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Harrison Smith's Interception Sparks Vikings Comeback Victory

It's gotta be the cleats (shoes).

Vikings safety Harrison Smith has traditionally worn black cleats and a black arm sleeve throughout his career, but he decided to switch things up to white accessories for Minnesota's game at Miami in Week 6.

Smith got an interception and forced a fumble in the Vikings 24-16 victory over the Dolphins. Then, he followed it up with another pick in Minnesota's 34-26 Week 8 win against the Arizona Cardinals.

On Sunday at Washington, Smith provided another takeaway, one that helped swing momentum back to the Vikings when the team needed it the most.

With Minnesota trailing 17-10 in the fourth quarter, former Viking and current Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke looked to push the ball upfield but overthrew tight end Logan Thomas right into the waiting arms of Smith. He returned it 35 yards to the Washington 12-yard line with 7:56 left.

"The guys up front, they were getting pressure all day," Smith said about the interception. "[It was] a slow, overthrown ball, [and I] just caught it. Got some good blocks. That's about it."

View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders at FedExField on Nov. 6.

After the pick, Smith celebrated the turnover by bowling the football towards his defensive teammates and knocking them down – including a wobbling Jordan Hicks that finally toppled – for a "strike."

"I kind of forgot what we had going there," Smith added about the celebration. "Za'Darius [Smith] made an executive decision. He said, 'Bowling, bowling, bowling' and I said, 'All right, I got you.' I don't know how many pins we had – we had like 20 pins out there."

Two plays and 10 seconds later, Minnesota's offense delivered a strike of its own. Quarterback Kirk Cousins floated the ball up to running back Dalvin Cook, who made a one-handed catch for a 12-yard touchdown to tie the game up at 17-all.

The Vikings went on to win 20-17 on a 28-yard field goal from kicker Greg Joseph with 12 seconds remaining.

Smith's interception was his fourth this season and the 33rd of his career.

He's now had a pick in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, all while wearing white cleats and accessories.

Look good, play good, I guess.

When asked about his recent string of takeaways, Smith credited Minnesota's pressure up front to allow plays like he's had to unfold.

"I'd say it definitely starts up front," Smith said. "And then the defensive scheme, we like to keep stuff as muddy as we can, so it kind of all works together."

It wasn't just Smith who had a solid day for the Vikings defensively. Linebackers Hicks and Eric Kendricks led Minnesota with 10 and eight tackles, respectively. Outside linebackers Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum combined for three sacks, and rookie cornerback Akayleb Evans added three tackles.

Evans replaced cornerback Cameron Dantzler, Sr., after suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter and was declared out for the rest of the game.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell lauded Evans' ability to step up when his number was called.

"I thought Akayleb, between the physicality that he showed on some tackles against some good backs in space and then just knowing the type of player that [Washington wide receiver] Terry McLaurin and some of their other guys are, I felt like he really had an impact in there," O'Connell said. "It seemed like he was incredibly comfortable in that moment, and I give [Defensive Coordinator] Ed [Donatell] and his staff a lot of credit for having him ready to roll like that. We'll see how Cam does, but it's big-time snaps for Akayleb stepping in there."

Minnesota's defense got out to a strong start against Washington, forcing the Commanders to punt on their first four possessions and only allowing them to cross midfield once.

Washington stole back momentum, though, at the end of the first half and into the second half.

View action photos from the Week 9 Vikings vs. Commanders game at FedExField on Nov. 6.

After a Vikings three-and-out, the Commanders marched down the field in the final minutes of the opening half before getting a 44-yard field goal from kicker Joey Slye to trim the deficit to 7-3 with 37 seconds left in the half.

The Commanders began the second half with a 45-yard kickoff return from running back Antonio Gibson to the Washington 48-yard line. Two plays later, Heinicke fired the ball down the field for wide receiver Curtis Samuel.

Samuel was surrounded by three Viking defenders – Harrison Smith, cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Camryn Bynum – but the back judge collided with Bynum. Samuel caught the ball and stumbled into the end zone untouched for a 49-yard score.

The play was reviewed – but with the official being considered part of the field, it stood, giving Washington the lead at 10-7 with 14:01 left in the third quarter.

Bynum said it was an unfortunate play, but he's glad the Vikings were able to earn the win.

"Right in there, triple coverage, [Heinicke] throws up a duck and it's an easy interception, but the ref is somehow playing free safety better than me," Bynum said. "I was waiting for it, going for the ball and [the official] came out of nowhere."

Bynum added the ref apologized the next time Minnesota's defense was on the field.

"I was like, 'I forgive you, it's fine,'" Bynum said. "It's football, so I'm worried about the next series. After that play, I was over it."

O'Connell said those types of plays happen from time to time and it was difficult to react in the moment, but he added the defense did a nice job of overcoming adversity and continuing to play as a group.

"I've got to take a look at where everybody was, and I just know how hard it is for those officials with all of the different route concepts and 'Where do I stay to still be able to do my job but also not be in the way?' It's easier said than done," O'Connell said. "Like I said, it happens a couple of times a year, I'm just proud of our team for overcoming it. Defensively, I thought outside of that play where we can only control what we can control, I was really proud of their effort today."

After that score, the Vikings defense allowed a touchdown to open the fourth quarter that gave Washington a 10-point lead at 17-7, but the unit made plays down the stretch to help Minnesota's offense turn the deficit into the team's sixth consecutive victory and seventh overall.

"For us, it's no flinch, it is what it is, we've got to move on, we've got to keep playing," Hicks said. "With that type of adversity, with being down 10 and all of that, when we needed a play, Harry went and made one. Shoutout to the pass rush for getting to Heinicke, forcing the ball up and Harry always being there. That's what this team is about, that's what this defense is about; it doesn't matter what goes on, we're always in it."