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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Smith, Barr, Joseph return, Vikings continue to torment Eli Manning

By Derek Wetmore

MINNEAPOLIS – Oh, what a difference a healthy defense can make.

With all their important defensive starters healthy and active Sunday, the Vikings limited the Giants to just 17 points, including one touchdown when the outcome had long since been decided.

Harrison Smith, one of three Vikings defensive starters to return from injury in Sunday’s win against the Giants, may have put the game out of reach in the first half when he jumped a route and intercepted Eli Manning’s pass and ran it back the other way for a 35-yard touchdown return. Anthony Barr (knee) and Linval Joseph (toe/foot) also returned to the field for the Vikings.

Smith’s interception-touchdown with about four minutes remaining in the second quarter is a new franchise-record fourth pick-six in his career, according to the Vikings.

It was also emblematic of a Vikings defense that was opportunistic Sunday. Captain Munnerlyn also intercepted one of Manning’s passes, and so did Andrew Sendejo. In total it was an ugly night for the Giants’ quarterback, who completed roughly half of his passes for 234 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, and was sacked four times.

“When you create turnovers and you can put pressure on the quarterback, good things typically happen,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “And I thought we put good pressure on the quarterback tonight. I thought we got him to make some bad throws and we took advantage of it. The three interceptions we had were all huge.”

“Those turnovers flipped the field position and I thought for the most part we did a good job about that tonight,” he said.

The Vikings took advantage of short fields all night on the way to scoring 49 points, the most the team has scored since the high-flying days of 1998.

In the case of Smith, the Vikings didn’t even need to march in to the end zone from a good starting spot; Smith took care of that himself.

“A lot of players stepped up and played great [in place of injured starters],” Smith said. “We played successful football then, and getting guys back is only going to help. I think we’re doing a lot of good things [but] there’s obviously plays we can still correct.”

Another Pick Six

Giants quarterback Eli Manning is no stranger to throwing interceptions against the Vikings that get returned for touchdowns.

Harrison Smith’s 35-yard interception return for a touchdown against Manning on Sunday was the fifth Pick Six that the Giants quarterback has tossed against the Vikings, the most by any active player against any team, according to NBC.

Manning now has thrown 14 interceptions in eight career games against the Vikings and only five touchdown passes.

The Vikings had three interception returns for touchdowns against Manning in 2007. The list of Vikings players to intercept Manning and take it to the end zone includes Chad Greenway, Dwight Smith, Darren Sharper (twice) and Harrison Smith.

Kalil gets X-rays

Left tackle Matt Kalil left the game in the fourth quarter and appeared to be favoring his right leg. With the Vikings already way ahead on the scoreboard, he later went to the locker room with what the team described as a “lower-leg” injury.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said Kalil had x-rays, which were negative, he said.

Kalil, who has played through various injuries, had not missed a snap for an injury in his nearly four-year career with the Vikings.

Cornerback Terence Newman was sick Sunday, and he left the game early with an illness, according to Zimmer.

Healthy scratch?

Charles Johnson was inactive Sunday after being listed as probable on the team’s injury report on Friday. Johnson, who is dealing with an ankle injury, practiced all week but didn’t play.

Johnson apparently can’t find his way onto the field after breaking out with the Vikings last season. A year ago he teamed up with then-rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and snatched away the starting spot at split end from Cordarrelle Patterson. Now, it’s Johnson who appears to be pushed aside.

Stefon Diggs took over for Johnson in Week 4, when Johnson dealt with a rib injury. Now Diggs is the team’s leading receiver and Johnson is the only of six receivers on the active roster not to dress for Sunday’s game.

Mr. 3,000

Teddy Bridgewater hit Jarius Wright for a completion in the first half, which put Bridgewater in an interesting category among Vikings quarterbacks.

Wright’s catch gave Bridgewater more than 3,000 passing yards this season, with one game remaining. That’s the first time since Brett Favre in 2009 that a Vikings QB has eclipsed 3,000 passing yards in a season. Before Favre, the most recent example was Daunte Culpepper, who accomplished the feat in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Bridgewater, who has passed for more than 6,000 yards in his short career, recently passed Randall Cunningham for 10th all-time in passing yards by a Vikings quarterback.

Up-and-down Blair Walsh

Kicker Blair Walsh made all five of his field goal attempts Sunday, but missed an extra point attempt when he clanked it off the left upright.

Walsh hit field goals from 53, 52, 32, 27 and 22 yards Sunday. For the season, he’s now hit 31 of his 35 point-after attempts (89 percent), which makes Minnesota one of the worst teams in the NFL at converting the extra-point kick after touchdowns.

Brrrrrrr

The temperature at the stadium was 13 degrees at the time of kickoff. According to the Vikings, that’s the 9th-coldest home game in team history. All those years in the Metrodome might be skewing that statistic.

It’s possible they’ll get a colder game this year in the playoffs. Then it’s indoors next year in their new stadium on the east side of downtown Minneapolis.

The post Notebook: Smith, Barr, Joseph return, Vikings continue to torment Eli Manning appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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