Now 2-1, the New York Giants are back on the road to try and salvage their defeat of last week. This time, it will be at the new US Bank Stadium to face the 3-0 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have been stellar in their last two matchups defeating the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, both perennial powerhouses in the NFC. To get an inside perspective on the Vikings mindset and how they have been so successful early in the season, The Giants beat goes Behind Enemy Lines to talk to the Viking Update’s Tim Yotter.
Scott Thompson: With Adrian Peterson out, do the Vikings change their offensive game plan, or do they trust McKinnon and Asiata to carry the same work load?
Tim Yotter: They continue to say they won’t change anything, but even with Peterson in the first two weeks, the Vikings passed more than they ran it because they weren’t effective running it. In the second week, they tried more runs to the outside and started to find success there before Peterson was hurt. Once again in Week 3, they were a little slow to try to run to the edge, but it seems they need to do that occasionally to loosen up the defense. McKinnon and Asiata will essentially combine to run as much as Peterson did, but they miss a little bit of his home-run speed. However, no matter the running back this year, the offensive line hasn’t opened holes, leading to the Vikings being last in rushing offense.
ST: After the past two weeks, Bradford has proved worthy of the starting role beating both the Packers and Panthers in consecutive weeks. Would you say this is Sam’s team right now?
TY: On offense, yes. Bradford has a strong arm and was very accurate against the Packers, including on deep balls. Against the Panthers last week, he wasn’t as accurate to start and didn’t have as much time to set up and throw. However, when the Vikings moved to a quick rhythm passing game to start the second half, the offense looked much better, which is to say they at least moved the ball. You might expect more of the same against the Giants, at least until the offensive line proves they can give him time to set up the deep ball.
ST: Let’s talk defense. The Vikings line has been stellar especially last week sacking Panthers QB Cam Newton eight times. Why do you think this line is so lethal?
TY: It’s a combination of scheme, great talent and great depth. Everson Griffen is a pass-rushing terror and Danielle Hunter, in his second year, doesn’t start but he’s a very good edge rusher in a rotational role as well. Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson are both very good passer rushers, too, with Joseph really improving that skill set this season (he has a sack in each of the first three games). As a whole, the Vikings lead the NFL with 15 sacks. It’s come mostly from the defensive line, but the linebackers and defensive backs all get involved with blitzes. [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer loves to show pressure, but only brings it about 25 to 30 percent of the time. The idea is to keep the offensive line and backs guessing who is coming and who is dropping into coverage. They can do that because their cornerbacks have shown they can be good cover guys downfield. Part of Newton’s problem is that he looked confused and held onto the ball too long. Eli Manning can’t make that mistake.
ST: Does Linval Joseph have a chip on his shoulder facing his former team this week?
TY: Honestly, I think he’s over it. He said the connections he had with the Giants are mostly gone. He is one of the most important players on this defense because the Vikings insist on stopping the run on first and second down to “earn” the chance to rush the passer. It has really become an impressive defense.
ST: How do you think the secondary will fare against the Giants threats on the outside in Beckham Jr., Cruz and Shepard?
TY: That is going to be a big storyline heading into this game, but I think the Vikings are as well-equipped as any team to handle it for a few reasons. First, they are able to generate pressure up front, which helps the back-end coverage. Second, they are pretty deep at cornerback, with five of them – Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn in the slot, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander – capable of taking on a lot of snaps. Rhodes can handle the more physical receivers and all of them can run with the faster receivers in the NFL.
ST: With Trae Waynes grabbing two interceptions in back-to-back weeks, do you think he will matchup against the Giants biggest threat in Odell Beckham Jr. all night?
TY: At times, the Vikings have used Rhodes to shadow bigger receivers, but I don’t think the Vikings will do that this week (at least at this early stage of the assessment). I think they have confidence that any of their cornerbacks can handle most receivers, and Zimmer is good about giving help over the top against the best ones.
ST: After last year’s blowout in Minnesota, do you think the Vikings are the clear favorite to win this game?
TY: In my estimation, I think one matchup will decide this game. If the Vikings offensive line can at least hold their own against the Giants’ formidable defensive line, then I think the Vikings win. Minnesota’s defense has had great success against Manning in the past, and this is likely the best defense they have had in all those years of facing him. The Vikings have a plus-8 turnover differential and if they win that statistic on Monday night, it bodes well for their chances once again. But if they can’t protect Bradford and can’t open holes in the running game better than they have been, then it could be one big play away from the Giants pulling off the upset, but Manning should be prepared for an incredibly loud U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night.