PHILADELPHIA – File under things you didn’t expect to see on Sunday afternoon: Linval Joseph running 64 yards at 18 miles per hour for a touchdown. But under things Minnesota Vikings fans needed to see was Carson Wentz running for his life — and they got plenty of that in the Vikings’ 23-21 win at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Vikings defensive line sacked Wentz three times for a loss of 28 yards and pressured him throughout the game. They came up with the biggest play of the night with the game tied at three with 4:12 remaining in the first half. Defensive end Stephen Weatherly stripped Wentz and the ball popped into the hands of Joseph, who took it all the way for a touchdown to put the Vikings up 10-3.
“I told myself: Just run as fast as you can,” said Joseph, who was dressed in a pink suit for breast cancer awareness night.
“We needed some points, we needed big plays and that was a big play, I felt like that jump started us to go out there and get a win,” Joseph added.
Joseph said that he talked to the team before the game, which represented a potential turning point in the Vikings’ season.
“Last year we were 13-3 last year and they came and embarrassed us,” Joseph said. “I told the team before the game that this game means a lot to me, it means a lot to coach Zimmer and we have to play together and give it our all.”
Weatherly’s strong play was especially important considering he’s filling the big shoes of Everson Griffen. He was able to beat star tackle Lane Johnson on a number of plays to force Wentz off his spot in the pocket.
“He’s getting better, he’s accepting this role and he’s trying to get better each and every day,” Joseph said of Weatherly.
The 2016 seventh-round pick has been groomed over the last three years to be ready for a circumstance such as this. He had shown flashes of exceptional pass rush skills in his first two games, but was an impact player for the entire game on Sunday.
“I’m learning every game,” Weatherly said. “I learn something new about me. I learn what I’m get at, I learn what I default to, I learn how I pass rush, how I play when I’m tired and those are the things I work on in practice. But you don’t know until you get in there a mix it up. I get to find out my weaknesses now and work on them throughout the week.”
The Vikings needed versatility from their line. Rookie Jalyn Holmes mixed in for the first time and Joseph saw time in third down packages where he would normally be getting rest on the sideline.
“If they need me to play fullback, I can do that too,” Joseph said.