When you're a team with your back against the wall, you either bring out your "A" game or you go home. The Vikings did just that, highlighting an emotional night that included the retirement of Korey Stringer's jersey for a 28-16 win over the New York Giants, temporarily putting the Vikings back into the playoff picture.
"This was a game we had to have," said linebacker Ed McDaniel, whose interception in the fourth quarter killed a Giants rally attempt. "Everybody in this locker room knows that we don't have room for error any more, and we made the plays when we had to."
With a national spotlight shining on the Vikings, they looked like the Vikings of recent vintage, opening the game with a quick-strike offense that left the Giants on their heels. Starting from the 24-yard line, Daunte Culpepper connected with Michael Bennett on a 13-yard swing pass and, after a 39-yard pass interference call on Will Allen, Culpepper hit Randy Moss in the end zone for a 28-yard score and a 7-0 Vikings lead less than 3 minutes into the game.
The Giants came right back with an impressive drive of their own, as Kerry Collins attacked the Vikings through the air. He completed passes of 15 yards to Amani Toomer and followed that up with a 25-yard pass to tight end Matt Campbell to get into Vikings territory. After Tiki Barber broke off a 24-yard run, it looked like a tie was coming, as the Giants got to the 5-yard line. But the Vikings defense rose up and stopped the drive with a sack by Patrick Chukwurah, forcing the Giants to settle for a 43-yard field goal from Morton Andersen to cut the Vikings lead to 7-3 with 6:46 left in the first quarter.
The Giants got the game's first big break on the Vikings' next drive. After driving to midfield, Culpepper was sacked by Kenny Holmes and fumbled, turning the ball over to the Giants. From there, Barber broke off another long run of 29 yards and, one play later, plunged in from a yard out to take a 10-7 lead as the first quarter ended.
After an exchange of punts, the Vikings kept the offensive firepower working. Culpepper found Cris Carter for passes of 9 and 7 yards and, after a 9-yard pass to Moss, Culpepper and Moss connected again for 25 yards and another TD to give the Vikings a 14-10 lead with 3:54 to play in the first half.
The Giants would rally before halftime to get another Andersen field goal, this of 36 yards, to cut the Vikings lead to 14-13 at halftime, but something that was viewed as a moral victory.
"We needed to keep them from getting anything good going," Robert Griffith told VU. "They had some chances to score, but for the most part we made them stick to field goals instead of touchdowns. With this offense, that was all we needed to do. They took care of the rest."
The defense did its part again on the opening drive of the second half, as the Giants again drove into Vikings territory but stalled under an intense pass rush and settled for another Andersen field goal, this time from 51 yards, to take a 16-14 lead with 11:20 to play in the third quarter.
The Vikings responded on their first drive of the third quarter, a time-consuming 7-minute drive that saw the Vikings drive from the 33-yard line all the way to the Giants 10. But, as Culpepper went for Moss in the end zone on a sideline route, Allen stepped in the way and intercepted the pass, keeping the game close and keeping the Giants in the lead.
It wouldn't last, however, as the defense forced a three-and-out and the Vikings grabbed the momentum of the game. Starting from his own 38, Culpepper came out throwing, hitting Carter for 5 yards, throwing a 9-yard screen to Moss and scrambling for 11 and 13 yards to get the ball to the 10-yard line. After a 9-yard pass to Byron Chamberlain got the ball to the 1-yard line, the Vikings opted to go for a touchdown on fourth down and delivered — Moss hitting Carter in the back of the end zone for a score and a 21-16 Vikings lead.
From there, the crowd took over. After forcing another three-and-out, the Vikings offense put the Giants away. After looking ready to give the ball back following a sack, Culpepper hit Moss on a crossing route 15 yards downfield and, after being sprung by a block by Carter, he raced 57 yards for a touchdown. In the span of 2 minutes and 29 seconds, the Vikings went from being two points down to having a 28-16 lead and the game was, for all intents, over.
The Giants tried to come back with a pair of late drives, but both ended in turnovers. The first started from the New York 20, as Collins was able to complete a series of short passes, but nothing that gained big yardage after a 27-yard strike to Joe Jurevicius. The Vikes allowed the short stuff until Collins went for Ike Hilliard near the goal line. The ball hit off his hands and was picked off by McDaniel to kill the drive with 3:05 to play.
The Vikings went to the ground after that, forcing the Giants to burn their remaining time outs and punted the ball back with 2:08 to go. The Giants got back into scoring position again on a 31-yard swing pass to Barber, but, once again, the drive ended in failure, as Collins overthrew Jurevicius and was picked off by Griffith to end the game.
With the win, the Vikings finally have a team in the wild card hunt that they have a tie-breaker advantage over, and the team is looking to build on this from this point forward.
"We're not looking too far down the line," Griffith told VU. "We had to get something positive working and, with the wins we need to get, this one was a must. The special teams, offense and defense all contributed. It was a team victory and that is something we've needed for awhile." VU
Complete Team Win Over Giants
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