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Skol Schemes, Week 13: In Appreciation of Harrison Smith

Hats off to Harrison!

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

One day, Harrison Smith will hang up his cleats and look back at an extremely decorated career in purple. That day was not Sunday as Smith tallied up 8 tackles, 3 pass deflections, and an INT on the way to a 27-22 victory. Smith finds himself 3rd in the league in interceptions despite missing one game and is a key part of a polarizing defense.

The Vikings’ defense allows yards aplenty but clamps down in the red zone and is able to make game winning plays seem routine. The Jets went 1-6 in the red zone and 3-16 on third down as the Vikings’ defense carried a less than stellar offensive performance over the finish line. Harrison Smith played his part in the pass game, the run game, and when the game was on the line.

Do Not Pass Go

The Vikings, often accused of being a “soft zone” defense, came out blitzing and getting in receivers’ faces on Sunday. This may be thanks in part to the Jets having a back up quarterback at the helm, but as the season has gone on, Ed Donatell has shown a variety of looks on defense. Early in the game, the Vikings sent Nickel Chandon Sullivan off the edge, Cam Bynum closed on a slant window, and the ball popped up into Harrison Smith’s hands for a very interesting return:

Smith also was a more active participant in a huge play later in the game. As the first half wound down, the Jets dialed up a shot play. The design of the play is meant to occupy the safety in order to get the outside receiver free on a deep ball. Smith initially took the bait but had enough speed and spatial awareness to break up this would be touchdown. In these one score games that the Vikings insist on playing, these types of plays are massive:

Running Free

Though Harrison Smith is seen less at the line of scrimmage these days based on the structure of the defense, his instincts in the run game were on display when the Vikings needed them the most. As the Jets were poised to take the lead from the 1 yard line, they called a heavy personnel run that is attacking and challenges the tackling ability of your second and third level defenders. On the play, Smith looked like he made a gesture to Kendricks before slicing in and making contact with the ball carrier in the backfield. Sure he did not make the tackle, but without this tremendous effort, there is a chance the Vikings leave U.S. Bank Stadium with a loss:

Crunch Time

Kevin O’Connell stresses to his players every week that they need to be at their best when their best is required. The Vikings seem to always answer that call when the pressure is ramped up to 11. The Vikings once again ended a game on an interception while in Quarters. The play before that, Harrison Smith had an almost interception while driving on an in breaking route. The Jets were content to attack Duke Shelley, and Smith played his quarter perfectly to almost end the game:

I am happy that Sunday presented an opportunity to praise Harrison Smith. Smith has been an All-Pro during his career, has an unmatchable aesthetic, and will draw nothing but applause when he sprints straight into the Vikings ring of honor (and likely makes a tackle for a loss while doing it).