Vikings Snap Counts: Sendejo holds up at nickel

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer signals as safety Andrew Sendejo enters the game against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter.
Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Sunday’s wild-card clash in New Orleans, things did not look good for the Minnesota Vikings’ secondary.

The Vikings announced Friday that Mike Hughes had been placed on injured reserve and Mackensie Alexander would miss the game with a knee injury.

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Minnesota signed the franchise’s all-time leading punt returner Marcus Sherels to fill the void on special teams. But who would take over at nickel corner?

Head coach and defensive mastermind Mike Zimmer turned to Andrew Sendejo.

The veteran Sendejo had 109 NFL games under his belt but not a single snap at nickel. In fact, he had never played a down at nickel in his life.

It worked out just fine.

In addition to the 18 plays on special teams, Sendejo was on the field for 35 of Minnesota’s 56 defensive snaps at nickel. He filled in flawlessly, helping the Vikings defense hold Drew Brees to 208 passing yards and All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas to seven catches for 70 yards.

Sendejo wasn’t the only tweak Zimmer made in his defense. On passing downs, Zimmer slid Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen to the inside, sending Ifeadi Odenigbo and Stephen Weatherly to the field as defensive ends. Odenigbo played 22 snaps while Weatherly was on the field for 20.

Other notes from Sunday’s snap counts:

— Wide receiver Alexander Hollins was on the field for exactly one snap — a third-and-8 with seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Kirk Cousins targeted Hollins on the play, but the undrafted rookie couldn’t complete the catch.

— Anthony Harris played all 56 defensive snaps at safety and captured his seventh interception of the season.

— Rookie running back Alexander Mattison saw his first action since suffering an injury in the Vikings’ 20-7 win over Detroit on Dec. 8. Mattison was on the field for 14 snaps and rushed five times for 20 yards. He also made one catch for 10 yards on two targets.

PLAYOFFS, GAME 1: VS. SAINTS (OFFENSE)

PLAYER PLAYS (79) %
Kline 79 100%
Reiff 79 100%
Cousins 79 100%
Bradbury 79 100%
Elflein 79 100%
O’Neill 78 99%
Rudolph 72 92%
Diggs 66 84%
Thielen 66 84%
Cook 62 78%
Smith 44 56%
Johnson 27 34%
Ham 22 28%
Conklin 16 20%
Mattison 14 18%
Abdullah 3 4%
Hill 1 1%
Dozier 1 1%
Hollins 1 1%

PLAYOFFS, GAME 1: VS. SAINTS (DEFENSE)

PLAYERS PLAYS (56) %
Harris 56 100%
Barr 56 100%
H. Smith 56 100%
Kendricks 56 100%
Waynes 53 95%
Hunter 50 89%
Griffen 48 86%
Rhodes 48 86%
Joseph 37 66%
Sendejo 35 62%
Odenigbo 22 39%
Weatherly 20 36%
Wilson 17 30%
Hill 14 25%
J. Johnson 8 14%
Holmes 6 11%
Boyd 1 2%