An effort was made to determine why the Vikings slept through the first 22 minutes of Sunday's game against a Jaguars team that had lost 10 consecutive since its Week 1 victory.
Could it be, Mike Zimmer was asked, that the entire team was still gasping for air after being sucker-punched moments before kickoff by the news that All-Pro middle linebacker Eric Kendricks couldn't play because of a pregame calf injury?
"No," the Vikings coach said. "I don't think so."
OK, well, something sure wasn't right.
The Vikings trailed 9-0 in a game they'd win 27-24 on a 23-yard Dan Bailey field goal in overtime. They also trailed in total yards (221-20), first downs (11-2), plays (29-11), net passing yards (144-7) and time of possession (16:34-5:46) at the time.
But that's when "The Needle" — rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler — jabbed the Vikings back to life with the first interception of his career.
The Jaguars were looking to add to their lead when quarterback Mike Glennon threw from a clean pocket to tight end Eric Saubert. Dantzler read it beautifully, beat Saubert to the ball and wrestled it away from him at the Vikings 22.
"It was a nice play by [Dantzler]," Zimmer said. "They were running a drive route. It was good. It's the first pick one of our corners has gotten all year so that's a start."
Indeed, it was.
The offense looked entirely different after the interception. It marched 78 yards in 10 plays and closed to within three points, 9-6, on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen.
"That is momentum," receiver and fellow rookie Justin Jefferson said of Dantzler's interception. "Just giving that energy, that juice to go back on the field and to drive and go score. So, definitely, Cam had a great play. He had a couple great plays today."
Yes, he did.
The Vikings led 21-16 but had just gone three-and-out. The Jaguars had the ball near midfield with 5:39 left when Glennon completed a pass to Chris Conley, who gained 4 yards before being stripped of the ball by Dantzler.
Dantzler fell on the ball and became the only NFL rookie this season to have an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same game.
"Kudos to the defensive coordinator and Coach Zimmer," Dantzler said of his big day. "They called a great game and just put me in the right position to make plays."
The Vikings had four takeaways. While Dantzler's first one jump-started the slumbering Vikings, his second one gave them a 48-yard field goal and an eight-point cushion they would need as Dantzler and the pass defense faltered in the closing minutes of regulation.
It was Dantzler who allowed Collin Johnson to catch a 21-yard pass and the two-point conversion during Jacksonville's 75-yard game-tying drive. So, Dantzler wasn't perfect, but …
"Honestly," Zimmer said, "he continues to get better. Last week, he made some plays on the ball. This week, he made an interception and caused a fumble. He's missed some time [because of injuries] but he continues to get better."
A third-round pick out of Mississippi State, Dantzler is arguably the best of the team's ridiculously young corners. But he's also missed four games because of injuries.
He's now played three consecutive games, starting the past two. And his first career pick managed to shake an entire team awake.
"That came from film study and through things that [defensive backs coach Daronte] Jones taught us," Dantzler said. "He just said, 'Be disciplined with your eyes. Always think the ball's coming your way.' And that's what I did. … The offense went down there and scored, and we just kept it going from there."
And now the Vikings are back to .500 with Dantzler and fellow rookie Jeff Gladney having started a combined 17 games at corner.
"Gladney is playing well, too," Zimmer said. "So hopefully we'll be set at corner for a while."
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org