MINNEAPOLIS – Before the ball glanced off Terry McLaurin's outstretched hands, Vikings safety Anthony Harris was already moving in to make a play.
Harris' instinct paid off in a right-place-right-time fashion that resulted in an interception of Washington rookie Dwayne Haskins, who stepped in for the second half when Case Keenum was ruled out with a concussion.
The pick came at a critical time and kept the Redskins, trailing by only 7 at the time, from getting any points on the drive.
On the previous series, Minnesota went for it on fourth-and-1 but wasn't able to convert and turned the ball over on downs to Washington at the Vikings 34-yard line.
"Initially I was thinking to go in and make a play, break the ball up, because I saw it was a little high, and [McLaurin] might have a chance to catch it," Harris said. "And then … it ended up being tipped. It was a good play; it took points off the board right there in that situation, kept them from at least getting a field goal."
Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs commented postgame on the interception.
"That's just our defense doing what our defense always does – steps up and makes plays when it matters and just having our back," Diggs said.
Harris' takeaway was not the defense's only big play executed when it mattered most.
On Washington's first drive of the game, defensive end Danielle Hunter sacked Keenum for a loss of 7 and forced a fumble by the former Viking. The ball was recovered by defensive tackle Shamar Stephen to put the ball back in Minnesota's possession.
The Vikings scored a field goal on the ensuing drive to take a 3-0 lead.
"The mentality's always 'Be aggressive and get after people.' Compete, contest catches, go after the ball – whether it's tackles, interceptions or pass deflections," Harris said. "We want to be aggressive and try to disrupt them as much as possible."
Hunter recorded five tackles (press box tally), a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit in addition to the sack. Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr split a sack, and Ifeadi Odenigbo also notched one.
"We appreciate our D-line so much," cornerback Mike Hughes said. "They create a lot of pressure, they force quarterbacks to make some tough decisions.
"They do a great job of putting pressure on the quarterbacks, so whenever they do that, we've gotta be tight in coverage and make plays when the opportunity is given," Hughes added.
In the two quarters Keenum played, he was 12-of-16 passing for 130 yards and a passer rating of 98.4. Haskins finished his outing 3-of-5 passing with an interception for a passer rating of 40.0.
Were the defenders surprised when they saw a different quarterback take the field after halftime?
"A little," Harris said. "I mean, you just go in locked in, you look up and you see him, and you're just like, 'OK. Let's go.' From there, it's just about continuing to play, no matter who's in there, who's under center. Just continuing to do what we do as a defense and look for a successful result.
"I don't think the system really changed much when he came in the game of what they wanted to do offensively," he continued. "So, we just tried to give them different looks and confuse them a little bit, and get them in a situation where we can either get pressure to them or potentially cause a turnover."
The Vikings defense faced another familiar face in running back Adrian Peterson.
Peterson wore different colors but on several occasions looked like the same player who spent 10 seasons in Minnesota. He recorded 14 carries for 76 yards on the evening, moving into sixth place all-time for career rushing.
"It seems like he found the Fountain of Youth," Harris said. "He's still running out there, hitting some amazing jump-cuts, still playing at a high level. Hats off to that guy for continuing to go out, continuing to battle."
Added Barr with a laugh: "I need to get on his program, his regimen."
Linebacker Eric Kendricks said he appreciated reconnecting with the pair of former teammates during pregame but also enjoyed competing against them.
"Anytime they're in a different jersey, I just try to get after them," Kendricks said. "It was fun."
After allowing four red zone touchdowns last week at Detroit, Minnesota's defense did not let Washington into the end zone.
Harris and Kendricks both acknowledged that point of success while expressing needed improvements in other areas.
"We know what we're capable of," Kendricks said. "[But we] still gave up a lot of things we shouldn't have given up that game. We're not always going to be perfect. But we stay together, always … and we always fight. You can count on that."
Harris said he and his teammates "expect to play better" in games.
"They made some plays, were able to drive, get in field goal range," Harris said. "Ideally, we want to be able to hold them early on in downs; that way we can force them into a punting situation and keep them from getting points, whether it's field goals or not.
"Today, we didn't do as good on first and second down," he later added. "We allowed them to drive the ball a little bit, even though we were able to hold them from getting touchdown drives. We feel like we can still improve in that area."