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'Next Men Up': Injuries Strike Vikings Defense

The Vikings excitement of having linebacker Eric Kendricks back for Week 10 was short-lived.

Kendricks and linebacker Anthony Barr were both shaken up on an early first-quarter play in which they collided with each other in an effort to intercept a Kirk Cousins pass in the red zone. Both left the field for the remainder of the series.

While Barr returned for the game's entirety, Kendricks came back briefly only to head for the sideline again shortly thereafter because of a hip injury.

"Next man up" seems to be the Vikings unofficial mantra this season, and has turned into "next men up" for the Vikings defense, joining an offense that has suffered injuries throughout the season.

Emmanuel Lamur and Audie Cole stepped in when Barr and Kendricks were injured, and Redskins receiver Jamison Crowder was able to catch a touchdown pass behind Lamur on the following play. Following the loss, Lamur said the team needs to perform better, regardless of who's on the field.

"It's all about execution, regardless of who's in," Lamur said. "That's what being a pro is. You have to step in – whenever your number's called, you have to come in."

Added Lamur: "We just have to play better all around, in general."  

Kendricks wasn't the only Minnesota defender unaccounted for.

The Vikings also entered the game without nickel back Captain Munnerlyn, who was injured in last week's matchup against the Lions. Veteran cornerback Terence Newman, who slid into the slot when Munnerlyn left last week's game, once again stepped up to fill the nickel role while Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes played on the outside.

That is, until Rhodes left with an injury.

A couple of minutes into the fourth quarter, Cousins handed off to running back Rob Kelley, who broke off for a 21-yard run before being stopped by Rhodes. The cornerback was banged up on the tackle, however, and was taken out to be evaluated for a concussion. He was out for the remainder of the contest, and rookie Mackensie Alexander was brought in.

"That's kind of been our thing this whole season," safety Andrew Sendejo said. "Guys going down and guys stepping up.

View game action photos as the Vikings take on the Redskins at FedExField on Sunday.

"As a backup, that's what you have to do," added Sendejo, who spent five seasons with Minnesota as a reserve safety and special teams player before becoming a full-time starter in 2015. "You have to be ready to go in at any time. We don't really panic. The next guy just comes in and does his job." 

The offensive line was also hit with another injury, when Jake Long suffered a torn Achilles tendon near the end of the game.

Throughout the locker room, the mentality hasn't seemed to change between Teddy Bridgewater suffering a season-ending knee injury in August and now. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and his team have promised not to make excuses for themselves, and they refuse to lower their expectations.

"We had a lot of guys step in," Lamur said. "But Coach is always going to keep the highest standard on the defense, so you have to stay on top of your game."

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