When the Vikings re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen in August, head coach Mike Zimmer made it clear that he would not be a starter. He started on Sunday.
In Minnesota’s 19–17 win over Detroit at US Bank Stadium, Griffen was cleared at right defensive end for the first series over DJ Vonum. For the day, he sacked Lions quarterback Jared Goff twice, leaving the Vikings to rumble on one.
Zimmer said that Griffen got his first start of the season as a reward for his recent game, but he rotated in and out for the rest of the game. Zimmer said it was difficult to evaluate Griffen’s performance on Sunday because he was not focused on him.
Griffen, who made four Pro Bowls during his initial 2010-19 stint with the Vikings, doesn’t play as much as he once did, and Vikings co-defensive co-ordinator Andre Patterson said last week that this would not change. When he returned to the team in August after spending the previous season with Dallas and Detroit, Zimmer said Griffen would be a “situational” pass rusher.
No complaints have been received so far about Griffen in that role. During the recently concluded three-game homestand, he received four sacks, the first of the season against Seattle on September 26 and the second against Cleveland on October 3.
“Honestly, I’m glad we got the win, to be quite clear,” said Griffen, credited with making four tackles against the Lions. “When we win, it takes care of everything – mistakes, everything. Winning, it tramples everything.”
The Vikings took a 16-6 lead in the final three minutes and found themselves trailing 17-16. He won the final game on Greg Joseph’s 54-yard field goal.
Griffen had six sacks last season, two-and-a-half in seven games with the Cowboys and three-and-a-half in seven games with the Lions. In four games this season (he sat out in Arizona with a shock in Week 2), Griffen is closing in on last year’s total.
To Griffen, it feels like old times. He is reunited with defensive end Danielle Hunter, who made two Pro Bowls from 2015–19, a period when Griffen was named to all four of his Pro Bowls.
“Just to D-hunt and be out with the boys, it feels good,” Griffen said. “Just to move on, to catch our rhythm.”
You can’t miss Griffen’s two sacks, which came on consecutive plays late in the first quarter. With the score tied 3–3 and the Lions facing first and 10 at Minnesota 23, Griffen sacked Goff for an eight-yard loss. In the next game, he sacked Goff for a seven-yard loss and forced a fumble that Hunter recovered.
In plays, Griffen used his remarkable spin move. Linebacker Eric Kendrick said he does it with “instinct”, and Griffen agreed.
“Yeah, I do now,” he said. “I don’t really work that much in practice because it’s natural, but I try to use different moves to beat people. But it comes from nowhere and I do it with my instincts. ”