One of the advantages of Sunday night’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants was that the Vikings would already know if an Atlanta loss or a Seattle win had put them in the playoffs before they were set to play.
As it turned out, it was a worst-case scenario from that perspective. Atlanta won to stay alive and Seattle lost to keep the Falcons’ hopes flickering. The Vikings were paying cursory attention, but they wanted to have to prove themselves and win to get in the playoffs.
They more than did that in front of a national audience, beating the Giants 49-17 in a blowout win. Nothing was going to be handed to them and the Vikings didn’t care.
“It was big,” said safety Harrison Smith, who returned to action Sunday. “There was all this talk that if somebody wins or somebody loses, we’d get in. But we knew that it was in our hands and that’s all that we were focused on.”
Closing out a playoff berth was something the Vikings wouldn’t have minded being done for them, but they were just as motivated to have the chips fall as they did and put the pressure on themselves to get the job done.
“When you get this late in the season, you don’t want to rely on other teams to do things,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “We’ve wanted to control our own destiny and the simple fact for us today was win and we’re in.”
One of the strongest proponents of the “win and in” mantra was cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. He claimed he didn’t want anybody to hand the Vikings a playoff spot, but, when it came down to it, he was like fans before leaving mid-afternoon for TCF Bank Stadium.
The guy who spoke the strongest about not scoreboard watching found himself cheering for the Panthers to beat Atlanta.
“It was pretty funny,” Munnerlyn said. “I said that earlier, but I was at home watching Carolina play. We like to handle business ourselves. We know we run our own ship. We’re in the playoffs. Now the next step is to with the (NFC) North. We’ve got a tough game next week. It’s in Green Bay. I’m excited about it. We put ourselves in a position to play this game. Let’s see. May the best team win next week.”
Veteran linebacker Chad Greenway was confident the Vikings could get the job done, but didn’t want there to be any questions about whether the Vikings deserved to make the playoff dance on their own merit. When teams like Carolina, Green Bay and Seattle couldn’t get the job done, not only did the Vikings accomplish their goal, they did it convincingly and that’s how Greenway wanted to get it done.
“I just knew going into the game that it was on us,” Greenway said. “That was the best situation for us. The best situation for our team was to go out there and prove it ourselves, not backing in or let someone else lose or win to get us in. I thought that was a great situation for our team knowing going into the game that we had to win to get in. That’s the mindset we’ve had all season – let’s get the job done ourselves. We’ve done that and now we’re in position to win the division.”
- Late in the third quarter, the NFL announced that the Vikings-Packers game next week has been flexed into the prime time spot again, giving the Vikings back-to-back prime time games on NBC.
- The Vikings were without two players late. Offensive tackle Matt Kalil suffered a shin injury. X-rays were negative and Kalil said following the game that he will be good to go next Sunday. Cornerback Terence Newman left the game with illness that had him vomiting on the sidelines in the second half before being pulled from the game.
- Adrian Peterson rushed for his 10th touchdown in the third quarter. It is the eighth season in which he has scored 10 or more rushing TDs, tying him with Emmitt Smith for second place on the all-time list. LaDainian Tomlinson holds the all-time record with nine seasons of double-digit rushing touchdowns.
- Smith set a franchise record with his fourth career interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Vikings a 16-3 lead. He had been one of nine players in the history of the franchise to have three Pick-6 plays in their careers.
- Smith has intercepted both Manning brothers this season. He had a pick earlier this year when the Vikings faced Peyton Manning in Denver.
- Prior to last week, Jerick McKinnon had never scored a touchdown. He got his first career TD last week and added two more Sunday night and had a third taken away due to penalty.
- Kyle Rudolph set a single-season high for receiving yards with 495 after catching two passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. His previous high was 493 yards in 2012 when he caught nine touchdowns.
- Fantasy owners were likely kissing their TV screens with the night Blair Walsh had. Not only did he make five field goals and score 19 points, two of his field goals were from beyond 50 yards.
- The 49 points were the most scored by a Vikings team since they dropped 50 points on Jacksonville in 1998.
- Thanks to a lot of garbage yards late in the game, the Vikings finished with just five more yards (368) than the Giants (363), a further testament why ranking teams offenses and defenses solely on yards isn’t a true measuring stick for them.
- For the 14th time in 15 games, the Vikings allowed an opponent two touchdowns or fewer.
- The Vikings rolled up 218 rushing yards on the Giants, including a 104-yard game from Peterson and 89 yards from McKinnon on just seven carries.
- The Vikings had just two penalties for 10 yards in the game.
- Minnesota held the ball for 34:57, almost a 10-minute time of possession advantage.
- Ten of the Giants’ first 12 drives of the game were five plays or fewer.
- A week after the Odell Beckham Jr. debacle, in the fourth quarter, Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas took a shot at the head of MyCole Pruitt and got a personal foul flag and was immediately ejected.
- Injured defensive tackle Linval Joseph was looking forward to making his return to action against his former team. But on the first defensive series of the game, Joseph injured his big toe on his right foot. He returned to action, despite being initially listed as questionable to return.
- The Vikings outgained the Giants 154-112 in the first half, with almost half of New York’s yardage coming on a 50-yard screen pass to Rashad Jennings.
- Jennings outgained Peterson in the first half. Jennings had 100 yards – 50 rushing, 50 receiving – while A.P. had 38 yards, all rushing.
- Neither team was good on third down in the first half. The Vikings converted just three of nine third downs, while New York made good on just one of seven third downs
- The Vikings didn’t have a penalty until the second quarter and it was a costly one. McKinnon ran a 24-yard jet sweep for a touchdown, but it got called back on a false start call on tackle Matt Kalil. One play later, Bridgewater hit Kyle Rudolph for a 28-yard touchdown to give Minnesota a 10-0 lead.
- In their first four drives, the Giants had two three-and-out drives and one first down on the other two drives.
- The Vikings dominated the first-quarter stats. They outgained New York 69-31, which included minus-6 yards passing for the Giants. The Vikings held the ball for 10:39 of the quarter, running 21 plays – as opposed to just 10 by the Giants.
- Manning was 0-for-4 passing in the first quarter and running back Rashad Jennings accounted for all 37 yards gained by the Giants in the first quarter.
- In the first quarter, Bridgewater went over 3,000 yards passing for the season.
- Peterson started the 112th game of his career, setting a franchise record. The old record of 111 starts by a running back was held by Bill Brown.
- Andrew Sendejo had the second interception of his career, thanks to a little help from Xavier Rhodes. On a Manning pass for Hakeem Nicks, Rhodes undercut the route and tipped the ball into the air, where Sendejo had one of the easier picks you’ll see.
- Danielle Hunter recorded his sixth sack of the season – the second-most sacks for any defensive rookie this year.
- For the first time in more than a month, the Vikings had all 22 starters active on the game-day roster.
- The temperature was 13 degrees at kickoff, equaling the coldest temperature for a game played at TCF Bank Stadium – tying the game-time temperature for the Vikings-Carolina game last year.
- The game was also the ninth-coldest home game in franchise history, which is saying something since the team played more than 20 years at Metropolitan Stadium.
- The paid attendance was 52,455.