Saturday, December 23, 2017

Notebook: Harrison Smith leads the Vikings to their first shutout since 1993


The Vikings picked up their first shutout since 1993 on the heels of a two interception performance by safety Harrison Smith. Daniel House provides his initial takeaways from the 16-0 win at Lambeau Field.

With temperatures hovering near zero throughout the night at Lambeau Field, the Vikings managed to pick up a 16-0 shutout win over the Green Bay Packers. It was their first shutout win since 1993 and just the second for Minnesota against the Packers. The Vikings stifled the Green Bay offense, allowing quarterback Brett Hundley to complete just 42 percent of his passes for 130 yards. Minnesota’s offense struggled during portions of the game, but managed to overcome their obstacles to claim a victory. The offense left four big plays on the field as quarterback Case Keenum was unable to connect deep with his receivers. Adam Thielen ran a beautiful double move, but the pass was overthrown. One of the four deep throws drew a pass interference call, but the rest were inaccurate passes.

Keenum finished the night just 14-for-25 for 139 yards and a touchdown. The offensive play calling was unbalanced throughout the night and Minnesota was just 4-for-15 on third down. There was one instance where the Vikings had a 1st-and-5 situation, but managed to accumulate just three yards over three downs. It was a little confusing why the Vikings didn’t utilize Jerick McKinnon more in the passing game. The Packers had displayed a weakness when trying to cover players similar to McKinnon. Minnesota also ran an odd designed run on third down and it was extremely unsuccessful and placed Case Keenum in a vulnerable situation. The track certainly impacted the timing between the pass catchers and Keenum, but the play calling was strange during stretches of the game. Keenum missed a few throws, however, he perfectly placed a pass in the back corner of the end zone to Stefon Diggs for a 4-yard touchdown. He also made a magician-type play to find David Morgan, who made an excellent run after the catch to pick up a key first down. Keenum hasn’t been a consistent deep passer, but he has prevented mistakes and made the necessary throws.

As for David Morgan, he deserves extensive praise for stepping up in a major way. Long snapper Kevin McDermott left the game with a shoulder injury and Morgan snapped the ball for the entire second half. He displayed incredible versatility and successfully snapped two field goals for Kai Forbath. Forbath was impressive in the win, drilling a long 49-yard field goal and hitting two short field goals. The Vikings didn’t have the same success in the red zone and they are fortunate field goals were enough on the heels of a dominating defensive performance. Minnesota’s offensive line lost Nick Easton early in the game and it impacted the screen game. Guard Jeremiah Sirles doesn’t have the same mobility and skill-set as Easton. Sirles lost on numerous occasions and really struggled in the reserve role. The team will need to figure out a plan moving forward as Easton suffered a fractured ankle in the loss. Perhaps they will take a look at rookie Danny Isidora at the left guard spot. The Vikings lost Easton and McDermott, along with defensive tackle Shamar Stephen. Otherwise, they managed to escape with no other major injuries.

Harrison Smith was robbed of a Pro Bowl nod and went out on the field and showed the national crowd what the best safety and the NFL plays like. He led the Vikings with eight tackles and grabbed two interceptions. Smith used a pre-snap disguise to snatch his first interception in the second quarter. He was diagnosing plays throughout the night and was dominant around the box. The weather conditions required a defensive player to step up and make a big play. Minnesota only had one sack and didn’t really pressure Brett Hundley all that much during the game. Their secondary was solid and held Brett Hundley to a measly 42 percent completion percentage. He was inaccurate down the field and the Vikings covered their pass catchers well. Trae Waynes had three great plays in coverage and Mackensie Alexander made a difficult tackle in space to shut down a designed reverse. Pairing those performances with All-Pro level efforts from Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes made things tough for the Green Bay offense. The accurate throws Brett Hundley made were dropped by his receivers or the Vikings made fantastic plays in coverage. The progression of their young cornerbacks is encouraging and will be an asset as they play against pass-heavy offenses in the playoffs.

Minnesota certainly has plenty of offensive flaws they will need to clean up, but the team showed they can win in a variety of different ways. On Saturday night, their defense made enough plays to pick up the slack as the offense struggled with the frigid temperatures and poor field track.

Nonetheless, Minnesota won a classic NFC North battle in a frozen tundra and have themselves in a position to claim the top-seed or second spot in the NFC. There are things to correct offensively, but the defense flexed their muscles and national viewers saw how debilitating the unit can be.


  1. Despite the score, the Vikings have looked better. Not sure if it was the cold, the aura or both, but I'm sure we'll play much better at home against the Bears. Hopefully, we get some help from the Eagles. Skol