Every true Vikings fan realizes the incredible career Antoine Winfield has had in Minnesota. Arguably the best tackler in the league, the undersized 5’9″, 180 pound cornerback has been a staple in the Vikings secondary for nearly a decade. While his efforts went unsung outside of our stately confines for awhile, he received the long overdue accolades of three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008-2010. After suffering a knee injury in 2011, many thought his effectiveness as a cornerback was over, but he has comeback this season with a vengeance.
Winfield’s reemergence and veteran presence this season has allowed the defense to improve drastically from last season. He has tallied 100 tackles, 3 interceptions, a fumble recovery and even combined for a sack. Winfield’s uncharacteristic but fiery speech after the Week 3 overtime loss in Indianapolis is a point that many inside that locker room have turned to as the catalyst for more inspired play this season over last. His presence on the field was felt immediately and consistently throughout the season.
His missing presence on the field in the second half of the Vikings-Packers Week 17 showdown was immediately noticeable as well. As ESPN’s Kevin Seifert discusses below, the game immediately shifted after Winfield did not return for the second half. Aaron Rodgers completed 30-yard and 45-yard pass plays to Greg Jennings on the second and fourth plays of the third quarter respectively. Rodgers went 17 for 21 for 262 yards and 3 TDs after halftime. The entire time, Winfield was forced to helplessly watch on the sidelines due to severe pain in his broken right hand. If last week is any indication, the Vikings ability to stop the Packers offense and Aaron Rodgers may rest dramatically on Winfield’s ability to be effective.
Winfield says he will be playing this weekend, but the pain clearly was too much for him last week. He’ll need a heavy dose of pain killers and that adrenaline to get going to keep him active throughout Saturday. We know he’ll be putting everything he has on the line, but who knows how effective he can be. It’s clearly one of the keys to the game.
In addition to Seifert’s video on Winfield’s importance to the Vikings defense, check out the Links of the Week from our friends at Vikings Territory. If you can’t focus at work and you need to devour every possible Vikings tidbit, that’s your place to go.