Defense throws blanket over Culpepper, Vikes

MINNEAPOLIS – Before the game, Michael Strahan told his defensive mates that the Vikings were worried about New York. Sure Minnesota was scoring at will with Daunte Culpepper throwing TD pass after TD pass against everyone else. But, the Vikings, especially Culpepper, have struggled mightily against the Giants in the past few years. <BR><BR>

"We know how good they are," Strahan said. "But I told everyone that they didn't know what they're going to get from us."

What they got was a near-perfect defensive display, as the league's top offensive club was limited to a total of 324 yards and 13 garbage-time points.

"They can do it to other people," Strahan said afterward. "But they're not going to do it to us."

Kevin Lewis wouldn't allow it, as he turned the game squarely in New York's favor on only the contest's fourth play, recovering a Minnesota fumble when Mewelde Moore couldn't handle Culpepper's lateral pass.

"After the (Detroit) game to get one on the first series was tremendous," Lewis said.

"He was the only guy who knew it was a live ball," Strahan said of Lewis. "That was a very heads-up play. It was a great way to get started."

When Lewis didn't hear any whistles he just played on.

"I know that (Moore) didn't have a clue that it was live," Lewis said. "He should have been the one to fall on it."

Instead it was Lewis, who picked up the free ball and returned it 16 yards, setting up the game-opening field goal.

"Once he dropped it my whole attention and focus went to getting that ball," Lewis said.

It was typical of the Giants, who seem to always be prepared for everything.

"They run that play a lot," Lewis said. "They really like that play."

"We were preparing for the bubble screen," Tom Coughlin said. "We were preparing for it all week long. Kevin did an outstanding job preparing for it. It was a lateral, he stayed with it and it turned into a big turnover. That was a heads-up play."

So was Gibril Wilson's INT, which thwarted the Vikings as they tried to cut into New York's early 10-0 lead.

"We were in a Cover-8," Wilson explained. "And I don't think (Culpepper) saw me. The tight end (Jermaine Wiggins) had a step on me so I had to close some ground. He didn't see me and I was able to get to the ball."

Then Wilson showed great instincts returning the pick 39 yards.

"Gibril's an excellent player," Will Allen said. "He's very athletic."

Allen got into the turnover mix as well, picking off Culpepper early in the third quarter when the Vikes were desperately trying to mount a comeback.

His pick and return gave the Giants the ball near midfield. Minutes later they were in the end zone again with a 27-0 lead.

All this happened, of course, with the dangerous Randy Moss on the sideline. Moss, bothered by a hamstring injury, was limited to only 10 plays and no catches. Allen said he wished that Moss were in the game so that the Giants defense wouldn't have to answer questions about his absence. New York's defense is playing so well they want to take on all comers.

"We have 11 guys on the field flying around trying to get the ball on every play," Lewis said.

"We had guys everywhere," added Nick Greisen, who played very well for the second week in a row. "We showed them a lot of different stuff."

Strahan believed it wasn't a matter of New York confusing Culpepper, but rather the aggressive Giants defense scaring the Vikings into max protection on most plays. As a result, they had fewer players available to run routes and the Giants secondary was able to feast on the Vikes receivers.

"They were robbing Peter to pay Paul," Strahan said. "That's never going to work."

At this rate, with Tim Lewis' defensive troops flying so high, you'd be hard-pressed to find an offense that's going to get much to work against this stingy Giants defense.

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