Everson Griffen sounded as wise as he is strong when asked Tuesday what it meant to be a part of the defense the Vikings are building.
First, the second-team All-Pro right end praised his front office for all the core defenders it has re-signed in the past year. Then he talked about the signing of tackle Sheldon Richardson and the rise of left end Danielle Hunter, referring to the 23-year-old physical marvel as “the young buck.”
And then, lastly but most importantly, Griffen remembered how the final six quarters of the 2017 season ended. It wasn’t pretty, if you recall.
“People always want to talk about the ‘Wall of America,’ ” said Griffen, referring to a nickname he’s heard for the defense. “That’s what they want to call us, or whatever. We’re no ‘Wall of America.’ We got to do our job to become that. We got to do our job to become great.”
The Vikings have a well-coached defense with Pro Bowl to All-Pro talent at all three levels. For 16 regular-season games last year, that defense ranked No. 1 in fewest points (15.8) and yards (275.9) allowed per game.
Then, two quarters into its playoff opener, the defense was shutting out Drew Brees. That’s 16½ games of excellence.
In their final six quarters — the 29-24 “Minneapolis Miracle” victory over the Saints and the 38-7 NFC Championship Game loss at Philadelphia — the Vikings gave up 62 points. During that stretch, Brees and the Eagles’ Nick Foles completed 78.2 percent of their passes (43 of 55) for 529 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack.
And injuries aren’t an excuse. The starting defensive lineup was at full strength, although Griffen did say Tuesday that his plantar fasciitis “bothered” him from Week 9 through the end of the season.
So, Everson, now that you’ve had three months to think about it, what the heck happened during those final six quarters?
“Everything,” he said. “Attitude. Fatigue. Just the season, you know, never been there before and knowing how to handle it.
“It can be different numerous things. But I think the biggest thing is now we know what we have to do. Now we know how we have to prepare. It was tough. They won the game. They were the better team. There’s no hard feelings. We got to move on.”
First-team All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes wasn’t in the mood to reflect when asked Tuesday about those final six quarters.
“That was last year,” he said. “That was completely last year.”
Rhodes called it a “great season, at the end of the day.” Offense, defense and special teams played great, he said.
“Of course, you’re going to learn from [how it ended],” he said. “It’s a copycat league. But we’re just going to move on from it. New attitude, same goal. Find ways to win.”
Later, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was asked to shed some light on the ways he can enhance the team’s winning via Thursday’s first round of the draft. For obvious reasons, he kept us firmly in the dark.
“Everybody thinks that we’re locked into an offensive lineman [at No. 30],” Spielman said. “That’s absolutely not the case. Right now, the way our draft board has developed, we have five different positions that we can go.”
The prediction here on Sunday was Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. If not Harrison, then stockpile another first-round defensive back while being mindful of Andrew Sendejo’s age, Terence Newman’s likely retirement and the way those final six quarters unfolded.
“I don’t think you measure anything in that short of a window,” Spielman said. “I think you have to measure the whole season. I know we didn’t play our best football those last six quarters. I know the coaches have went back and hashed through that a hundred times on why and what we can do to get better. But I don’t think you put a point of emphasis on those last six quarters.”
No. But they mustn’t be understated, either.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraignfl E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org