The New York Giants are no strangers to the bright glare of the media spotlight. There isn’t such a thing as a regional telecast of a game. Every game is a big deal in New York and millions of fans are watching every time.
So, coming off a home loss to Washington, there is more than a little concern among Giants fans heading into their Monday road game against the undefeated Minnesota Vikings.
Quarterback Eli Manning spoke to the New York media Wednesday and gave the Vikings their due respect. After watching film on the Vikings defense, he came away from it with a healthy respect – as if he didn’t already have it given his brutal career record against the Vikings.
“They’re a good team,” Manning said. “They’re 3-0 and playing great football. Their defense is playing outstanding. They’re getting turnovers and getting sacks. Teams aren’t moving the ball much on them and they aren’t scoring. We have to have a great game plan. We have to understand that we have to protect the football. We can’t give them a short field. We have to play smart – smarter than what we’ve been doing. Hopefully, we can still go out there and execute, hit some big plays and be explosive. We have to continue to do some of the good things that we’ve been doing.”
So how are the Giants planning to counteract the Vikings?
Step One will be for Manning to get protection. Considering the Vikings have 15 sacks against three of the league’s more mobile quarterbacks, Manning has every right to be concerned.
The offensive line is going to have to be on its game and Manning is looking to keep the Vikings off-balance and take advantage of their aggression by mixing things up because the film doesn’t lie – the Vikings defensive line is playing out of its mind right now.
“I think our offensive line has been doing a great job so far,” Manning said. “They’ll have their biggest test this week against a good front. (They have) a couple of really special players. It’s going to be a test. Our receivers have to get open at times. We have to run the ball well and get in good down and distance. It’s a combination of a lot of things. They have a good third-down blitz package. We have to be prepared for a lot of things.”
Many considered the Vikings NFC North Division title a fluke, despite beating Green Bay on its home field to clinch the title. The Packers were injured and almost all national types identify the Vikings with is Adrian Peterson. Vikings fans know how important defense was to their late-season run.
Manning had to study the film of the 2015 Vikings prior to last year’s prime-time flex-schedule caning at the hands of the same defense and, from his view, there isn’t much that has changed.
So what’s different?
“Not a whole lot,” Manning said. “They were a good defense last year. A lot of similar guys and similar schemes. We have to go out there and have a good plan. Just understand what they’re doing, play smart football.”
For a defense coming off a game in which it sacked Cam Newton eight times, watching film for Manning is akin to watching a tragic documentary. It only got worse as it went along.
However, the Mannings are students of the game and have made their living trying to pick up on cues and tendencies of defenses that have film of them putting their best first forward. The NFL is a league of replication. If somethings works, it tends to be repeated.
Manning is spending a lot of his non-practice time trying to figure out which poison to pick when it comes to attacking a defense playing as confidently as the Vikings.
“Just trying to look at their scheme, trying to see who their playmakers are,” Manning said. “Who are getting some of the pressures? Who are getting the sacks? A lot of it is obviously on their defensive line. But the linebackers do a good job blitzing and with coverages. They're doing a good job taking away the first and second read, so it's a combination. They're playing good defense; they have a good scheme. They don't give you many easy completions, you're getting stuck in a lot of third-and-longs and that's usually the recipe for sacks and playing good defense.”
Manning has made his potential Hall of Fame resume based upon winning two Super Bowls and never missing a start in his NFL career.
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There isn’t much he hasn’t seen – from defenses that lay back and try to cover every passing lane to teams that bring the kitchen sink on blitzes. In the Vikings, Manning sees a combination of the two that is playing at a high level.
Expect the unexpected from the Giants offense Monday night because if they replicate what others have tried, points will be hard to come by.