Safety Harrison Smith’s leaping interception — the 22nd for No. 22 — in the third quarter of Sunday’s 20-7 win against the Lions helped the Vikings tie their longest streak for most consecutive games with a takeaway under head coach Mike Zimmer.
The defense has at least one takeaway in nine straight games, a run also accomplished last season and the franchise’s longest such streak since 2004 (10 games). Creating takeaways was a major point of emphasis last offseason and, on that front, the defense is living up to expectations.
“We need more than [one] a game,” Smith said. “When you’re getting a bunch of sacks, too, that’s covering up balls in the air. If we can get sacks and takeaways, we’re going to have a good shot.”
Lions quarterback David Blough threw two interceptions, including a second to safety Andrew Sendejo in the closing minutes, during the rookie’s second NFL start. Smith is seventh on the Vikings’ all-time interception list, trailing only Paul Krause (53), Bobby Bryant (51), Ed Sharockman (40), Joey Browner (37), Nate Wright (31) and Carl Lee (29).
“It’s cool,” Smith said. “I still want more. DBs are greedy by nature.”
Cornerbacks Rhodes, Hughes both injured
The Vikings’ cornerback rotation was interrupted when Xavier Rhodes limped toward the sideline medical tent in the third quarter after twisting his right ankle on the turf trying to avoid a collision with Smith during his interception. Rhodes did not return. Neither did cornerback Mike Hughes, who rotated with and eventually replaced Rhodes at right cornerback, after sustaining an oblique injury in the fourth quarter.
Holton Hill, whom Zimmer called a “work in progress,” finished the game at right cornerback.
“A couple guys got dinged,” Zimmer said, “so we had to change the rotation a little bit.”
The Vikings’ injured list was short compared to Detroit. The Lions lost cornerback Darius Slay, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, right tackle Rick Wagner and linebacker Jarrad Davis to injuries at points during Detroit’s sixth straight loss. Slay returned in the first half.
A ‘special moment’
As NFL players paid tribute to their charitable causes through Sunday’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative, fullback C.J. Ham wore his mother Tina’s image on his shoes with the words, “You’re the strongest person in the world.” Tina Ham is nearly two years into a battle with pancreatic cancer. Ham left the Vikings locker room to join his family near the end of a halftime ceremony honoring his mom and others.
“It was special,” Ham said. “Wish I was out there to see everything, see the story, but to see her when I went back out there — to see the smile on her face and see the rest of my family — was special.”
Left tackle Riley Reiff rebounded quickly from the concussion suffered in Seattle, clearing the five-step protocol six days later despite practicing once Friday as a limited participant. Reiff started against the Lions, the team that drafted him in 2012’s first round, and played every snap.
Reiff surrendered some noticeable pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins, including a third-down hit affecting a throw to Diggs and a fourth-quarter sack by Lions defensive end Trey Flowers.
First catch, and last?
Center Garrett Bradbury had his first — and what he hopes is his last — NFL reception Sunday after corralling a deflected Cousins pass in the third quarter. Bradbury was credited with a 4-yard loss on the catch, something he hadn’t done since he played both ways for Charlotte Christian School in North Carolina.
“Played tight end in high school,” Bradbury said. “Hopefully I don’t have any more receptions after that.”