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Linval Joseph Leaves Large Mark on Vikings Win Over Eagles

It was a big day for Big Goon.

When Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly pushed through the line for a sack of Carson Wentz, Linval Joseph was ready.

Wentz fumbled the ball, Joseph made the grab, and it was off to the races for the defensive tackle.

Joseph, who is nicknamed Big Goon, was gone.

The 6-foot-4, 329-pounder rumbled 64 yards to the end zone for the Vikings first touchdown of the day and first defensive score of 2018.

"I was watching the [video board], I was running to make sure nobody came from behind," Joseph said. "I saw [Anthony] Barr had a good block, and Sheldon [Richardson] had a good block, and Stephen. It was a team effort. I'm just glad I helped the team and got some points for us."

Joseph quipped that he may have drawn some attention from fans who didn't realize he could move so quickly.

"I consider myself an athlete, but I feel like everybody got a chance to see that I'm faster than I look," Joseph said.

Those who call Joseph a teammate, however, weren't surprised by his wheels, including former Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who tweeted his reaction to the play.

Defensive end Danielle Hunter told media members he knew Joseph could cover some ground in a hurry.

"When I saw him running, I knew he was running with all of his might," Hunter said. "I was happy for him because ever since I [started with the Vikings], he's been talking about scoring a touchdown and scooping and running in the open field.

"I saw him moving and knew there was no way anybody was going to tackle him," Hunter added. "I saw Barr behind him and looked around. I was just like, 'Nobody is catching him.' "

Weatherly said "not at all" when asked if Joseph surprised him.

"That man is fast. He is a Mack truck with no brakes when he gets going," Weatherly said. "I knew I had to pick up one block and he was going to take it to the house."

The turnover, which came on the heels of a second missed field goal by Dan Bailey and with the game tied at 3, delivered a much-needed momentum swing for Minnesota.

Joseph sat with a satisfied look on the sideline, took a few puffs of oxygen and got right back to work following his first career touchdown.

Joseph's fumble return for a score was the third-longest in Vikings history by a defensive lineman; Kevin Williams had a 77-yard return in 2004, and Hall of Famer Alan Page notched a 65-yarder in 1970.

On the Eagles subsequent possession, they false started twice in three plays, and a pressured Wentz threw two incompletions. The Vikings defense forced a punt, Minnesota got another shot on offense, and Adam Thielen scored a touchdown that extended the Vikings lead to 14 heading into the half.

The nose tackle position often is somewhat thankless, but Joseph dotted his work in the trenches with a couple of splash plays at Philadelphia.

On the Eagles first series of the day, Joseph made his presence known.

On third-and-7 from the Philadelphia 23, Joseph came crashing through and sacked Wentz for a loss of 15 that forced a three-and-punt. The sack marked Joseph's 21st of his career and was the Vikings 12th this season.

Joseph helped anchor a depleted defensive line that was without Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen and also missed second-year defensive end Tashawn Bower, who was inactive Sunday with an ankle injury.

In addition to the fumble recovery for a touchdown and the takedown of Wentz, Joseph ended the day with five tackles (league stats), a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

Weatherly and Hunter also sacked Wentz, and Minnesota's defense totaled 4.0 tackles for loss, two passes defensed and forced fumble of Eagles running back Jay Ajayi inside the Vikings 5.

"To get turnovers, we had a key turnover down in the red zone … that was a big play, too. I think that play right there jumpstarted our offense again in the second half to go down there and seal the game," Joseph said. "When we make turnovers and when we get the ball back to the offense after a turnover, it brings another jolt to the offense and our team."

Following the game, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer presented a game ball to Joseph as well as to Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo.

"He's a heck of an athlete," said Zimmer of Joseph. "He's a great kid. We have a lot of them on this football team, and I think that the heart showed. Typically when you score on defense, your odds of winning go way up."

Joseph's performance was part of an improved outing by Minnesota's defense, which struggled over the first four games of the season. The Vikings held the Eagles to under 100 yards rushing and a 40-percent efficiency rate in the red zone (2-for-5) en route to a 23-21 win.

Joseph called the victory an emotional one after two tough trips to Philadelphia in the past two seasons.

"I just feel like the last two years they shut us out. I mean, we were 5-0 [to start the 2016 season], we came here and they took our pride, and we finished the season 8-8," Joseph said. "Last season, we were 13-3 and one game away from the Super Bowl, and they came out and embarrassed us.

Added Joseph: "I told the team before the game, 'This game means a lot to me, this game means a lot to Coach Zimmer, and we need to come out here and just play together. And we just have to give it our all.' "

After a big game for Joseph just three days before his 30th birthday, there was talk of the Big Goon being used on offense.

According to Weatherly, Vikings tight ends coach Todd Downing joked that an offensive package might need to be drawn up for Joseph. And Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who gave an inspirational pregame speech on the prompting of Joseph, seconded the thought.

"We've got to get him involved in the offense now with the way he ran," Cousins said. "He's light on his feet, let's get him involved in the pass game."

And as for Joseph?

"Whatever they want me to do, I'm here to help the team win. If it's to play offense, fullback, I can do that too," Joseph said. "But right now I'll deal with defensive tackle, nose guard – I'm just trying to get after the quarterback and stop the run."

And make a memorable run of his own every now and then.

View images as the Vikings take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

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