Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith and Chad Greenway returned interceptions for touchdowns in a post-Thanksgiving defensive feast.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Darren Sharper ordered his meal from Angelino's Pizzeria on Saturday night. Sharing the food with Dwight Smith, Sharper explained the restaurant held a special place in his heart.
"I told him when we were eating, the last time I had this meal, I had three picks here and returned one," Sharper said. "[Smith] said, 'Well, I need to get some of this. I actually left the room and when I came back, he had eaten half the food."
The dining choice proved to be a good one for both veteran safeties, as they combined for three interceptions and two touchdowns off Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the Vikings' 41-17 victory Sunday.
No word on what linebacker Chad Greenway ate, but he also returned a pick for a score as the Vikings set a franchise record and became the ninth team to have three interceptions returned for touchdowns in a game. The NFL record of four was set by Seattle in a 45-0 home victory over Kansas City on Nov. 4, 1984.
Smith finished with two interceptions, returning his second pick 93 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that registered as the third-longest return in franchise history.
Sharper, who had three interceptions and a touchdown against Manning in 2005 at Giants Stadium, got things started when he stepped in front of a pass intended for tight end Jeremy Shockey. Sharper fell after catching the ball, but he had the presence of mind to get up and complete a 20-yard jaunt into the end zone to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead.
"I was a little discombobulated," Sharper said. "I didn't want to run the wrong way like Jim Marshall did, but I ran to the left and was able to just kind of sneak into the end zone."
Actually, Sharper high-stepped it into the end zone, holding the ball up in his right hand beginning at about the 10-yard line.
It was the eighth interception return for a touchdown of Sharper's 11-year career, tying him for fifth in NFL history. Rod Woodson is No. 1 with 12. It was Sharper's fourth TD return in his three seasons with the Vikings and his first since that game against the Giants two years ago.
"You don't want to worry too much about personal stats during the season, but I've just been blessed to be in the right position a lot of times," Sharper said. "... It's a lot of film study and knowing where the ball is going to be and catching the ball and making something happen."
Although the Vikings did not blitz on that play, they did apply nearly constant pressure on Manning and caused him to make several bad decisions.
Smith took advantage in the second quarter when he intercepted a pass that was intended for Plaxico Burress. Smith caught the ball at the Giants 27-yard line and returned it 19 yards, setting up an 8-yard touchdown run by Chester Taylor on the next play.
"I should have scored," Smith said. "I think I got complacent with being happy with the interception. But I probably should have scored."
He made up for it in the fourth quarter. With the Giants facing third-and-10 from the Vikings 11, Manning again looked for Shockey on a short pass. The problem was that linebacker Ben Leber tipped the ball, enabling Smith to pick it off and race down the sideline.
"Once I caught it it was me and the end zone," Smith said. "These guys weren't going to let me live it down if somebody would have caught me, so I had to get there."
Greenway gave the defense its third TD of the day and 12th since the start of the 2006 season on the following possession when he intercepted another pass for Shockey and went 37 yards.
Afterward, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was asked if he had a favorite among the three returns.
"All of them," he said. "A score on defense is like having three kids. You love all of them. I loved all three of them."
|San Diego||12:00 PM|
|NY Jets||12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||12:00 PM|
|St. Louis||3:25 PM|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|Oklahoma City||6:30 PM|
|New York||8:00 PM|
|Central Conn St||12:00 PM|
|Concordia (MI)||12:00 PM|
|Sacred Heart||1:00 PM|
|MD-Eastern Shore||1:00 PM|
|UNC Greensboro||1:00 PM|
|Cincinnati Christian||1:00 PM|
|Morgan State||1:00 PM|
|Long Beach State||1:00 PM|
|Coppin State||1:05 PM|
|Coast Guard||2:00 PM|
|Thomas (GA)||2:00 PM|
|Texas Southern||2:00 PM|
|NC Wesleyan||2:00 PM|
|South Dakota St||2:00 PM|
|Central Penn College||2:00 PM|
|Bowling Green||2:00 PM|
|SE Missouri St|
|Robert Morris-IL||2:00 PM|
|Northland College||2:00 PM|
|North Dakota St|
|Northwestern St||2:30 PM|
|Saint Peters||3:00 PM|
|St Katherine||3:00 PM|
|Wake Forest||3:00 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast||3:00 PM|
|SD Christian||3:05 PM|
|Miss Valley St||4:00 PM|
|Delaware State||4:00 PM|
|NW Christian||5:00 PM|
|UC Davis||5:00 PM|
|Abilene Christian||5:00 PM|
|Stony Brook||7:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona State||36||FINAL|
|Texas A&M||12/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Oklahoma||12/29/14 4:30 PM|
|Arkansas||12/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Notre Dame||12/30/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Georgia||12/30/14 5:45 PM|
|Maryland||12/30/14 9:00 PM|
|(9) Ole Miss||12/31/14 11:30 AM|
|(21) Boise State||12/31/14 3:00 PM|
|(8) Miss State||12/31/14 7:00 PM|
|(10) Georgia Tech|
|(19) Auburn||1/1/15 11:00 AM|
|(7) Michigan State||1/1/15 11:30 AM|
|(16) Missouri||1/1/15 12:00 PM|
|(2) Florida State||1/1/15 4:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State||1/1/15 7:30 PM|
|Houston||1/2/15 11:00 AM|
|Iowa||1/2/15 2:20 PM|
|(11) Kansas State||1/2/15 5:45 PM|
|Washington||1/2/15 9:15 PM|
|East Carolina||1/3/15 11:00 AM|
|Holy Cross||11:00 AM|
|East Carolina||11:00 AM|
|(10) Oregon State||12:00 PM|
|Florida A&M||12:00 PM|
|St Francis-PA||1:00 PM|
|New Hampshire||1:00 PM|
|George Mason||1:00 PM|
|William & Mary|
|North Florida||1:00 PM|
|(14) Georgia||1:00 PM|
|Tennessee St||1:00 PM|
|American Univ||1:00 PM|
|(20) Michigan State|
|George Washington||1:00 PM|
|(17) Rutgers||1:00 PM|
|(24) Green Bay||1:00 PM|
|Western Mich||1:30 PM|
|UNC Greensboro||2:00 PM|
|VA Commonwealth||2:00 PM|
|Miss Valley St||2:00 PM|
|Saint Louis||2:00 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||2:00 PM|
|Penn State||2:00 PM|
|Sam Houston St||2:05 PM|
|South Dakota||2:30 PM|
|(4) Notre Dame||3:00 PM|
|Coll of Charleston||3:00 PM|
|Alcorn State||3:00 PM|
|Fla Gulf Coast||3:00 PM|
|(25) Arizona State|
|UC Santa Barbara||4:00 PM|
|Long Island||4:00 PM|
|Long Beach St|
|Jackson State||4:00 PM|
|Aug 8 - vs. Oakland||7 pm||X||10-6|
|Aug 16 - vs. Arizona||7:30 pm||X||30-28|
|Aug 23 - at Kansas City||7 pm||X||30-12|
|Aug 28 - at Tennessee||7 pm||X||19-3|
|2014 regular season|
|Sep 7 - at St. Louis||Noon||X||34-6|
|Sep 14 - vs. New England||Noon||X||30-7|
|Sep 21 - at New Orleans||Noon||X||20-9|
|Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta||3:25 pm||X||41-28|
|Oct 2 - at Green Bay||7:25 pm||X||42-10|
|Oct 12 - vs. Detroit||Noon||X||17-3|
|Oct 19 - at. Buffalo||Noon||X||17-16|
|Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay||Noon||X||19-13 ot|
|Nov 2 - vs. Washington||Noon||X||29-26|
|Nov 9 - Bye|
|Nov 16 - at Chicago||Noon||X||21-13|
|Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay||Noon||X||24-21|
|Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina||Noon||X||31-13|
|Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets||Noon||X||30-24 ot|
|Dec 14 - at Detroit||3:25 pm||X||16-14|
|Dec 21 - at Miami||Noon||X||37-35|
|Dec 28 - vs. Chicago||Noon|