one time, and when we add Hunter in there, that'll help," Zimmer added.
Griffen's play may have been reminiscent of a shutdown defense, but the unit overall struggled against the Chiefs, from the first team on down.
Granted, the Vikings withheld five starters from the exhibition contest; Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Patrick Peterson did not play. Minnesota also continues to be without Anthony Barr, who hasn't practiced since early August.
But we all know that Zimmer doesn't accept missing players as an excuse, nor should he.
"We had some of our horses that didn't play again tonight, and I think you can see that some of these backups have to improve quickly," the head coach said in an interview with Coleman.
After putting on a solid performance last weekend against Indianapolis, Minnesota's defense slipped in its last preseason game.
Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes played just two series for the Chiefs but made them look easy, going 8-of-9 passing for 117 yards and two touchdowns, including an early TD pass to a wide-open Tyreek Hill. Mahomes' 158.3 quarterback rating, by the way, is the NFL max.
Buechele finished 20-of-31 passing for 231 yards, two touchdowns and an interception by Parry Nickerson, which was returned for a late-game touchdown that came too little, too late for the Vikings.
Minnesota allowed Kansas City to rack up 395 net yards, including a should-be-simple-to-defend screen pass on second-and-4 that turned into a 56-yard touchdown by Derrick Gore. The Vikings missed multiple tackles and were short a safety downfield after blitzing Myles Dorn.
"When you're a free blitzer, you've got to smell a rat at some point and say, 'You know what? They're trying to set us up,' " analyst Pete Bercich said during the simulcast. "That's a bit of a 'gotcha' play."
View action photos from the Vikings-Chiefs preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium.
The 26-year-old running back is no relation to five-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore, but you might not have known that Friday night, as he totaled six carries for 26 yards and caught all five targets for 80 yards through the air.
Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, now a sideline analyst, also commented during the broadcast on defensive struggles.
"[The Vikings are] not doing a very good job with just our zone drops, our zone coverage," Leber said. "Even with the supposed first-team defense in that first quarter, so many areas where they would just get to their drops … and were just sort of standing there. And that just leaves all sorts of room for these guys to operate."
Zimmer critiqued the secondary during his postgame press conference.
"I think part of the deal tonight when I was listening to the defense, these young safeties played basically most of the game, so they were having a hard time of making adjustments, communicating and making checks," Zimmer told media members.
Xavier Woods and Harrison Hand led the Vikings with four tackles apiece. In addition to Griffen's sack, Wonnum and Hercules Mata'afa also each recorded a sack.
Despite an up-and-down night with, frankly, more downs than ups, Zimmer remained fairly optimistic heading into the regular season.
"It was good, going on the road with a loud crowd," he said. "I think it was a good experience for those young guys.
"But we gave up two big plays tonight – [Bashaud] Breeland on the long ball down the sideline early in the game, and then the screen pass where we missed a bunch of tackles on," Zimmer added. "We're going to have to make sure we do a better job there, but I do think when we get Kendricks, Barr, Hunter, Harrison Smith and those guys back, Patrick Peterson, I think we'll be all right."
The defense has two-plus weeks to continue working together before the Vikings opener at Cincinnati on Sept. 12, and the unit once again will be led in part by Griffen.
"I've been playing this game for a long time," Griffen said. "Technique is always going to win. I'm going to stick to what I know … when rushing the passer, you don't need that many moves. I'm gonna stick to the moves I know, and that's what I'm going to do each and every down. But it takes a whole group to get the job done."