Purple heaven

MINNEAPOLIS – The Giants were desperately looking for a hero. A defensive player to come up with the big play in the clutch. How many of you had Frank Walker in your office pools? Yes, it was New York's rookie sixth-round pick, playing nickel back for the first time this season, that made the pivotal play, turning in an INT when the Giants needed it most.

"It was my time to make a play and I made my play," Walker said.

The offense continued to come through, as it mostly had all game long, when Ike Hilliard grabbed his second TD of the game and the perfect Vikings were perfect no longer. Big Blue likely saved its season at the Metrodome, improving to 3-4 by topping the Vikings, 29-17.

"I'm just happy to get out of here with a win," said RB Tiki Barber, whose 2-yard TD run gave Big Blue the lead for good. "This gets us off our slide. The NFL's all about momentum and now we have some positive momentum."

Walker kept New York's momentum alive. On Minnesota's first play following Barber's go-ahead score with 5:29 to play, Walker stepped in front of Daunte Culpepper's pass to WR Keenan Howry. He picked off the pass at the Vikings 35 and returned it 18 yards.

"I read the three-step drop and just broke on the ball," Walker said. "I really wanted to score, but I just tripped on the turf."

Walker's heroics were just one small part of a rugged defensive effort that allowed Culpepper and Randy Moss to hurt them, but not destroy them. Moss finished with 125 yards and two scores on seven catches, but came out on the losing end.

"Our defense played outstanding," Jim Fassel said. "That's the number one offense in the league."

Offensively, New York was playing behind yet another O-line. But according to several players, the main difference in this Giants gameplan compared to the three previous losses was that they threw the ball downfield.

"We all told the linemen to just do whatever they had to to protect Kerry," Barber said. "We were going to throw the ball as much as we needed to."

Collins finished the contest with 375 yards on 23 completions, a pair of scores and an INT.

"The guys on this team showed a lot of character," Collins said. "To come up here and get a win and play the way we did should give us a lot of confidence."

The Giants stayed the course, sticking to a plan that had them clinging to a 13-10 halftime lead. But the locker room was calm.

"We just kept to our gameplan," MLB Micheal Barrow said. "Once we started getting to the QB in the second half, their whole passing game was shut down. The biggest difference in the second half was (Michael) Strahan and the D-line."

That, and Jeremy Shockey's 46-yard catch-and-run that set up Barber's score.

"That was a huge play," Collins said. "That was probably the turning point of the game. I was under some heat, but I was able to get it to him. We needed a big play. The momentum change was huge."

The Vikes struck first, marching to a 51-yard Aaron Elling field goal on the game's first drive. Moss's 17-yard grab on third-and-10 kept the march in motion.

New York had an immediate answer, smoothly moving 76 yards in only six plays, and taking the lead when Hilliard scored on a 19-yard catch-and-run. Shockey chipped in a beautiful leaping grab and Barber did the rest, gaining 41 yards on three carries and a catch.

The defense did its part early on, as rookie Osi Umenyiora busted through the line and dropped Moss for a 12-yard loss on a reverse.

"The coaches were telling me about that play all week," Umenyiora explained. "They must have figured that they'd run it. I just read the play and it happened pretty much like it did in practice."

CB Will Allen, who played pretty well overall, then made a terrific defensive play on Moss, breaking up a long pass near New York's goal line at the final second, stripping Moss as he tried to secure the ball.

New York blew a golden opportunity early in the second quarter. The Giants marched all the way to the Minnesota 9-yard line when Collins was picked off by Vikings CB Corey Chavous. Collins, rolling right, failed to recognize a wide-open Shockey, instead forced the ball to Amani Toomer, and suffered his 10th INT of the season as a result.

The Giants had to settle for a 20-yard Brett Conway FG even through they had a first-and-goal at the Vikings 3-yard line following Tim Carter's 30-yard grab. One Barber run and two ill-advised Collins passes to Shockey weren't enough to get New York across the goal line.

Moss briefly took over from there, grabbing a 35-yard Culpepper pass and then beating Allen for a 33-yard TD on the next play.

The Giants took the lead into halftime compliments of a 44-yard Conway FG. New York had a legitimate gripe the play before the three-pointer when Carter was blatantly interfered with by Minnesota DB Denard Walker near the goal line.

Conway's 37-yarder extended Big Blue's cushion early in the third period.

But the Vikings – and Moss in particular – weren't finished. After Nate Burleson's 32-yard catch, Culpepper rolled out and found Moss for a 1-yard TD and a 17-16 Minnesota lead.

New York finally appeared to get the break it needed, when LB Wes Mallard picked up a blocked Jeff Feagles punt and gained 20 yards and a first down, but the offense couldn't capitalize.

"I'm not going to apologize for being lucky because we've been unlucky around here for a while," Collins said.

"That might be the first time this year that we've gotten a break," Fassel said.

Shockey's huge catch-and-run set up Barber's two-yard run that gave New York a 22-17 lead with 5:29 to play. Hilliard couldn't come up with Collins' pass on New York's two-point conversion try.

But it all became a moot point when Walker picked off Culpepper and Hilliard's TD sealed the deal.

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