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Pressures by Griffen & Hunter Help Vikings Take Down Brees & Saints

NEW ORLEANS – Everson Griffen brings the juice.

There's no question. Scenes of his fiery pregame huddle speeches inspired the Vikings postseason hype video and #GoGetIt playoff campaign.

And Sunday at the Superdome, Griffen delivered another dynamic performance that helped Minnesota to a thrilling overtime victory over the Saints and a ticket to the Divisional round of the playoffs.

"It's an awesome feeling right now," Griffen said in a revved-up locker room.

The defensive end finished the game with three tackles (press box tally), 1.5 sacks of Drew Brees, one tackle for loss and three quarterback hits.

Griffen helped create pressure on Brees throughout the game but especially in the first half, forcing the future Hall of Famer to make a couple of incomplete passes.

"That was big," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of the early duress by Griffen. "I thought he played really well."

Safety Harrison Smith pointed out that Griffen's force up front helped the secondary execute.

"He's a problem up there," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. "All those guys are problems, and it makes it easy for us on the back end. It'd be great if he can just keep that going."

Griffen referenced a conversation earlier in the week with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson.

"He said that I just had to go out there and play my style of football for my team," Griffen explained. "All the guys came to play today. We played hard for [60-plus] minutes, we did it together as a team, and it was a great team win."

Griffen not only created disruption on the edge but also from the inside.

The Vikings on multiple occasions moved Griffen and fellow defensive end Danielle Hunter to the tackle spots, a wrinkle made possible by Minnesota's solid depth on the defensive line.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said it was a "scheme thing we thought we might try" – and what better time that Wild Card weekend?

"I thought it was good," Zimmer said. "It's always nice when you do something and it works. It doesn't always work, but you've got to try it."

The Vikings are glad it worked.

"It's a switch-up," Griffen said of the tactic. "They always see us in the same spot, and being able to switch it up and give them a different look, it really messed them up in the beginning.

"They made their adjustments, we made our adjustments, but I'm proud of our team, man," he added. "We fought. Kirk [Cousins] played well, Rudy (Kyle Rudolph) – everybody, man. It was a top-down win. A team win."

Hunter also recorded 1.5 sacks, including a strip sack of Brees in the fourth quarter.

Linebacker Anthony Barr echoed Smith, calling the Griffen-Hunter duo a "problem" for opposing offenses to deal with.

"If you're going to leave them single-blocked, they're going to make their plays," Barr said. "I'm just proud of them. They were like this all year, and another big game from them today."

Brees finished the day 26-of-33 for 208 yards, one touchdown and one interception with a passer rating of 90.4.

He made a couple of big plays in the second half and looked like he might put the Saints on a roll; but the Vikings didn't panic.

"He's Brees. A future Hall of Famer. He's going to make his plays," Griffen said. "But we just have to stay tuned in and keep on fighting, and that's what we did. We did that, and we came out victorious."

Sunday marked Griffen's fifth career playoff game and second postseason win.

The longest-tenured player in Minnesota's locker room (Marcus Sherels also arrived in Minnesota in 2010, but he spent time with New Orleans and Miami earlier in 2019), he doesn't take the postseason for granted.

"It was a hard-fought game, but they came out, they scored some points, they made some stops, and we did the same thing," Griffen said. "We practiced this situation over and over again in practice, Coach Zimmer does a great job of putting us in these situations during practice, and our offense came out and executed. … They finished, and we won the game."

Against all odds, he might add.

But while the Vikings were almost entirely counted out by the critics, they never lost confidence.

"I think we always believed in ourselves. Being the underdog, that was never our worry," Griffen said. "We know we've got the players, the coaches, the organization to go out there and win the game.

"I feel like what we did today just shows that we're here," he added. "One game down, three more to go. The next one on our list is San Fran, so we'll do our best to game-plan against them and go out there and execute."