Once again, we're proud to welcome a new sponsor aboard for this one, as the good folks from Gillette want us to detail the five biggest defensive plays of the week gone by for our team. I would love to include a bunch of pictures with this one, but I can't seem to find a picture that goes along with each play, so I'm just going to do the best I can with what I've got here.
The biggest defensive play of the game, from a Vikings' standpoint, came with 6:05 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Raiders holding a 27-14 lead. After Christian Ponder's third interception of the afternoon, the Raiders handed the ball to Michael Bush three times, and Bush gained 24 yards on those three carries. On 1st-and-10 from their own 44-yard line, the Raiders gave it to Bush again, and this time a blitzing Chad Greenway caused him to stutter step. Bush was then brought down by Letroy Guion, who simultaneously managed to knock the ball loose. Brian Robison jumped on the loose ball, and two plays later the Vikings scored again to make it 27-21 and give themselves a fighting chance. It was the first fumble that Bush had lost since November of 2009.
The Vikings' second-biggest defensive play of the afternoon featured another rarity. The Raiders lined up for a 48-yard field goal attempt from the Polish Hammer, Sebastian Janikowski. A successful try would have given the Raiders a 30-14 lead, but it wasn't to be. Once again, Guion beat his man, and managed to get a hand up to block the field goal attempt. It was the first kick Janikowski had blocked since the season opener in 2007, and kept the Vikings within two scores.
Those were the two big ones. Here are three more plays that the Vikings' defense made that made a difference.
-With Oakland facing a 3rd-and-4 from their own 39-yard line with 3:44 remaining, E.J. Henderson came in on a huge blitz and brought Carson Palmer down for the Vikings' fourth and final sack of the afternoon. The sack forced the Raiders to punt the ball away, and gave the Vikings a chance at a game-winning drive. The drive ultimately fell short, but it still gave the Vikings an opportunity.
-With six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Fred Evans sliced into the Raiders' backfield to drop Marcel Reese for a six-yard loss. Very nice play by the oft-maligned Evans, and forced the Raiders into another punting situation.
-On the Raiders' first drive, a blitzing Greenway brought down Palmer for his first sack of 2011 on a 3rd-and-2 from the Oakland 35-yard line. The sack gave the Vikings some early momentum, and they capitalized on the ensuing drive with an Adrian Peterson touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead.