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Harrison Smith & Patrick Peterson's Key Takeaways Fuel Vikings Defense

Between Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson, more than 320 games have been played and more than 1,400 tackles and 75 turnovers combined have been registered.

That's a lot of experience.

The Minnesota Vikings have plenty of veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball this season, with the safety Smith and cornerback Peterson anchoring the secondary. Smith is the longest-tenured Viking on the team at 11 seasons, while Peterson is in his 12th year overall and second with Minnesota.

Both Smith and Peterson came up with momentum-shifting takeaways during the Vikings 24-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in Miami.

The first came from Smith, who reached a franchise benchmark in the process.

After a Minnesota three-and-out with 35 seconds left in the first half, Miami backup quarterback and former Viking Teddy Bridgewater tried to drive the Dolphins down the field. But Bridgewater's intended pass for wide receiver Jaylen Waddle bounced off his arm, then his hands and helmet before flying into the air.

Smith and linebacker Eric Kendricks reached out simultaneously and cupped their hands underneath the ball to prevent it from hitting the ground. The pigskin went airborne again before ricocheting off of Kendricks' facemask and ultimately falling into Smith's hands for the interception.

The interception was Smith's second of the season and 31st of his career, tying him with Nate Wright for the fifth-most interceptions in team history.

"Great play by Cam Bynum to start with," Smith said on the play. "And then between E.K. and me, we both find ourselves around the ball quite a bit, so we were kind of fighting for it. Luckily, one of us got it."

Kendricks added it's difficult to judge where other players are when plays like that occur, but he immediately knew it was an interception.

"When the ball's in the air like that, you don't know who's around trying to fight for it," Kendricks said. "However you've got to get it done, and we got it done."

Minnesota's offense capitalized a few plays later, setting up kicker Greg Joseph to drill a 34-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a 10-3 lead going into halftime.

Smith wasn't done there making impact plays, though.

In the fourth quarter, after Minnesota recorded another three-and-out on offense, Miami faced a second-and-14 from the Vikings 42-yard line. Bridgewater delivered a pass to Jaylen Waddle for a 14-yard gain and a first down, but Smith tackled the receiver and forced a fumble, which Bynum recovered for a 15-yard gain the opposite way.

Smith said Minnesota Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell and Defensive Backs Coach Daronte Jones have been encouraging the defense to take chances at the ball when it can.

"One thing we touch on on a daily basis starting from Ed down to Daronte and all the other coaches who talk about getting the ball and taking a shot when you can, I don't know if that's exactly the time to take it, but as you're tackling, if you're tackling at the ball level, sometimes good things happen," Smith said.

Two plays later, running back Dalvin Cook found an open lane and carried it 53 yards for a touchdown to extend the Vikings lead to 24-10 with 3:15 left.

On the ensuing Dolphins possession, it was Peterson's turn to make a defensive play.

After Bridgewater connected with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a 14-yard gain, he tried to find wide receiver Trent Sherfield, but Peterson jumped in front of Sherfield and picked it off just 14 seconds later.

Peterson's interception was his first of the season and 30th in his career.

As the Vikings head into the bye week with a 5-1 record, Smith said he knows there's work to do, but he feels the defense is heading in the right direction.

"I think we're trending [the right way]. We can obviously finish a little better there at the end and not make it like, 'Oh, we've got to get the onside kick'," Smith said. "We can tighten things up, like we said, we still haven't played as well as we can but we're trending. We're a scrappy bunch, we play with a lot of energy, camaraderie, those are things that are going to consistently keep going."