The only thing coach Mike Zimmer asked of his strong safety this week was to make safe plays. But which strong safety would get a chance in that role was unknown until Andrew Sendejo was announced as the starter 90 minutes before the Vikings home opener Sunday.
Sendejo solidified the middle of the Vikings secondary against one of the NFL’s top passers and wide receivers in a 26-16 victory over the Detroit Lions at TCF Bank Stadium. He assisted on five tackles and kept big names like Pro Bowl receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate from breaking loose for extra yardage. He also recovered a fumble and returned it 28 yards to the Lions 6-yard-line.
“We had a few long drives there at the end, but we were able to get them in a lot of third-and-long,” said Sendejo. “We didn’t give up any big plays and big shots down the field. So that was good. And we got a few turnovers, so that was good, too.”
Sendejo had a hand in the first of three Lions turnovers, on the first drive of the second half. Quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Lance Moore for 5 yards before Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn stripped the ball. Sendejo scooped it up and fell just shy of giving the Vikings a two-touchdown lead.
“You know what you’re going to get from ’Drew,” Munnerlyn said. “ ’Drew is going to go out there and compete and tackle and he’s going to communicate.
“I don’t think he is looking over his shoulder or anything like that. We knew that he was going to be the starting safety, and he went out there and competed well.”
Sendejo also earned the start in Week 1 and made a big play on special teams when he blocked a field goal early in the first quarter against San Francisco. However, late in the game he was replaced by Robert Blanton, who started all five preseason games.
Zimmer referred to the safety position as a fluid situation leading up to Week 2 and labeled it as a spot where he wants someone to make safe plays, not spectacular ones. Sendejo did a little bit of both on Sunday.
“I don’t get caught up in all that. I just go out there and play,” Sendejo said. “If they tell me to come out on defense, I’ll come out on defense. If they tell me to go out on special teams, I’ll go out on special teams. I just do as they say and I do the best I can.
“It was good to bounce back and get a win.”
Vikings defensive end Justin Trattou’s first career interception was probably the final blow for the Lions in Sunday’s game.
Trattou picked off Stafford early in the fourth quarter at midfield and rumbled 11 yards before Stafford hauled him down. The pick led to the Vikings’ final scoring drive.
“I played it well with my hands and had plenty of time to get my hands up and he threw it to me and I caught it,” Trattou said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to score, but it was a good play. … I gotta have a better run next time.”
The 258-pound defensive end dropped a similar interception opportunity in the preseason against Oakland. On Sunday, he made the catch look easy. The turnover came right after Harrison Smith had an interception that was nullified by a pass interference penalty.
“It was definitely a dagger putting them on their heels,” Trattou said. “Just a great way to go out there and finish a game.”
Walsh misses another
After spending extra time at TCF Bank Stadium throughout the week, kicker Blair Walsh still had a glitch, missing one of his three extra point attempts. He made both field goal tries, of 28 and 23 yards.
“I felt good coming into the week and it was nice to make the two field goals,” Walsh said. “Obviously you want to make that extra point, but the field goals are the most important thing you do and you gotta put it through.”
Walsh said he didn’t hit the missed extra point as cleanly as he would have liked.
“I’m sure I’ll get some heat for the extra point [miss],” he said. “But I gotta focus on me and doing my job.”
Eagan native Zach Zenner had his return home as an NFL rookie spoiled on Sunday. The Lions running back didn’t get any carries but did see some playing time.
“It was cool,” the former South Dakota State standout said. “I never played here growing up, so I don’t have any memories here, and obviously I watched the Vikings in the Metrodome. Not a lot of experience at TCF, so it was cool to come back and play here.”
• Zimmer took a subtle poke at the officiating during his postgame news conference. When breaking down Johnson’s late second-quarter touchdown reception, Zimmer said he didn’t see it because he was watching “our right defensive end getting held at that point,” followed by a quick wink.
• Adrian Peterson set a team record for the most career combined net yards (12,577) with the 192 he gained on Sunday. Peterson passed Cris Carter, who held the record of 12,410 from 1990-2001.