Lost in all the hand wringing and teeth gnashing of the Minnesota Vikings' 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns at the Metrodome was a particular performance that I, and many others, were quite happy to see.
The last time that cornerback Marcus Sherels had to take the field in an extended role on defense for the Vikings, we saw him getting routinely beaten up by Green Bay Packers wide receivers in last year's regular season finale at the Metrodome. Substituting for the injured Antoine Winfield, Sherels was picked on time and time again by Aaron Rodgers and company.
Yesterday, due to injuries (Chris Cook) or just general ineffectiveness (A.J. Jefferson), Sherels found himself on the field frequently in the Vikings' nickel and dime packages on defense, and I'd have to say acquitted himself fairly well. He wound up with eight tackles, all solo (which led the team), a tackle for loss, and two pass defenses, all while not allowing a completion longer than 10 yards. Browns' receiver Josh Gordon, who missed the first two games of Cleveland's season, managed to abuse a lot of Vikings' defenders on Sunday, but Sherels was not one of them.
It's not much consolation, given the way that the game ultimately turned out, but it was nice to see a performance like that from a guy that got knocked around pretty good the last time he had to enter a game in the defensive backfield. Sherels has always been something of a "little engine that could" type of player, and is known far more for his return skills at the NFL level than his defensive prowess. However, he showed on Sunday that maybe it wouldn't be the end of the world if he had to sub in defensively for periods of time.
Kudos to one of the few members of the Minnesota Vikings that truly showed up to play on Sunday afternoon against the Browns.