The 4 Standout Performers from Vikings 1st Win

harrison smith
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It took 266 days.

On January 8th, 2023, the Minnesota Vikings downed the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, a quasi-meaningless game as the purple team had already sewn up its playoff spot while the Bears were jostling for draftboard positioning.

The 4 Standout Performers from Vikings 1st Win

And then that was the last time Minnesota won a game, thereafter losing a postseason game at home to the New York Giants, three preseason games, and three regular season contests to start 2023.

Performers from Vikings
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But Minnesota finally got off the schneid Sunday, defeating the Carolina Panthers 21-13 in a season-saving event thanks to gutsy efforts by many.

These were the top four Vikings performers in Week 4, with the disclaimer that Justin Jefferson was excluded, as his heroism is no longer breaking news.

4. Cam Akers (RB)

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Welcome to Minnesota.

Akers became an immediate contributor in Week 4, about a week and a half after the Vikings swung a crazy-low-stakes trade with the Los Angeles Rams for the former 2nd-Round draft pick. His debut in purple? Not bad.

His 7.2 yards per touch against the Panthers was the most by a Vikings running back in a debut game with the team (minimum 5 touches) since Adrian Peterson in 2007. Akers tallied 51 yards from scrimmage on 7 touches.

Going forward and on Sunday, Akers complemented the Vikings rushing attack quite well.

3. D.J. Wonnum (OLB)

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Wonnum banked 6 tackles, 2 QB Hits, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, and a touchdown in Carolina.

And that was after a slow start to 2023 filling in for free-agent newcomer Marcus Davenport, who missed most of the first three games this season. Wonnum showed up in a mammoth way in Week 4, and if the Vikings turn 2023 into something meaningful, this play will be remembered as the undeniable spark:

2. Marcus Davenport (OLB)

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Cam Akers wasn’t the only player with a Welcome to Minnesota performance. Davenport got in on the fun, too, finally playing in Brian Flores’ defense following an early-season absence due to an ankle injury.

The ex-New Orleans Saint tabulated 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and a QB hit. He showed the world and Vikings fans why general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made the EDGE rusher a keynote offseason addition. Fans were restless — for some reason — about his injury, but Davenport turned those naysayers quiescent on Sunday.

Here’s the pivotal 4th Quarter sack on Bryce Young:

1. Harrison Smith (S)

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Smith turned back the clock in a must-win game for the Vikings, resembling 2015 Hitman and dragging his club to victory. The veteran became the first player in NFL history to notch 14+ sacks, 3 sacks, and a tackle for loss in a single game.

Unbelievably, Minnesota needed every ounce of Smith’s throwback production, and if you scroll back up to the D.J. Wonnum touchdown, Smith was the guy who jarred the ball loose.

Without the existence of Harrison Smith, you’d be reading about a 0-4 Vikings team at this very moment.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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