Lost in the loss: Everson Griffen dominated the Packers

One of the biggest questions for the Minnesota Vikings heading into the 2019 season is whether defensive end Everson Griffen would return to Pro Bowl form after missing time and showing inconsistency down the stretch of the 2018 season. Through two weeks, the Vikings have their answer: He is back.

Through two weeks, Griffen is tied with Green Back Packers rusher Zadarius Smith and teammate Danielle Hunter for the NFL lead in QB pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Following a strong Week 1 in which he posted four pressures on Matt Ryan and head coach Mike Zimmer said that Griffen looked like his old self, the 31-year-old rusher had an incredible day against the Packers, pressuring Aaron Rodgers 11 times.

To put his early-season numbers in context, Griffen’s highest pressure total on an opposing QB  after his Week 9 return from a mental health issue was six against the woeful Detroit Lions. His combined pressure from Week 11 through Week 17 added up to just 14 pressures — one less than he has through two weeks of 2019.

Throughout the Zimmer era in Minnesota, Griffen has been one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL. He has ranked in the top 20 among edge rushers in pressures every year from 2014-2017, finishing as high as seventh in 2015.

Sunday’s performance was particularly impressive because it came against Green Bay’s star left tackle David Bakhtiari. While the terrific lineman was dinged up with a back injury he has still been consistently an elite player throughout his career, grading as the No. 1 tackle in the NFL in 2018 by PFF.

The two players had epic battles last season as Griffen pressured Rodgers six times and registered two sacks in the NFC North contests. This Sunday’s game was Griffen’s best performance against Bakhtiari since 2015, when he pressured Rodgers nine times and had two sacks.

Griffen’s strong play has fueled a quality start to the season for the Vikings defense. Through two weeks they have given up just 6.4 yards per pass attempt and rank eighth with 33 points allowed.