PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Quarterback Daunte Culpepper was sharp in the first half, but below average in the second. He completed 11 of 14 first-half passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Randy Moss caught five first-half passes for 121 yards and a 33-yard touchdown. But Culpepper completed only 7 of 17 passes for 67 yards in the second half. Moss caught only two passes for 4 yards and a touchdown after the break. The Vikings desperately missed receiver Kelly Campbell, who sat out because of a bruised calf. With Campbell out and D'Wayne Bates limited to a couple of plays at the end of the game, the Vikings had to rely on rookies Keenan Howry and Nate Burleson to take the pressure off of Moss. Culpepper's streak of passes without an interception ended at 130 when a fourth-quarter pass intended for Howry was intercepted by defensive back Frank Walker. Howry cut his route off early, allowing Walker to sit and wait for the ball to arrive. The Vikings were trailing 22-17 with 5:29 left in the game. Three plays later, the Giants scored a touchdown to put the game away.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- For the second consecutive week, the Vikings' running game struggled. Rookie Onterrio Smith started, but averaged only 2.9 yards on 11 carries. The Vikings had 11 yards on 12 carries while trailing 13-10 at halftime. They finished with 137 yards on 28 carries (4.9), but Culpepper scrambled for 48 yards. Moe Williams averaged 6.3 yards on 11 carries. The Vikings ran the ball better in the fourth quarter, which was a goal they set after rushing for minus-one yard against Denver the week before. Against the Giants, the Vikings ran for 63 yards on four carries in the fourth quarter. The best thing to happen to the running game was Culpepper re-establishing himself as a running threat for the first time since fracturing bones in his lower back Sept. 21 at Detroit. He had strong runs of 19 yards on second-and-19 and five yards on third-and-three. He lowered his shoulder and took on a defensive back on the 5-yard run.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- Giants quarterback Kerry Collins always is tough on the Vikings, and Sunday was no exception. He completed his first nine passes and 23 of 39 overall for 375 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Vikings were in position to make a lot of plays, but the only one they made was an interception by strong safety Corey Chavous in the end zone on second-and-eight from the 9-yard line early in the second quarter. Collins had tight end Jeremy Shockey open on the play, but didn't throw the ball. The Giants should have led 14-3 at that point. They also could have led 21-3 after their next possession, but couldn't reach the end zone despite having first-and-goal at the 3. The Vikings couldn't contain Shockey on a critical drive in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-5, 253-pounder beat linebacker Chris Claiborne for a 46-yard gain. Two snaps later, he caught a 19-yard pass on first-and-20 from the 21 after an 11-yard touchdown run by Tiki Barber was negated because of holding. Barber scored a touchdown two plays later to put the Giants ahead to stay.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Giants ran for only 83 yards on 28 carries (3.0), but they were having so much success throwing the ball they didn't dedicate themselves to the run. The Vikings have established themselves as strong up the middle. Teams aren't trying to run between the tackles, but they are attacking the Vikings with some success on the corners. Shockey was able to hook block Claiborne on a play in which Barber turned the corner for 17 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Special teams captain Jack Brewer blocked a Jeff Feagles punt at the Giants' 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter. It was the Vikings' first punt block since 1989. But in keeping with the Vikings' luck on Sunday, the ball didn't bounce backward toward the end zone. It stayed on the 5, allowing Giants special teamer Wesley Mallard to pick it up and run for a first down. Vikings rookie Nate Burleson was in position to tackle Mallard inside the 10, but reached for the ball instead. Had Burleson tackled Mallard, the Vikings would have taken over and probably added to their 17-16 lead. The Vikings made another costly error when Brian Williams didn't down an Eddie Johnson punt inside the New York 5. The ball bounced into the end zone for a touchback and the Giants went 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
COACHING: C -- One could argue George O'Leary's defense sat back too long in the first half and allowed Collins to get into a passing rhythm. The defense played much better in the third quarter, but by then Collins, a streaky player, already was in a groove. Offensively, the Vikings didn't find a way to get the ball to Moss in the second half, and the running game continues to struggle. Having to rely on rookies Howry and Burleson hurt them in crucial situations in the second half.
Grading The Game: Giants
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