Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa was on the field for just eight plays Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.
But he made his name known.
In the second quarter of the Vikings’ 21-16 loss to the Packers, Mata’afa stopped Green Bay running back Jamaal Williams for a loss of six yards, forcing a punt two plays later. Then on the next drive, Mata’afa jumped on a loose ball after a bad exchange between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and center Corey Linsley.
Mata’afa, who played 28 snaps last week (36%) against Atlanta, saw his playing time decrease because of the game situation, not because of a poor performance. Mata’afa is used almost exclusively in the nickel package. Since Green Bay jumped out to a 21-0, the Packers turned to the running game, meaning the Vikings weren’t in that package too often down the stretch.
Mata’afa has been activated in back-to-back weeks over fellow defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes, a fourth-round pick in 2018.
The way Mata’afa is playing, we don’t see that changing any time soon.