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LONDON — Twice a week, Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler get together to watch film. The conversations in team meetings or on the field, between the eight-time Pro Bowl player and the 2020 third-round pick trying to find his way, rarely stop.

"You can ask him; we talk almost endlessly," Peterson said. "I always tell him, if we don't give up touchdowns — him and I — we'll have a good opportunity to win the ballgame. The team wants to throw the ball into the end zone. And he and I have to stand up each and every week to help this team reach its potential."

Peterson has been there for some of Dantzler's tougher moments in Minnesota, like the winning touchdown Amon-Ra St. Brown caught in front of Dantzler and Xavier Woods as time expired in Detroit in December, or the 53-yard touchdown Jalen Hurts threw to Quez Watkins because of a coverage miscue from Dantzler in Week 2.

On Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, though, Dantzler came up with one of the Vikings' biggest plays in a 28-25 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Saints quarterback Andy Dalton tested him deep on a second-and 9 with just over two minutes to play, firing for Chris Olave as the Saints pursued a go-ahead touchdown. Dantzler broke the pass up in coverage, reaching out to deflect the ball as he dove, and the Saints had to settle for a 60-yard Wil Lutz field goal two plays later.

No one was happier for Dantzler than Peterson.

"Loved it. Loved it," Peterson said after the game. "It was a great play in a key moment of the game; he played it great. Face-guarded him, understood that the ball was being thrown over his shoulder, [put his] hands out to find the ball, found it late but then had to fight through the receiver to get the ball out. That was just an unbelievable play.

"Cam had probably one of his better games since we've been playing together this year. I'm just excited to see him continue to grow into a pro, into a shutdown corner as well."

Consistency from Dantzler becomes even more important with second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. continuing to miss time because of a quadriceps injury. When Dantzler left late in the third quarter Sunday because of an injury, Dalton quickly went after rookie Akayleb Evans, connecting with Marquez Callaway on a 34-yard go route. As the Vikings' young corners still work to show they can be counted on, Dantzler is a vital piece of their defense.

On Sunday, he ripped a pass away from Callaway for a breakup in the first quarter and nearly came down with an interception on a pass for Callaway in the third. In the fourth, he returned from injury in time to make what might have been a game-saving play.


How aggressive Kevin O'Connell is with his decisions: The coach quickly decided to go for it on the first fourth-down call of his career, choosing a play against the Packers he was so confident would work for the Vikings that he didn't seriously consider challenging whether Adam Thielen had earned a first down on the previous play.

O'Connell sent Justin Jefferson in motion across the Vikings' formation, and Kirk Cousins threw an easy touchdown pass in the Vikings' season-opening win. O'Connell has also pushed the pace at the end of the first half, calling pass plays after the Vikings took over at their own 8 with 31 seconds left last week against Detroit. The Vikings got to the Lions' 44, and would have sent Greg Joseph out for a long field goal had a Lions player not knocked the ball out of Garrett Bradbury's hand while he was trying to get it to an official to set it so Kirk Cousins could spike it.

On Sunday, by contrast, O'Connell was curiously conservative late in the second quarter. Rather than going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Saints' 10, he sent Joseph on for a 28-yard field goal after Cousins' third-down pass went through Johnny Mundt's hands. Decision-analysis metrics estimated the Vikings would have converted the fourth down about 66% of the time, saying the choice to go for it was clearly the right one.

O'Connell said Monday that he felt "very, very good" about the third-down play to Mundt but "didn't feel great" about the Vikings' chances of getting a yard against a Saints defensive front that had a strong day against Minnesota's offensive line.

"I thought with the momentum in the game, just making sure we got points right there was big for us," he added.

Then, after the Vikings got the ball back for one more possession following a Dalvin Tomlinson and Za'Darius Smith strip sack, O'Connell used just one of his three timeouts in the final minute, choosing not to call one after Cousins' first-down pass to Jefferson went for no gain with 56 seconds left. The clock ran down to 22 seconds before the Vikings' next play, and Joseph wound up kicking a 36-yard field goal with 3 seconds to go.

"Inevitably, we've gotta finish better in the red zone," O'Connell said. "We came from a game where we were 3-for-3 scoring touchdowns to, quite frankly, missing some opportunities there to maybe get seven instead of three, that could have changed the whole dynamic of that second half."

The coach's third-quarter choice to have Joseph try a 24-yard field goal, rather than attempting to convert a fourth-and-goal from the 6, was the right one according to decision metrics, and O'Connell has shown he'll push things when he feels the moment is right.


Second-half run defense: The Saints ran 16 times for 73 yards in the second half, running six times for 38 yards on their nine-play touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Alvin Kamara was out with a rib injury, but the Saints used veteran running backs Mark Ingram and Latavius Murray (as well as quarterback Taysom Hill) for a series of downhill runs in the second half. The Vikings' struggles to contain the run in the second half are worth keeping in mind after they have allowed 302 rushing yards in its past two games. Their next opponent, the Bears, have the third-most rushing yards in the league.