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Lunchbreak: Harrison Smith Named NFL's Best Blitzing Safety by ESPN

Harrison Smith may not seek out the limelight – he kind of avoids it, actually – but the accolades keep coming, nonetheless.

On Monday, Smith was announced as one of three Vikings voted to this year’s Pro Bowl.

And most recently, ESPN named Smith the league’s top blitzing safety.

ESPN's Matt Bowen tabbed the best defensive backs at 25 different skills, and he wrote the following about Smith:

There's nuance and detail when you blitz from the second (or third) level in the secondary. And I still see Smith as the best based on [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's defensive structure, which creates confusion in pass protection schemes, and his instincts for finding open daylight or setting up blockers.

Smith has three sacks and seven pressures this season, in addition to his split-field ability in the Minnesota system.

View photos of RB Dalvin Cook, WR Justin Jefferson and S Harrison Smith from the 2021 season and were named to the 2022 Pro Bowl.

While I also think an argument could be made for Smith as the "most complete safety," Bowen gave those honors to Tennessee's Kevin Byard.

In a Titans scheme that spins safeties late before the snap, Byard can play top down as an impact defender with both run-game and pass-game production. He can get dirty in the box, cut off the ball on the edge or run the alley from split-field alignments.

He leads the Titans in tackles (73), and he also has five interceptions and 13 pass breakups. He has scored twice, too – check out his first career pick-six below. Byard is a disruptor who plays with a physical element.

Bowen named Rams CB Jalen Ramsey, whom the Vikings will face Sunday, as the NFL's most complete cornerback.

This is still Ramsey, who was the top corner here in 2020, too. He's the prototype for the position when we look at his coverage ability, length, short-area speed and ability to set an edge in the run game. Plus, we've also seen Ramsey's versatility this season in coordinator Raheem Morris' defense. He has logged 526 of his 743 total reps inside at the "star" and nickel positions for a unit that has played zone on 68.9 [percent] of coverage snaps.

Now, Ramsey can still match up and play man coverage versus any wide receiver in the NFL. We have fresh tape on that, too. And he's still creating on the ball production with three interceptions and 11 pass breakups. But we are also seeing his complete skill set this year – from multiple alignments.

Ramsey also was tabbed as the best corner in run support. Bowen said he "shows savviness against pulling linemen to dip under and tackle."

Vikings receive mediocre grade for mediocre win at Chicago

A win is a win is a win is a win. That's the bottom line.

But there's no denying Minnesota's road victory at Chicago wasn't pretty, and CBS Sports' John Breech pointed that out. He gave the Vikings a "C-plus" grade for the NFC North matchup.

Breech did praise the Vikings defense but had criticism for the offensive performance. He wrote:

It's a good thing ugly wins count as much as other wins in the NFL, because this one was about as ugly as it gets. The Vikings scored on their first two possessions and then basically let their defense do the rest -and the defense responded by absolutely shutting down the Bears. In this defensive masterpiece, the Vikings forced three turnovers, stopped the Bears on three fourth downs, sacked Justin Fields three times (all by D.J. Wonnum) while limiting the Bears to just three points on four trips to the red zone until a garbage-time TD on the final play. Offensively, Justin Jefferson (47 yards) and Dalvin Cook (91 total yards) provided nearly 75 [percent] of Minnesota's total offensive yardage in the game. The most important thing for the Vikings is that the win means that they're back in the thick of the playoff race.

View the best photos from the Vikings game against the Bears in Week 15 on Monday Night Football at Soldier Field, shot by Vikings seasonal photographer, Harrison Barden.

While the Vikings are coming off a short week, the Rams are coming off an even shorter week. Their game against the Seahawks was postponed until Tuesday this week due to COVID-19 challenges.

Breech gave Los Angeles a "B" grade for defeating Seattle 20-10 before heading to Minnesota for Sunday's contest.

The Rams defense did a great job of bottling Russell Wilson and then Los Angeles let Cooper Kupp do the rest. The wide receiver, who probably should be in the MVP conversation at this point, caught nine passes for 136 yards while also scoring the Rams only two touchdowns. As for that defensive performance defense, Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller all sacked Russell Wilson once in a game where the Seahawks offense only had two possessions in the entire game that went for more than 27 yards.

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