The strong safety: Harrison Smith steadies Vikings defense
By GENARO C. ARMAS
Dec. 24, 2017
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Harrison Smith can be a man of few words and big plays.
The Minnesota Vikings safety keeps things simple when he's on the field.
A two-interception night in a 16-0 win over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday left no doubt just how valuable Smith is to one of the best defenses in the league.
Already champs of the NFC North, the Vikings seem to be finishing the regular season strong, with the playoffs approaching and a first-round playoff bye within reach.
"We'll see," Smith said Saturday night when asked if the defense was peaking. "A shutout's cool, though."
It was the first time that Minnesota had held an opponent scoreless since 1993, and the first time it had shut out the Packers since 1971.
Smith, as usual, was right in the middle of the action with a team-high eight tackles along with two pass deflections. It was the first two-interception game of his career.
The six-year veteran played like a Pro Bowler, even if he didn't make the NFC roster this season.
"He deserves to be Pro Bowl, All-Pro — all the accolades. He's well-deserving of them and he proved that today," linebacker Anthony Barr said.
Smith ended Green Bay's most promising drive with an interception at the Minnesota 5 late in the second quarter.
He picked off his second pass with 2:04 left in the game on fourth-and-1 near midfield.
"We're only up two scores. A touchdown, and onside kick, you never know what can happen in this league," Smith said.
Although the outcome on Saturday night was as close to predictable as this series could get with the Vikings' second-ranked defense matching up against backup quarterback Brett Hundley and the Packers' injury-depleted offense. Even the frozen turf at Lambeau Field couldn't slow down Minnesota's D.
By the end of the game, the pockets of purple-clad Vikings fans who braved the arctic chill were celebrating like they were at U.S. Bank Stadium. They swept the season series from Green Bay for the first time since 2009.
"We had the 'Skol' train going," said Smith, referring to the fans' trademark chant.
Consider Smith the engineer in the secondary.
Smith has tied a career high with five interceptions heading into next week's regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears. He leads the Vikings with 11 pass deflections, and second in tackles with 72 behind linebacker Eric Kendricks (110).
In 11 games against the Packers, Smith has five interceptions, eight pass deflections and six tackles for losses.
"I've had some good safeties in my time, but this kid is instinctive, tough, physical, great kid, smart, great leader," coach Mike Zimmer said. "There are so many adjectives you could say about him."