Griffen gets to stretch his legs

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 17, 2012 - 12:06 AM

The large but mobile third-year Viking put the game squarely in his team's corner with a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown.

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Everson Griffen was trailed by Chad Greenway en route to the end zone in the second quarter. “Ev can run,” Greenway said. “He’s a freak.”

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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ST. LOUIS - "Wide Blast, 23 Sky" was the Vikings' defensive call that epitomized the state of utter confusion that Rams quarterback Sam Bradford found himself in during the first half of Sunday's game at the Edward Jones Dome.

An aggressive game plan by Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams threw more blitz packages at Bradford than he had seen at any point on tape while preparing for the Vikings. By the time "Wide Blast, 23 Sky" was dialed up with just under nine minutes left in the half, he was ripe for a big mistake.

And boy was it a doozy.

With the Rams facing third-and-9 from their 21-yard line, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway bluffed a C-gap blitz to the right of left end Everson Griffen. But at the snap of the ball, both Greenway and Griffen dropped into coverage to Bradford's right.

The Vikings rushed three linemen, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and cornerback Antoine Winfield off the blind side. Feeling the pressure, Bradford threw to his right in hopes of connecting with tight end Lance Kendricks. But Griffen stepped in front of the pass at the 29-yard line.

"I asked him at the end of the third quarter, 'Did you see me?' and he said he seen me but he thought I was going to play the underneath route," Griffen said. "But I just stayed right in the middle and he threw it right to me."

Bradford said he didn't talk to Griffen.

"I've got to be able to see that," Bradford. "He's right there. Can't throw one to him like that."

Griffen is such a great athlete that Greenway already was raising an arm in a pre-touchdown celebration when Griffen was still at the 26-yard line.

"Ev can run," Greenway said. "It's ridiculous. He's a freak."

Receiver Chris Givens even had an angle on Griffen, but the 6-3, 273-pounder with the 4.6 speed still got to the right sideline and into the end zone. It was his first interception, first touchdown and first touchdown celebration.

"It's called the 'Sack Daddy,'" Griffen said. "One day, me and Chris Cook were just hanging out at a Saturday walkthrough. I came up with it and I've just been doing it since."

Griffen normally is a situational pass rusher, but he was forced into full-time duty when starter Brian Robison injured his right shoulder midway through the first quarter. Robison left the stadium with his arm in a sling and is day to day, said coach Leslie Frazier, who sounds comfortable starting Griffen if he has to.

"He has really become a student of the game," Frazier said. "He's really working at his craft. As Everson has matured, he has become more of a pro at his craft. And it's paying off."

Athletically, Griffen always has been gifted. As a senior at Agua Fria High in Avondale, Ariz., he had 16 sacks while also rushing for 1,251 yards and 20 touchdowns.

"I've got some wheels," he said. "I've always thought about something like this happening. It was a dream come true. I want to say, 'Thank you, Sam Bradford.'"

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