Lions' Ansah shrugs off TD-saving takedown

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Chandler's Cross, England — Ziggy Ansah, the Lions' top edge rusher, made the impressive play sound so simple, but other people with the Lions couldn't hide their amazement.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran for 75 yards, most of it down the sideline opposite where Ansah lined up for the snap. Without Ansah racing to catch him, Peterson would've had a 78-yard touchdown.

"I just ran after him," Ansah said Thursday. "I saw him break some tackles on the other side, and I just go, man, anything I can do to stop him from getting to the end zone."

Ansah accomplished that goal, and after the incredible display of speed and persistence, the Lions limited Minnesota to a field goal. Had the Lions won the game instead of losing in embarrassing fashion to fall to 1-6, Ansah's play likely would've been the key highlight.

Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata called it the best play he's seen by a defensive lineman.

"You see the backside D-end make a pursuit and actually catch one of the best running backs in the league, it's pretty amazing," he said.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin called the play "unbelievable," and one of the first things he said to Ansah after the game was how great his effort was on the tackle. Peterson said after the game he tried to find Ansah to compliment him, though he didn't have the chance.

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Meanwhile, as Ansah described the play Thursday, he said little other than to give credit to safety Glover Quin for slowing Peterson down just enough to ensure Ansah's sprinting paid off.

Ansah's aw-shucks attitude regarding the play is just another window into his personality. Off the field, he's quiet and reserved, showing the most emotion when talking about his excitement to visit his sister and her two children while the Lions are in London this week. His sister cooked Ghanaian food for him, and the chance to see her makes him feel at home in yet another foreign land.

Ansah is quiet on the field, too, but he's played as loudly as anyone on the Lions defense this year with a team-high six sacks, tied for fifth-most in the NFL.

"When he gets out on the field, he's a different guy and I like it," Austin said. "He's the guy I like.

"He's real quiet, but you can see, he has some emotion, he has some get-after-it on the field and that's very important."

Ngata, who's similarly reserved off the field, said he's glad to be a part of Ansah's career now that he's in Detroit.

"He's so chill," Ngata said. "You don't really get much out of him and then you see him on the football field, you're just like, 'Wow, where did that come from?'"

The fifth overall pick in 2013, Ansah is in the midst of a career year in his third season. He's happy to be close to his goal of double-digit sacks, but said he could "definitely be better," especially if his play can lead to more victories.

"He's one of the main guys in our front who's really causing some damage up there, and teams are paying more attention to him," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "So, he not only is playing better, but he's dealing with double teams and things like that, and he's still able to make plays for us."