ATLANTA – To cover any more of a football field, Anthony Barr would need a bicycle and a ladder.
Delivery services thinking of replacing humans with drones might want to replace drones with Barr.
The second-year Vikings linebacker might inspire his own metric. Baseball analysts use “range factor.’’ To measure Barr, football scouts might want to combine that with GPS tracking and a step-counter.
Sunday, in the Vikings’ 20-10 victory at Atlanta, Barr made plays deep in Atlanta’s backfield, far downfield, in the flat and far down the sideline. These five moments captured his value and tracked his movements:
1. The Vikings had just taken a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. On the Falcons’ next play, Tevin Coleman burst down the right sideline.
Safety Antone Exum cut off Coleman, who veered toward the middle of the field. Barr chased him down and punched the ball free after a 46-yard gain. Exum recovered. Barr likely saved three or seven points. “It wasn’t real hard,’’ Barr said. “He had it way out here. So just make the play.’’
“That was one of the things I addressed with him this week, was hustle,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I felt over the last couple of games he wasn’t hustling the way I wanted him to.’’
“That might have been a turning point for us,’’ linebacker Chad Greenway said.
2. Early in the second quarter, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan saw veteran receiver Roddy White in the right flat, covered by a linebacker. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the linebacker was Barr. Barr smothered White for a 1-yard loss.
“He’s one of a kind,’’ running back Adrian Peterson said.
Barr has been playing with a cast on his left arm. Two weeks previously, in Oakland, he needed help putting on his jacket and opening doors. He played without a cast Sunday. “It’s greatly improved,’’ he said. “Almost 100 percent. I still need to use it more. I still feel like I’m keeping it too close to my body, but I think that’s subconscious at this point.’’
3. The Vikings took a 13-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter. On the Falcons’ next play from scrimmage, they sent two players on “wheel’’ routes down opposing sidelines. Barr chased Coleman.
Ryan threw on target. A completion would move Atlanta deep into Vikings territory.
“Barr is special,’’ said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “He can rush, he can cover, he’s fast, he’s got so much freakish athleticism, and he does things so effortlessly. The guy is running down the field on a wheel route and everybody is saying, ‘Oh, no, this is going to be a big play,’ and then Barr sticks his long arms out there and makes the play. I’m like, ‘Wow.’ ”
Barr broke up that pass, then …
4. Three plays later, the Falcons faced fourth-and-1 from their 48. Zimmer called for Barr to blitz. Barr noticed the center ignoring him and on the snap burst between center and guard, sacked Ryan and caused a fumble. Vikings ball.
Barr finished with seven solo tackles, one assist, one sack, one tackle for loss, one pass defensed and two forced fumbles. He left the locker room wearing a bandage on his wrist and Kermit-green shoes.
“He played phenomenal,’’ Munnerlyn said.
“He’s the guy with the microphone in his head, he’s the guy making the calls,’’ Greenway said. “He can rush, he can cover, and with his size that makes him so valuable.’’
Barr was on the field for every defensive play but one …
5. With 1:38 remaining and the Falcons facing fourth-and-goal from the Vikings 2, the Vikings were penalized for pass interference, and Barr was injured and had to leave the field.
“I took a low hit,’’ Barr said, meaning below the belt. “I’m sure you know what that’s like.’’
Barr was required to sit out the next play, the Falcons’ last offensive play of the game. On the only play he missed, the Falcons scored their only touchdown.
“Anthony’s going to be a star in this league,’’ Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen said. “Of course, he already is.’’