EAGAN, Minn. – Two days, two awards recognizing Za'Darius Smith.
The Vikings outside linebacker was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October, the NFL announced Thursday morning.
The news hit one day after Smith was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 8.
Starting all four Vikings games and spanning two continents, Smith led the NFL with 6.5 sacks and was tied for the league-lead with eight tackles for loss (Maxx Crosby) during the month of October, helping the team to a perfect 4-0 record during the month. His 22 quarterback pressures (according to Next Gen Stats) tied for the second most in October, trailing only Seattle's Uchenna Nwosu (23), who played in one more game and 118 more defensive snaps than Smith.
On the season, Smith has totaled 8.5 sacks, tying him with New England's Matthew Judon for the most in the NFL. The eight-year NFL veteran also leads the NFL in tackles for loss (13) and is tied for the fourth-most quarterback pressures (31), according to Next Gen Stats.
The Kentucky product's Week 8 game vs. Arizona earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, recording seven tackles, 3.0 sacks, four tackles for loss and one pass defended, joining Vikings Ring of Honor DT Kevin Williams as the only other Viking in franchise history to secure that stat line in a single game.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, who presented a game ball to Smith on Sunday, was asked Wednesday about the weekly award going to the newcomer.
"He's had a great year — everything we hoped for Z. and then some," O'Connell said. "I think you guys saw last week with the versatility of rushing over four or five different spots with a really detailed rush plan that [Defensive Coordinator] Ed [Donatell] and his staff put together that involved Z. getting to the quarterback, but we did not want to allow Kyler to really impact the game, getting out and causing a lot of stress outside the pocket.
"Getting him on the ground three times, that not only speaks to Z., and I think he deserves that award this week. I was really excited for him to win that thing, but it speaks to those other guys," O'Connell added. "I can think back on a couple of those sacks, with D.J. Wonnum holding the edge and keeping him in there, Harrison Phillips being ready to clean up anything that kind of got out of there. It was a concerted, all-11 effort, and I think that's a real performance our whole defense and especially Z. can grow from."
Smith, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent during the 2022 offseason, becomes the 10th different Viking to win Defensive Player of the Month honors and the first since DE Everson Griffen did so in October 2017.
All-Time Vikings NFC Defensive Players of the Month
1986 Doug Martin, DE September
1989 Keith Millard, DT October
1992 Chris Doleman, DE December
1993 Chris Doleman, DE December/January
1994 Jack Del Rio, LB September
1994 Anthony Parker, CB October
1994 John Randle, DT December
1996 John Randle, DT October
1997 John Randle, DT October
1999 John Randle, DT December
2005 Darren Sharper, S November
2011 Jared Allen, DE October
2014 Everson Griffen, DE October
2017 Everson Griffen, DE October
2022 Za'Darius Smith, OLB October
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.