GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Minnesota Vikings were already down one defensive tackle heading into Sunday night's NFC title game against the Packers.
Linval Joseph was declared inactive before the game, and after Kenrick Ellis went down with an ankle injury, that left Minnesota with two healthy interior linemen – Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson.
The Vikings play a 4-3, so some quick math would mean that both Floyd and Johnson would be in on nearly every remaining play.
"We had two defensive tackles in that middle and nobody else for a quarter and a half," Floyd explained to media after the game. "We had to really dig deep."
They also turned to Brian Robison, sliding the nine-year defensive end to defensive tackle and bringing in rookie Danielle Hunter at Robison's normal spot, and managed to hang on for a 20-13 victory.
Leading by 7, the Vikings defense was forced to make two game-saving stops late in the game. Xavier Rhodes intercepted Aaron Rodgers on the Packers' penultimate drive, while Anthony Barr knocked down the quarterback's final pass at the goal line.
Robinson took notice of the way his fellow defensive lineman played down the stretch.
"I'm very proud of this win," Robinson said. "It shows how much heart we have as a team and as a d-line. We were playing with pretty much two defensive tackles. Anytime you got guys down like that, it becomes a full-team effort.
The win marked the first for the Vikings at Lambeau Field since 2009, which is also the last time the Vikings claimed the NFC North. It took every bit of energy available from the front four.
"That's what it takes," Floyd said. "When you're emptying your tank, that's how it's going to be. You're going to crawl, fight and scratch to get back to the line, just to go hard."
The Vikings will return to TCF Bank Stadium, hosting the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
While Joseph's status will be determined during the week, a similar effort from the defensive line will be needed in order to advance to the divisional round.
"I've never been a part of a team like this that works as hard as we do," Robinson said of the challenge.
"We did a great job of getting it done today. It's something that we haven't done around here in a long time."