Unsung Hero: Xavier Woods

Despite a 20-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Halloween night, Minnesota Vikings safety Xavier Woods turned in his best game of the season. The former Cowboy played with tenacity and provided some of the only defensive highlights of the game for a team that struggled otherwise against quarterback Cooper Rush.

Xavier Woods’ Sunday Performance

The highlights began on the Cowboys’ second drive of the game.  Down 7-0, Rush dropped back to pass out of shotgun and fired over the middle in the direction of tight end Blake Jarwin. But the pass lacked velocity, and Vikings’ safety Harrison Smith popped the ball in the air, allowing Woods to get under it and give Minnesota the ball at their own 40-yard line.

Tied 13-13 with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, Woods added another highlight play in his revenge game. Lined up at the end of the left side of the defensive line, Woods screamed off the edge on a blitz. Rush never saw Woods blitz off the front side of the line, and Woods delivered the wood, sacking Rush and forcing a fumble that was recovered at the Minnesota 48-yard line by linebacker Anthony Barr. Unfortunately, the Vikings’ offense subsequently went three-and-out.

In total, Pro Football Focus graded Woods as the Vikings’ second-best defender on Sunday night with a grade of 81.3. It trailed only linebacker Eric Kendricks. Woods was also credited with three “stops”, plays that PFF considers as “offensive failures”. In addition, they concluded that not a single pass was thrown into Woods’ coverage all night.

Conclusion

It was a career game for the fifth-year safety. Xavier Woods showed the Minnesota Vikings that he was capable of not only starting but also being a playmaker. It was also the fourth game in a row that he posted a PFF grade of 70 or higher, helping give him a season grade of 76.1, the fifth-highest on the team.

Woods is outperforming the one-year deal that he signed in the off-season. If he continues to play like this, the Vikings would be wise to bring him back for the 2022 season, regardless of who the head coach and general manager are.