EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Brian Robison said the Vikings emotions did "a total 180," and Anthony Barr joked that he saw Head Coach Mike Zimmer flash a rare smile Monday.
Barr's forced fumble, recovery and 27-yard return for a touchdown on the first play of overtime in Minnesota's 19-13 victory at Tampa Bay the previous day helped make that happen.
"I saw Coach smile for the first time in a couple of weeks, so that's always a good sign," Barr said. "If he's smiling, everybody else is smiling, so it's good, it's upbeat, and hopefully, we can keep it going."
The turnover and a game-tying 38-yard field goal by Blair Walsh at the end of regulation helped the Vikings emerge victoriously from a painful 17-16, last-second loss at Buffalo the previous week.
"Last week was kind of depressing and sad, and this week everybody is kind of happy and ready to move on to the next week," Robison said. "Hopefully we can have more happy Mondays around here."
Minnesota (3-5) snapped a three-game skid and will host Washington, who was 2-5 prior to visiting Dallas Monday night, Nov. 2 at TCF Bank Stadium.
Zimmer set aside game balls for an 8-year-old child who is battling Duchene Muscular Dystrophy and his grandfather after receiving a note from the boy. The coach, in his first year at the helm, said Monday that he also awarded one to Barr "after watching the tape."
"Yesterday was a good victory for us," Zimmer said to open his press conference. "I think it's important for our team that we win games like this – we fight, we come back from a tough situation and go down and score. We're trying to develop a mindset of a tough, smart, physical football team that will stand up to any kind of adversity that we can and when we have the opportunities to take steps like that, I think it's good for not only our mindset but the way that we continue to practice and work."
PACKS OF SACKS: The Vikings continued their rise among the NFL leaders in sacking quarterbacks. Minnesota has 25 on the season, tied for second most in the NFL, and also ranks second in sacks per opponent pass plays. That climb has been fueled by a 17-sack surge for the month of October.
Everson Griffen has led the way with an NFC-best six sacks in the month, and Zimmer said Griffen's production is a function of the fifth-year pro's "great effort and motor" and collaboration with the rest of the defensive line.
"I like the way they've played the last three weeks," Zimmer said. "Again, talk to me at the end of the season and I'll tell you what I think. There's a long way to go. I never look at defensive rankings or anything like that until at least Thanksgiving. I think by then you kind of know what you are. I hope we can get better than what we are now."
Minnesota ranks ninth in total yards allowed, 17th in rush yards allowed and fourth in passing yards allowed at the season's midpoint. The Vikings have held opponents to 47 total points in the past three games.
Robison, who recorded one of Minnesota's five sacks against Tampa Bay (along with Griffen, Barr, Tom Johnson and Sharrif Floyd), said the unit has improved.
"It's always great to have sacks, but I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully more will come. The only thing that really excites me right now is the win," Robison said. "We've got to keep doing what we're doing. Those stats are always fun to have, but we want to win ball games and that's really what we're focused on the most."
When asked Monday, Robison said Griffen "absolutely" deserves votes for the Pro Bowl.
"Eight games, the guy's got eight sacks," Robison said. "He deserves it, no doubt about it."
FLOYD SHINES: Floyd, who was drafted by the Vikings at 23rd in 2013 out of Florida, shined in his return to the Sunshine State. Teammates said it was the defensive tackle's best game of the season.
Floyd was credited by Vikings coaches with a season-high nine tackles (five solo) and five quarterback hurries. His most impressive tackle occurred on sixth play of the game when the Bucs tried to execute a screen pass to Bobby Rainey. Floyd spotted it when he was near the right hash mark and Rainey was on the left. He took a great angle, reached out his right paw and tripped Rainey shy of the first down marker (on a play where Rainey would have had running room if Floyd hadn't made the tackle). Tampa Bay converted fourth-and-1, but Floyd teamed with Robison for a stop of Doug Martin on the resulting first down, and Captain Munnerlyn intercepted Mike Glennon on the next play.
"I felt free, like nothing could stop me and nothing could stop our defense," Floyd said. "I played with a different edge. I played fast.
"We knew we had to keep fighting and doing our jobs as a team and not as individuals," Floyd added. "We're rushing as a unit now and not as individuals. We're passing sacks off to each other left and right and I think that's tremendous in showing we can play together and that we're a cohesive group."
Robison said Floyd "played a heck of a game, just the way he was getting off the ball and rushing those guys. He was just all out yesterday."
Zimmer said Floyd is showing multiple improvements because of the way he is working.
"I thought he played well," Zimmer said. "He's getting better rushing the quarterback. He was better against the running game yesterday. He's a guy that continually tries to do the best he can and he's helping us play good defensively too."
STEADY UNDER STRESS: Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater's calmness under pressure helped teammates stay composed and tie the game with a 38-yard field goal by Blair Walsh on the final play of regulation. Bridgewater was 5-of-8 passing for 54 yards on the drive and drilled a throw to Chase Ford to convert third-and-7 one play before the field goal.
"It comes down to mindset, not getting nervous," veteran center John Sullivan said. "Everybody was very calm on the sidelines going into that two-minute drive. We've practiced that quite a bit, we have confidence that we can execute and get the job done. It's nice to go out there on a Sunday and prove it as opposed to just doing it every Friday in practice."
CHECK WAS CORRECT: The Vikings touchdown drive opened with four straight runs by Jerick McKinnon, and included a 28-yarder that resulted from a call that Bridgewater made at the line of scrimmage after checking the look that the defense showed, Zimmer confirmed.
McKinnon gained 8 and 6 on the first two plays to the Tampa Bay 49-yard line, then surged through an opening created by combination blocks by tight ends Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison on DE Larry English and RG Joe Berger and RT Phil Loadholt on DT Gerald McCoy. After helping Ellison, Ford then engaged LB Lavonte David as McKinnon gained steam. The rookie running back bounced off Mark Barron at the 30 and made it to the 21.
Bridgewater hit Greg Jennings for a 17-yard touchdown three plays later.