There were several very worthwhile candidates this week. Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff had himself one hell of a day with three and a half sacks against the Dolphins. Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware showed he still has some life in those old legs, coming home with three sacks against the 49ers. Ware's young counterpart Von Miller had two sacks and was in the backfield all night. Ravens "backup" outside linebackers Pernell McPhee and Elvis Dumervil also had two sacks apiece against the Falcons. However, I ended up picking Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen because not only did he notch three sacks against the Bills, but they all came at crucial points in the game.
This off-season the Vikings decided to move on from Jared Allen. They rewarded Griffen, a backup until this year, with a fat new contract betting that he would be able to replace Allen's pass rush presence. So far, so good on that wager. Griffen has seven sacks in seven games, one off his career high for a single season. He and the rest of the Vikings still lost to the Bills, but Griffen did everything in his power to try to prevent that. As a matter of fact, last drive of the game aside, it seemed like every time the Bills were threatening to take the lead, he would stand up and make a big play to hold them off. Unfortunately for the Vikings, he just didn't have one last big play left in him at the end of the game.
Sack No. 1
The Vikings had just scored a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter for a 10-7 lead. On the ensuing drive Bills running back C.J. Spiller broke off a 53-yard run that put his team in scoring position on the Vikings 15-yard line. Griffen helped to bring down running back Anthony Dixon on first down for a gain of four. Vikings rookie linebacker Anthony Barr broke up Kyle Orton's pass on second down, and the Bills were looking at third-and-six from the Vikings 11-yard line going in.
Griffen got off on the snap and initially tried to turn the corner around left tackle Cordy Glenn. Feeling that he was about to run too deep behind Orton, Griffen spun back inside just as Orton was trying to avoid defensive tackle Tom Johnson. Before Orton could take off out of the pocket for a first down or to try to get a pass off, Griffen grabbed him from behind and tackled him straight to the ground. The Bills would have to settle for a field goal after that play.
Sack No. 2
On Griffen's second sack the Vikings found themselves in a very similar position. This time they were up 13-10 in the third quarter, but the Bills were driving into their territory. The Bills had just crossed over into the red zone after a 3-yard run by fullback Frank Summers on second-and-2 giving them a new set of downs from the Vikings 17-yard line.
Griffen gave a head fake inside as he came out of his stance. Glen stopped his feet for a split second, just long enough for Griffen to beat him with an outside rush. Orton tried to step up in the pocket and away from Griffen's rush, but he couldn't get away from Griffen and ended up losing the ball. The Vikings recovered, and the Bills lost a great scoring opportunity thanks to Griffen's efforts. Mind you a sack-fumble is huge at any time, but it's especially huge if you can pull it off in the red zone.
Sack No. 3
Griffen was able to help force a punt with his third sack, which happened on the Bills' next series. The Bills were facing a third-and-5 on their own 18-yard line with the Vikings still clinging to a three point lead. This time Griffen ran a TEX pass rush game with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd where he started up the field like a speed rush and then looped inside to the A gap. Because the center slid away from them, Griffen was able to come through and get Orton on the ground yet again. Not only did that sack force the Bills to punt, it also helped get Minnesota the ball on their 49-yard line.
Now, Griffen didn't record another sack the rest of the game. He and Floyd ran that TEX game again a little later with a little less than eight minutes left in the game, and this time it was Floyd who sacked Orton to force a punt. Griffen did a good job of getting off the ball and getting Glen to set back which helped open things up for Floyd in the B gap. After he looped inside, he helped Floyd finish the tackle. Griffen doesn't get anything on the stat sheet for that play, but he definitely a big role in making it happen.
It sucks that Everson Griffen's great effort was wasted in what was literally a last second loss, but at the same time you sit back and realize that if he didn't make those plays, then the game might not have been close at all.
Big time players make big time plays at crucial times in the game. That's exactly what Griffen did last Sunday. That is why he is my Hoss Of The Week for Week 7.