The Vikings, to use a hockey term, shortened their bench on the defensive side of the ball in yesterday’s 23-20 win over the Bears at Soldier Field.
A season-high five defenders played every snap. They were safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo, cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman, and outside linebacker Anthony Barr. The plan was probably for middle linebacker Eric Kendricks to play every down, too, but he was forced to sit out one snap after getting banged up on a play.
In all, 11 defenders played at least 70 percent of the snaps, including all four starting defensive linemen and nickel cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
Only five reserves got in on the action, led by rookie defensive end Danielle Hunter, who played 22 of 61 snaps, and outside linebacker Chad Greenway, who played 18, his lowest total since the second game of the season.
This afternoon, coach Mike Zimmer explained that the Bears’ use of the no-huddle offense limited their ability to substitute. The Vikings are also still getting a couple of recently-added front-seven players up to speed.
Here are some other observations from the NFL’s official snap counts:
— With second-string tight end Rhett Ellison out with a concussion, rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt played a season-high 28 snaps in the win. His previous high was 15 snaps in Week 3. Top tight end Kyle Rudolph played 51 of the 58 offensive snaps, though Pruitt was actually targeted once more. Chase Ford, active for the first time this season, did not play on offense.
— Rookie Stefon Diggs, who had six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, led the wide receivers in snaps again with 49 and Mike Wallace played 46. Those two played 84 and 79 percent of the snaps, respectively. But the Vikings made sure to keep the other guys involved. Jarius Wright played 24 snaps. Cordarrelle Patterson played nine. Charles Johnson, who delivered one of the biggest plays of the game, played seven. Adam Thielen got four.
— Nose tackle Kendrick Ellis, who played five snaps last week in his Vikings debut, played 14 yesterday. He was one of three active defensive tackles.
— When Kendricks sat out that one snap, it went to Brandon Watts, recently promoted from the practice squad, not rookie Edmond Robinson.
— Right tackle T.J. Clemmings suffered a stinger in the third quarter and missed six snaps. It was the first time that one of the team’s Week 1 starting offensive linemen missed a snap all season. Fellow rookie Austin Shepherd replaced Clemmings for those six snaps before Clemmings returned.
— After getting a season-high 15 snaps last week, running back Jerick McKinnon was back to being a bit player. He played just seven snaps. Starting Adrian Peterson played 38 snaps and Matt Asiata got 13. Fullback Zach Line played 14 snaps, most of which were running plays.