In some alternate reality somewhere, Anthony Barr would have spent the next chunk of his career playing home games at MetLife Stadium, the site of Minnesota’s 28-10 win over the Giants on Sunday.
Barr, of course, tested free agency and almost signed with the Jets (who share a stadium with the Giants), but instead chose to return to the Vikings.
The Vikings were sure glad they had the linebacker for Week 5, as he provided a game-changing play in the second quarter before putting the game on ice late.
“We got the win, and that’s all I care about at the end of the day,” Barr said. “We got the win as a team.”
Barr’s biggest play of the game occurred just before the 2-minute warning in the first half.
After the Vikings had fumbled just shy of the goal line, the Vikings defense faced a Giants offense that needed to go 99 yards for a touchdown.
New York’s ensuing drive lasted just one play, as Barr raced into the backfield and pulled down Giants running back Jon Hilliman for a safety.
“On the safety, that’s kind of what our plan was. It kind of worked out that way,” Barr said. “I was just trying to do my job and help the offense. Sometimes [a fumble] happens, but we can turn around and make a play and get the offense back on the field. That’s what we were trying to do there.
“Obviously, I was trying to aggressive in the gap and get downhill,” Barr later added. “Change the line of scrimmage, especially with them on the goal line. If we get any penetration, there’s a chance.”
The safety marked the first one for Minnesota’s defense since Week 17 of the 2017 season, when Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Barr made sure the Vikings added to their lead with his athletic play.
With Minnesota leading by six points at the time, the safety pushed the advantage to 15-7. Minnesota then got the ball back on the ensuing free kick and drove to all Dan Bailey to kick a 32-yard field goal gave the Vikings an 18-7 lead at the half.
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks sensed someone on the Vikings defense was about to make a big play.
“Honestly, we were licking our chops,” Kendricks said. “It was unfortunate what happened [with the fumble]. But we have an opportunity there … to change the game around.
“I feel like AB was aggressive at the right moment,” Kendricks added. “We all had a chance but he made a good play and we rallied right there.”
Barr later helped put Minnesota’s third win on ice as he picked off Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in the fourth quarter.
With New York trailing by double digits, the Giants went for it on fourth-and-2 at their own 25-yard line.
Barr read Jones when the quarterback looked to his right toward wide receiver Golden Tate at the 30, but Barr stepped in front of the throw to make a diving interception.
“They kind of ran a play we’d seen on film,” Barr said. “I got a good read on it and jumped the route and got my hands on it.”
Barr’s timely plays helped lead the way for a Vikings defense that allowed just 211 total yards, including 92 yards in the first half.
Danielle Hunter had a pair of sacks, and Everson Griffen and Ifeadi Odenigbo also got to Jones. For Odenigbo, it was the first sack of his career.
Minnesota’s defense is now allowing just 14.6 points per game.
“We know what we’re capable of and what we have to do,” Kendricks said. “We had a good week or practice, and we’re all locked in and it showed today ... communication on defense was on point.
“We were aggressive, and we knew some of the stuff we saw,” Kendricks added. “We got some new stuff but played through it, and you see the result.”