At the beginning of the season, Vikings observers were concerned about their red-zone offense. Now the Giants, the Vikings' opponent on Sunday, are battling their own red-zone problems.
The Giants lost their first game since opening day when they fell to the Detroit Lions
on Sunday, 28-13, and one of the reasons was their much-publicized inability to manufacture yardage and touchdowns from inside the red zone.
RB Ron Dayne
, the 5-foot-10, 240-pounder who just doesn't have the knack for that inside power running game, was tried again and again. Head coach Tom Coughlin
seems determined to exert his will on Dayne and make him be what he isn't. So on third-and-one (actually, less than one), in came Dayne, and it was a failed attempt at a first down.
That brought in PK Steve Christie
for the shortest possible FG under NFL rules and dimensions, 19 yards, and it was good.
Later, at the end of the second quarter, the Giants moved downfield again (something they had little trouble doing, gaining 325 total net yards for the day) and earned a first down at the Lions 11 with 0:52 remaining. QB Kurt Warner
faded back and there was WR Amani Toomer
, in the open at the left corner of the back line of the end zone.
And then there was Toomer racing across the end zone, clear in the middle, clear near the right corner, being pursued by CB Chris Cash
. When Warner did finally throw — and it was a dangerous high floater — Toomer was almost out of bounds. So, too, was Cash, but somehow he made an acrobatic catch, keeping his feet in bounds, and it turned into the second interception of the season for Warner.
It also turned into another red-zone flop.
"Had we scored in close, it might have been a different story today," said Coughlin, "but we didn't, and you just have to say that the Lions had the answers. My expectations for this team are far better than the way we played today."
Coughlin grew acidic when a reporter wondered whether the next time he had a third-and-inches in the red zone if he might try RB Mike Cloud
(5-10, 205) instead of Dayne. The coach fixed him with a hard stare and said: "I'll think about that. Thank you for that tip."
RB Tiki Barber (70 yards, 22 carries) increased his career total to 6,056 yards, just the second player in team history to go past the 6,000 mark. Rodney Hampton (6,897) is still the franchise leader.
RB Tiki Barber's streak of three 100-yard games was stopped, but he caught seven passes for 102 yards (both career-high numbers), which included a 62-yard TD on a screen pass from QB Kurt Warner. He has 3,952 yards as a receiver, 11th on the team's all-time list.
The Giants fell to 3-13 in post-bye week games, which includes defeats in eight of their last nine such games. Coach Tom Coughlin is 5-4 in post-bye games (he was 5-3 as the eight-year head coach in Jacksonville).
WLB Barrett Green, true to coach Tom Coughlin's threat, did not play for the Giants except on special teams. The starter instead was Nick Greisen (who had seven tackles and generally did well). Green reportedly showed up nearly two hours late for a bye-week meeting. He won't comment, saying: "I'm not allowed to talk about it," and Coughlin, for his part, says: "That's between the two of us."
DT Fred Robbins (sprained shoulder) did not play and was kept on the Game Inactive list. Last year's first round pick, William Joseph, started in his place and acquitted himself fairly well. But the job remains' Robbins' when he returns, which is likely to happen Sunday at Minnesota (from whence he came this year as an UFA).
DE Osi Umenyiora, last year's second-round pick, had what might have been perceived as his "breakout" game. He had three tackles, a sack for 11 yards and a forced fumble. The Troy State (Ala.) product denied, however, that the heavily favored Giants took the Lions for granted. "The coaches would never allow that," he said.
The Giants' four secondary members finished in the top seven in tackles, indicating that the Lions spent a good portion of the game deep in Giants territory. "They didn't beat us badly," CB Will Peterson said. "It's just that their sense of urgency was greater than ours."