Kicked Down, Nearly Shut Out

The Vikings struggled in all phases of the game as the New York Giants continued their dominance over Minnesota in a 34-13 win. The Vikings turned over the ball three times and barely escaped with 300 yards of offense.

A week after nearly registering a shutout against Tennessee, the Vikings were nearly shut out themselves. It was a dominant performance from the Giants, who won the turnover battle 3-0 and kicked down the Vikings' offense in a 34-13 win.

New York stymied Daunte Culpepper (24-for-42 for 231 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions) until garbage time. They shut down Mewelde Moore (eight rushes for 29 yards) until he was hurt late in the game. And they didn't have to worry about Randy Moss, who only saw action on a handful of plays.

In a matchup that produced a 29-17 loss last year to the Giants that Vikings owner Red McCombs called "humiliating," the Vikings of this year really did struggle.

It was a complete team loss. The offense fumbled on its opening drive and gave up an interception later in the quarter — giving New York starting position on Minnesota's 22-yard line and 36-yard line.

The defense didn't create a turnover all game, and the special teams had penalties and a punt partially blocked.

Combined with an anemic offense and losing the battle of field position, the Vikings found themselves in a 20-0 hole at halftime that expanded to 34-0 before two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

The Vikings started off with bumbles. On their fourth play from scrimmage, Culpepper threw a lateral to Moore, who couldn't handle the pass and didn't go after the fumble, thinking it was an incomplete pass. When linebacker Kevin Lewis fumbled and returned it to the 22-yard line, the Giants were in business for the first points of the game.

Incredibly, New York's drive went minus-10 yards on sacks by Kevin Williams and Kenechi Udeze, but Steve Christie connected on a 50-yard field goal for a 3-0 Giants lead.

The offense staggered again, going three-and-out, and this time the Giants used a 38-yard pass interference on Corey Chavous covering tight end Jeremy Shockey on the first play of the drive, setting them up at the 22-yard line again. From there, Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber finished the job. Toomer caught a 12-yard pass and Barber ran three times for 10 yards, the last 2 yards coming on his touchdown run. With 8:15 to play, the Giants had a 10-0 lead.

The offense failed to move the ball again, but a Lance Johnstone sack ended New York's ensuing drive.

Finally, on his fourth drive of the game, Culpepper connected on a deep pass. From the shadow of his own end zone, he hit Marcus Robinson for 42 yards, then picked up another first down with a 6-yard pass to Nate Burleson on third down. But one play later, Culpepper threw behind Jermaine Wiggins and safety Gibril Wilson stepped in front of him for a 39-yard interception as the first quarter came to a close.

With field position at the 36-yard line, once again it was Toomer and Barber carrying the workload. Toomer converted the initial first down of the drive with an 11-yard reception, and Barber took it from there. He carried for 13, 4 and 5 yards for a 17-0 lead with 13:20 left in the first half.

The Vikings drove into striking position again, with Robinson providing the big play again. Facing third-and-13, Culpepper found the time to unload long over the middle, and Robinson found the courage to hang onto it in traffic for a 32-yard gain. However, Morten Andersen's 38-yard field goal attempt four plays later bounced off the left upright to keep the Vikings scoreless.

The defense continued to do its job, forcing the Giants out after three plays on their next two drives, but the Vikings offense continued to struggle and left the field after three plays on each of its next two drives.

With Darren Bennett's shorter punts, the Vikings were losing out in the battle for field position, and the Giants took over on their own 39-yard line with 4:06 to play in the half. Ike Hilliard registered in the stat book with a drive-opening 11-yard reception and Barber did much of the rest, accounting for 21 yards on four touches until the Giants got into field goal position, where Christie connected from 30 yards out for a 20-0 lead heading into halftime.

Just as it did in the first half, the offense started with a turnover on its first possession of second half, this time an 11-yard interception return by Will Allen to set up the Giants on their own 45-yard line.

Eight plays later, running back Mike Cloud gave the Giants a 27-0 lead and the rout was on with 5:39 left in the third quarter.

The Vikings' struggles continued when Darren Bennett's punt was partially blocked, setting up New York on their own 49-yard line. Cloud took over the workload, getting the first four touches of the drive for 41 yards, and he capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run for a 34-0 lead with 12:08 to play.

The Vikings scored two garbage-time touchdowns — a 10-yard run by Michael Bennett and a 1-yard pass to Nate Burleson — and their first two drives of the fourth quarter allowed them to surpass 300 yards of total offense for the 36th consecutive game.

It was a statistic that turned out to be deceiving, as the Vikings had problems moving the ball consistently all game long. Combined with three turnovers and a defense that hasn't been better than average, it added up to another rout at the hands of the Giants.

Worse yet, the Vikings get to travel to Indianapolis to try to amend their "humiliation" in front of a national television offense next Monday night.

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