The returns for touchdowns washed over a game of the Giants' statistical domination, as the Vikings were easily on the short end of many key statistics on offense and defense, yet still came away with the win. Gets those telling statistics and more than two dozen other game-day notes that help tell the story of the way things were Sunday in New York.
The Vikings' 24-21 win was a story of numbers – some obvious, some obscure. As highlighted in the Turning Point of the Game segment of VU's game coverage, the Vikings had 394 yards in returns. But that was only part of the story.
The Giants offense has been oppressive in recent weeks. And, including today's game, the Giants defense has gone three-and-a-half games without allowing an offensive touchdown. The last time the Giants defense surrendered a touchdown was with 13:26 to go in the third quarter of their last-second win over Denver. Since then, there have been 228 minutes and 34 seconds of football played and the Giants have not allowed an opposing offense to score a touchdown.
The Vikings made the most of keeping the Giants out of the end zone, but the domination in the offensive and defensive categories was overwhelming. The Giants had 25 first downs, as opposed to just 11 by the Vikings – three of which came in the final minute of the game. The Vikings were once again dismal on third downs, converting just 2 of 14, but the Giants weren't much better, making good on just 6 of 15 attempts. The Giants also dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 35:35 in the game. When it came to rushing, the Giants held a huge edge – rushing 29 times for 124 yards, while the Vikings managed just 12 yards on 21 carries. In the passing game, too, the Giants held a monstrous edge – throwing for 281 yards, as opposed to just 125 by the Vikings.
But, in the end, all that really mattered was the number on the scoreboard – and in that category, the Vikings held a 24-21 edge and came away with the victory.
Much has been made of the Vikings' poor road record, but a quick look around the league would show that all five of their road opponents this year – Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina, Chicago and New York – if the season had ended at the midway point, would all be in the playoffs.
When the Vikings do their injury report tomorrow, it will likely include head coach Mike Tice. On a second-quarter punt, New York's Jamar Taylor was blocked into Tice, who was watching action elsewhere. Taylor came in awkwardly and hit Tice directly on the side of his left knee. From all immediate appearances, it looked exactly like the type of play that ends up with a player having a torn ACL – much less a coach who hasn't played the game in years.
Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor didn't have a reception until the final minute of the game.
Brad Johnson finished the game with just 144 passing yards – 98 of those coming in the game's first 59 minutes and 46 coming in the last minute.
Michael Bennett did nothing to cement his place as the team's lead back. He rushed 19 times for 16 yards with a fumble and caught six passes for just 11 yards. The final tally? 25 touches for just 27 total yards.
It doesn't look like those poor numbers are being placed solely on Bennett's shoulders, as the Vikings replaced center Melvin Fowler with Cory Withrow after Fowler had trouble playing through an oblique strain suffered in pregame warmups.
Darren Sharper tied a team record with three interceptions. The last time a Viking had three interceptions in a game was Brian Williams vs. Detroit on Nov. 23, 2003.
It seemed only fitting that the Vikings would take out the 6-2 Giants on their home field. In the last two years, the Giants, who were middle of the pack at best, came into Minnesota and beat the Vikings when they were 6-0 in 2003 and when they were 5-1 last year.
The Giants lead the NFL in offensive line holding calls and didn't do anything to dispel that as a recurring theme – they had three more calls in the second half that killed drives.
The Giants won a challenge on an Eli Manning fumble that was overturned despite appearing to the naked eye to be either a fumble or a backward pass. It was the first time in five challenges that the Giants have actually had a call reversed – something Vikings fans have become accustomed to over the last couple of years.
The Vikings set a team record for getting a punt return touchdown and a kickoff return TD in the same quarter.
Mewelde Moore's kickoff return for a TD was the first for the Vikings since Nate Burleson brought one back 91 yards vs. the Colts in 2004.
Robinson's kickoff return for a touchdown was the first by the Vikings since Moe Williams brought one back 85 yards vs. the Giants Dec. 26, 1999 – the game that started the streak of the teams meetings for seven consecutive seasons. Ironically, it was also the last time the Giants had surrendered a kickoff return for a score.
The Vikings came into the game with the intention of doubling up on both Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress. While neither of them scored, the Giants made the necessary adjustments to start the second half. Amani Toomer, who was being single covered, caught a pair of third-down passes, including one for a touchdown, as well as picking up a 40-yard pass interference penalty on Antoine Winfield to set up the score.
At halftime, Johnson had completed just five of 12 passes for 11 yards and Bennett had accounted for just 2 yards – 8 yards on 11 rushing attempts and two receptions for minus-6 yards.
Ciatrick Fason did nothing to make fans forget injured Moe Williams. He had one carry – a third-and-1 situation in the second quarter – and was swarmed under for no gain.
At halftime, the Vikings had run 26 offensive plays but gained just six total yards, while the Giants amassed 196 yards.
Vikings owners Zygi Wilf, who has a luxury box at the Meadowlands, opted not to sit in his customary spot but take his place on the Vikings sideline. If he's superstitious at all, he may end up becoming a Jerry Jones-like figure on the sideline.
Sharper has two touchdowns this year, as many or more than Marcus Robinson, Nate Burleson, Taylor, Bennett and Jermaine Wiggins.
Four of Sharper's last six interceptions have been returned for touchdowns.
The Giants wide receivers didn't have a reception until seven minutes remained in the second quarter. They dropped several passes to start the game.
The only Vikings' first down of the first quarter and two of their three first downs in the first half came as the result of roughing-the-passer penalties called on the Giants for shots on Johnson.
The Vikings had two drives in the first quarter that started deep in Giants territory – on the 27-yard line and the 19-yard line – but came away with no points.
Of the Vikings' first 13 offensive plays, they totaled just 7 yards.
The Giants didn't get a first down on offense until their fourth drive of the game. Their first three drives ended with a pair of three-and-outs and an interception.
Sunday marked the second game this season that the Vikings have recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the game – the other coming in the win over New Orleans.
Giants punter Jeff Feagles hit his NFL record 1,400th punt in the first quarter Sunday. He will tie Jim Marshall for the all-time NFL consecutive games played streak at 282 next week.