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Jayron Kearse, Vikings DBs Come Up Clutch on Game's Final Drive

MINNEAPOLIS — Make it two consecutive weeks Jayron Kearse has come up clutch on the final snap of the game.

It was Kearse who picked off the final throw in Dallas in the end zone to seal a win in Week 10.

And it was the Vikings safety whose coverage on tight end Noah Fant prevented a Denver touchdown on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line with just two ticks left.

Kearse explained the play, which helped give the Vikings a thrilling 27-23 win.

"They spread them out, I was wide 1-on-1 [with Fant]," Kearse said. "In the [final] two minutes, I was covering the tight end, and I guess they thought they had a mismatch and tried to throw the fade.

"I wouldn't call it picking on me, because I feel like I could make those plays," Kearse added. "Picking on me would be bullying me, and I'm not going to get bullied. I can make those plays. Bring it on."

Truth be told, Kearse wasn't even supposed to be in the game at the end. But with All-Pro safety Harrison Smith hampered by a hamstring injury, Kearse told he played every snap of Denver's final drive.

That meant the former seventh-round pick was on the field for the final 19 plays of the game.

Kearse defended a pass to Fant on the second-to-last play of the game, too. And when the final pass fell incomplete, the safety was mobbed by his teammates.

"He is like my little brother, and I was so happy to see him step up in a big game and make plays," Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs said of Kearse. "For us, it's that we fought as a team, we did everything that we could, and we came out of here with a win. That is all that really matters."

Added Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks: "Man … that's huge. Those are big-time plays. At that point of the game, somebody has got to step up and make a play. That knew what we were in and we knew what they were going to try to do … it was about mano a mano and getting the job done. We were resilient."

Kearse stole the show in the final seconds, but his fellow defensive backs also stepped up when it mattered most, mainly in the final 65 seconds.

On second-and-5 from the 19 with roughly a minute left, Xavier Rhodes forced an incompletion down the left sideline just short of the end zone. On the next play, Trae Waynes made a third-down stop by limiting Denver to a 4-yard gain.

With 10 seconds left, Waynes' exceptional coverage made sure the pass attempt was incomplete on the right side of the end zone.

And on the final two plays, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Kearse bodied up with Fant, a 6-foot-6, 248-pound rookie who was the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

"It was about being physical with him … I'm a big body and he's a big body," Kearse said. "But he's not going to outmuscle me or bully me … we're two physical football players and when the ball goes up, it's my job to not let him come down with it."

Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "He came in there and competed and fought. They went at him those last couple plays … he's a good football player."

Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo also made a key play, as he had an interception in the red zone late in the second quarter.

Sendejo started in place of Anthony Harris, who missed the game with groin injury.

That meant by the time the game was on the line, the Vikings were down both starting safeties.

But Kearse revealed after the game that every defensive back played a part in Sunday's win, whether they were on the field or not.

"All I want to do is play football and have a shot … have an opportunity," Kearse said. "I believe I'm a good football player.

"But I also thank Anthony Harris … he was big for me," Kearse added. "I had a talk with him right before the game … it was really big for me and he was a big help for me. I can't thank him enough."