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Vikings Defense Set Franchise Record with 10 Sacks on Stafford

MINNEAPOLIS — Matthew Stafford might have nightmares after this one.

The Lions quarterback will have visions of being smothered by Danielle Hunter, getting harassed by Tom Johnson up the middle and seeing Everson Griffen come off the edge.

Add it all up, and the Vikings got to Stafford for a whopping 10 sacks on Sunday, a terrorizing performance that set a Vikings franchise record for team sacks in a game.

"It was all a team effort, man," Griffen said. "Guys stepped up big today, and we played as a team.

"We know that every week it's not going to be like that, so we have to take advantage of the opportunities we get and rush together," Griffen added. "The whole D-line … we had a big day."

Added Sheldon Richardson: "That was a fun game, a collective effort all the way around. We executed pretty much every time."

No, not even the Purple People Eaters could touch this one.

The Vikings had recorded 9.0 sacks as a team four different times in franchise history, including once a season from 1968-1970 when the likes of Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page and Gary Larsen made games dreadful for opposing quarterbacks. [The other nine-sack performance occurred in 1993 against the Bears].

The current group of Vikings defensive linemen — Hunter, Griffen, Linval Joseph, Johnson, Sheldon Richardson and Stephen Weatherly — had a game that won't soon be forgotten.

Hunter led the way with a career-high 3.5 sacks, and Johnson had his single-game best with 2.5 sacks. Griffen had 1.5 sacks, which marked the 15th time the defensive end has had at least that many sacks in a game.

Weatherly and cornerback Mackensie Alexander each got to Stafford once. Richardson had 0.5 sacks after splitting one with Johnson.

It was a perfect 10.

The group credited Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson for coming up with a plan to attack Stafford that was executed nearly flawlessly.

"Dre, when he came in on Wednesday, he said that if we do what we do in the run game, we're going to be able to execute the pass rush," Weatherly said. "Every week he implements a pass-rush game plan, and every week we have a write up on the tackles and their game plan.

"Dre really drove it home to keep grinding and that great things would happen," Weatherly added. "All in all, it's a testament to Coach Dre and how he prepares the D-line week-in and week-out."

Detroit's offensive line had allowed just 13 total sacks all season before the Vikings reached double-digits in 60 minutes.

"I didn't think we'd get 10, I thought we had an opportunity to do some things if we gave them some looks and with our guys," Zimmer said. "I felt pretty good about Everson coming back, getting better last week in practice.

"I guess it's a surprise, but again I think we did a good job in making [Stafford] hold the football, too," Zimmer added.

Minnesota's rushers credited the secondary — and vice versa — for a team effort on the record-setting day.

While Stafford was pressured for the majority of the game, some of the sacks came when he had nowhere to throw the ball thanks to tight coverage from Vikings defensive backs.

"Some of them were guys just getting off the edge. Some of them were coverage sacks," said Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. "It was just a great performance by the defense all around.

"Each and every guy on that defensive line was feeding off each other," Rhodes added. "D-Hunt got one, they celebrate and get everybody crunked up. Next play, Ev gets one and then it trickles on down. Everybody is excited for them, and we just played as one."

Added Weatherly: "Our secondary played outstanding. I believe I was told that half of our sacks were coverage sacks. It's a testament to those guys in the secondary and shutting down some of their favorite plays."

Of course, the sack party really began when the Vikings limited Detroit's rushing attack.

Lions rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, who entered Sunday tied for the second-best rushing average at 6.1 yards per carry, had 12 carries for 37 yards. His longest carry went for six yards.

Detroit averaged just 2.8 yards per attempt on 24 carries for a total of 66 rushing yards. It was the second-lowest total allowed by the Vikings defense this season.

"It all starts with stopping the run," Griffen said. "If you can stop then run then your possibility of getting to rush the passer is a lot better.

"We look for situations like that," Griffen added.

Hunter leads the Vikings with 11.5 sacks, and Weatherly is tied for second along with Alexander and Harrison Smith with 3.0 sacks. Griffen and Johnson each have 2.5 sacks. Richardson has 1.5 sacks in his first season in Purple.

The Vikings now have 31 total sacks as a team.

"Getting sacks is one of the hardest things to do in the National Football League," Griffen said. "But affecting the quarterback is also great, too.

"We did a lot of that today … pressuring [Stafford] and keeping him discombobulated," Griffen added.

Added Joseph: "It's just an honor to be on a team with this much talent and be with guys who want to be great and want to work hard. That's the reason I come to work every day."

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