SAN FRANCISCO -- When asked about his secret to NFL success at age 37, Terence Newman likes to say, "Red wine." Not far from Napa Valley on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings cornerback showed he's aging like a vintage merlot.
Newman intercepted two passes, nearly took away a third and finished with five passes defensed in the Vikings' 30-14 win over the Raiders. His interception of Derek Carr in the end zone set up Adrian Peterson's back-breaking 80-yard touchdown run on Sunday, and Peterson said he owed Newman for taking a knee in the end zone, given how much space the cornerback had in front of him to run.
"It seems like he’s better with his age," Captain Munnerlyn said. "He’s going out there and he had two interceptions. I don’t know if a corner ever did that in a game. I know Charles Woodson has, but he plays safety. [Terence], he’s doing a great job. He’s coming up big and he’s been a leader on this team. I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Munnerlyn's not far off. In fact, Newman is just the sixth player in NFL history to post a two-interception game at age 37 or older. The 39-year-old Woodson did it this season, while playing safety, and Rod Woodson had three at age 37 in 2002, but he was playing safety for the Raiders. The only other cornerback to do it? Deion Sanders, on Oct. 24, 2004.
The Vikings signed Newman to a one-year deal in the offseason, reuniting him with coach Mike Zimmer for a third time. The two have a unique player/coach relationship, and Zimmer's trust in Newman made him believe he could still be a solid left cornerback at his age. And on balance, Newman has had a solid season for the Vikings, allowing them to take their time with first-round pick Trae Waynes.
"That’s what he does. He plays good. He’s consistent. He’s a great competitor," Zimmer said. "I’ve said this a lot about my football players, he’s a very good football player, but he’s an even better person. He helps a lot of young guys. He does a great job with the secondary.”
Here is a review of the Vikings defense after Sunday's win:
Total defensive plays: 64
Brian Robison: 62
Everson Griffen: 58
Linval Joseph: 46
Tom Johnson: 44
Sharrif Floyd: 23
Danielle Hunter: 22
Notes: At just over 21, Hunter is settling into a consistent role in the Vikings' defense. Joseph's sack came Sunday when he flattened Derek Carr and cleaned up Hunter's pressure on the quarterback. The Vikings again had Hunter rushing from a two-point stance on third downs; Zimmer told him to start doing that a few weeks ago, when he noticed the lanky defensive end's tendency to rise up out of his three-point stance anyway. The Vikings continued moving Robison inside on third downs, and used Johnson in more of his typical role as a nickel rusher with Floyd back. Joseph's Pro Bowl stock has been on the rise for weeks, and he manhandled the Raiders with center Rodney Hudson out on Sunday. He had eight combined tackles, including one for loss, and a sack. The fact the Vikings have effectively shortened their defensive end rotation to three should cause some concern for Scott Crichton, their third-round pick from a year ago who didn't play a defensive snap Sunday.
Notes: Greenway played his first full game at middle linebacker on Sunday -- though as he pointed out, he technically didn't start there after the Vikings opened the game in their nickel package -- and the 32-year-old filled in admirably for Eric Kendricks, posting a combined eight tackles. Barr had his left hand in a cast on Sunday, and had to ask Greenway to zip up his hooded sweatshirt for him after the game. The fact the second-year linebacker was still able to make six tackles while playing without full use of his hand is impressive. Watts said last week he's more comfortable than he was during his rookie year, and after winding up on the practice squad at the end of the preseason, he's making the most of his chances while Kendricks is out.
Harrison Smith: 64
Andrew Sendejo: 64
Xavier Rhodes: 64
Terence Newman: 53
Trae Waynes: 11
Notes: Smith flattened Amari Cooper after a 15-yard gain in the second quarter, and initially was flagged for a personal foul. As violent as the hit was, Smith hit Cooper with textbook technique, drilling him with his shoulder and keeping his head out of the hit. It was a hard tackle, but it's about as clean a hard hit as a player can make in the modern NFL. Rhodes was flagged for a holding penalty the Raiders declined after Cooper beat Sendejo on a jump ball in the second quarter; both of the Raiders' deep passes to Cooper were with Sendejo in coverage. The Vikings got Waynes on the field at the end of the game, giving the rookie a few snaps on the Raiders' last drive once Minnesota had put things out of reach.