EAGAN, Minn. — You can bet Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly slept well on Sunday night.
The pair of Vikings defensive ends played crucial roles, and a ton of snaps, in Minnesota’s 23-21 over the Eagles on Sunday.
Hunter played 55 of Minnesota’s 59 defensive snaps [93 percent], and Weatherly played 54 snaps [92 percent]. The duo were the only defensive ends on the 46-man roster because Tashawn Bower and Everson Griffen were inactive.
For Weatherly, who has mainly been a special teams standout in his three seasons, the change was noticeable.
Was he tired Monday morning?
“Yessss! Maaannnnn. Being a core teamer, it’s kickoff, wait a few plays … punt, wait a few plays. Punt return, you get time to rest,” Weatherly said. “But being out there in the trenches, it’s fun playing with my brothers on defense.
“But it gets to you after a while,” Weatherly added. “Today and tomorrow, especially, is all about recovery. Big time.”
Both players had a highlight-reel play in Philadelphia.
It was Weatherly who crashed into Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz for a sack that jarred the ball loose. Linval Joseph promptly snagged the pigskin and scampered 64 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
Weatherly, a 2016 seventh-round pick, said he had talked with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson about finding ways to beat Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson.
“It’s definitely something that Dre came to me and talked about,” Weatherly said. “We break down all the offensive linemen for the opponent each week, and we know what they’re good at, what they’re bad at.
“We rep exploiting what they’re bad at,” added Weatherly, who now has 2.0 career sacks. “The up-and-under [move] was there, it was about getting him to show it.”
Hunter, meanwhile, continued his consistent start to the season.
The former third-round pick got to Wentz in the third quarter for his only sack of the game, but it marked the fifth straight game in which Hunter has opened the 2018 season with a sack.
“It wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for my defensive linemen,” Hunter said. “We all work together.
“I’m able to get sacks because the other three guys are working on their part while I’m working on my part,” Hunter added. “It’s about us working as a defensive line.”
Hunter became the eighth player in NFL history to record at least 30.0 sacks before turning 24 years old. The 23-year-old now has 30.5 career sacks in 51 games. He will turn 24 on Oct. 29.
Iloka sees first defensive action
The Vikings used a variety of defensive packages Sunday in Philadelphia, including bringing in an extra safety at times against the Eagles.
That meant the first defensive snaps of the season for George Iloka, who saw the field seven times on defense for Minnesota. He also played 13 snaps on special teams.
“It felt good, you know what I’m saying,” Iloka said with a smile. “It felt good to get my feet wet again. That was good.
“I don’t know how many plays I got, but it definitely felt good to get back out there,” Iloka added.
Iloka, who joined the Vikings as a free agent in August, said he didn’t get down about not playing on defense over the first four games of the season.
“I said it when I came here that I felt like this was a very good team and that I can add to it,” Iloka said. “I didn’t come here because I thought this team wasn’t a good team. I came here because I knew that we could be a contender. Obviously on a contender kind of team, there are a lot of good players, and I feel like that’s what we have here.”
“You always have to prepare because there’s only 46 guys on game day. If you’re a starter or a backup … it’s football, and guys can go down for no reason,” Iloka added. “You always have to get ready. I was ready when they called my number.”
Mike Zimmer Foundation to host golf tournament
The Mike Zimmer Foundation will host its first golf tournament, The Mike Zimmer Golf Classic, in May of 2019.
The event will be on May 13 at Bearpath Country Club in Eden Prairie. There will be a pre-party on May 11 at a location that has yet to be determined.
The Mike Zimmer Foundation honors Zimmer’s late wife, Vikki, who passed away nine years ago Monday.
More details on the tournament can be found here.