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Vikings Special Teams Making an Early Impact This Season

EAGAN, Minn. — One of the Vikings biggest successes this season has come from the group that spends the least amount of time on the field.

Minnesota's special teams unit has quickly made its presence felt through the team's first four games, especially during the Vikings 28-25 victory against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in London.

"I think as a whole, our special teams is a weapon," running back Dalvin Cook said. "The way they're playing, the way they're flying around, we've got guys that can play snaps on offense and defense not right away for us but going out there sacrificing.

"They spark so much energy into our team. They do that each and every time they touch the field," Cook added. "I'm looking forward to more exciting times from those guys. Seeing crazy K.B. [Kris Boyd] running around out there. [Josh] Metellus, Troy [Dye], you got to give those guys a shoutout. C.J. [Ham], all of them [are] just flying around, man. It's fun to watch."

Metellus said any chance he gets to be on the field, he'll take it, whether it's on special teams or at safety, where he started in place of an injured Harrison Smith against Detroit.

"As long as I've been here, as long as I've been on the special teams unit, we take pride in any chance we have to get on the field. I mean, anytime I get to play, I'm going to put my best foot out there," Metellus said. "I'm not going to complain or moan – whatever you want to say about special teams. I mean, that's a chance to play football. I can make tackles [there], I can make tackles on defense. So as long as I can have the opportunity to help win the game, that's all I'm looking forward to."

Within the Vikings special teams unit, Minnesota's success can be broken down into three phases.

The first is kicker Greg Joseph.

Joseph is 8-for-10 on field goals this season and 8-for-9 on extra points. He made a career-high five field goals, including a 47-yarder with 24 seconds left to put the Vikings up 28-25 on Sunday.

"That was a big kick, and I was locked in for the moment," Joseph said to Twin Cities reporters on Wednesday. "I knew if given the opportunity, I was going to give it everything I had and help put the team in a winning position."

As a result of his performance on Sunday, Joseph was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

"It's awesome. I appreciate it," Joseph said. "I appreciated all the well wishes. But I think it's a team award. Credit to Kirk [Cousins] and the offense for getting us down there. Credit to the big boys up front helping me make kicks and the snap and the hold."

The second phase to Minnesota's special teams success is punter Ryan Wright. The rookie out of Tulane had just three punts on Sunday but was able to pin New Orleans inside its 12-yard line twice. The other attempt was fielded at the Saints 42-yard line, but Boyd forced a fumble before recovering it.

Wright, who played quarterback in high school, also got a chance to showcase his arm on Sunday. The Vikings went for a fake punt on fourth-and-2 late in the third quarter, and Wright completed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Jalen Nailor.

"We've been working on that play all week, probably got 100 throws with Jalen," Wright said on Monday to reporters. "It was a [well-designed] play, we knew it was going to be wide open and it was definitely really fun to throw the ball."

Wright has 16 punts this season for 760 yards (16th in the NFL) and is averaging 47.5 yards per attempt. He also has nine punts inside the 20-yard line.

The Vikings special teams success on the field has also been a result of the confidence Minnesota brings under Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels.

"[Daniels] showcases us and shows his confidence in us and lets us loose," Joseph said. "That says a lot without saying a lot. That's really translated well. Just being a former player, he gets some things that maybe some people wouldn't. It's very cool to take his experience and have it transfer over to us."

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said he's been able to see the impact that Daniels has had on his group since the start.

"You know, I think coaches, in general, when you can really tell that they're having an impact on their group – whether it's a position coach or a coordinator like Matt – I think the unit starts to take over some of their characteristics, and they take on the traits of that coach," O'Connell said. "And from day one, I've just enjoyed sitting in the back of those meetings. How he communicates, how he talks to those guys, how they feel empowered to be at their best."

O'Connell added: "I think we've got some special players over there that, although they're not playing 60, 70 snaps on offense or defense, they're on their way to probably doing that. And in the meantime, he's empowering those guys to impact the football game the way they have."