Playing the 7-2 Giants on the road won't be easy, but the Vikings got an assist from the injury gods on Sunday. New York will be missing key players on offense and defense as the season takes its toll on the Giants as well.
The Giants won a game but lost a strong-side linebacker, and while they didn't exactly lose their starting running back, he may be unavailable to them for the next game or two.
The lost linebacker is Mathias Kiwanuka
, who left at the end of the first half with what was later reported as a fractured fibula. In layman's terms, that's a broken leg, and under the best of all possible circumstances, that's three weeks on the sideline and maybe playing in the fourth week.
That's maybe, with strong emphasis on the word.
The running back is Brandon Jacobs
, the Giants' workhorse, the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder who has an advantage every time he crashes into a linebacker or a cornerback. He left with a strained hamstring, and while he tried to emphasize the unimportance of the situation, he could miss a game or two.
A guy with just four years in the league, and already a powerful driving force, must be coddled just a little, and if an extra week or two is going to make the doctors, trainers and coaches happy, then that's how it's going to be.
"I'm fine," he said, after an 11-carry, 54-yard day. He also had four receptions for 59 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown, the Giants' only one of the day in their 16-10 victory over the Detroit Lions
on Sunday. "It's nothing. I'll be fine. I'm going to play next week. It's no big deal, it's just a mild strain."
Without Kiwanuka, the Giants are going to have to use four-year veteran Reggie Torbor
, with either Gerris Wilkinson
(a weak-side ‘backer) or Chase Blackburn
(he normally plays backup to Antonio Pierce
in the middle).
But without Jacobs, and since his backup, Derrick Ward
, just missed his third straight game, the Giants will have to use third-stringer Reuben Droughns
and a seventh-round rookie, Ahmad Bradshaw
. This could be just as serious a situation, if one of a far shorter time span.
The Giants, who saw their six-game winning streak snapped Nov. 11 by Dallas, moved their record to 7-3 with the victory Sunday over the Lions. They won just twice last season after starting 6-2.
LDE Michael Strahan had three sacks, his first three-sack game since 2003. He now has 140.5 sacks to lead all active players. It's just days before his 36th birthday, and he credits his rejuvenation to the rotation system employed by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who uses Justin Tuck almost as much as the nominal starters, Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.
QB Eli Manning, who was flagged for three delay-of-game penalties on Nov. 11 vs. Dallas, didn't even allow the play clock to get close to expiration Sunday in Detroit. A report that coordinator Kevin Gilbride's offense was "too complicated" to audible from in time might have caused some reduction in the difficulty.
RG Chris Snee, a Pro Bowl possibility, was furious that the offense didn't find a way to run the clock out at the end of the game. Instead the Lions had a final chance to win it, which was snatched away from them by an interception in the end zone by CB Sam Madison. "I'm tired of letting the defense win it for us every week," he said.
Strahan reacted as expected when told Lions' QB Jon Kitna said he was upset by the loss "because that team isn't as good as ours." The 36-year-old Pro Bowl player snapped: "Did he really say that? I thought in the first half that was one of the worst teams we played, to be honest with you. I don't understand why Jon would say that, but the bottom line is that we're 7-3 and they're 6-4. Maybe we'll see them down the road, and if that's the case we'll beat their ass again."
QB Eli Manning, who completed 28 of 39 passes for 283 yards and a TD, credited the Lions defense with making the offense "kind of one-dimensional." He said he felt the Giants never established a running game, which normally is their stock in trade.
K Lawrence Tynes, after some early-season jitters, has been far more reliable lately. On Sunday, he made all three of his field-goal attempts, from 46, 28 and 20 yards.
P Jeff Feagles kicked six times for a 48.3 average. "I'm having fun," said the 41-year-old with 20 years of NFL experience. "Winning is always fun."
WR Plaxico Burress had the right handle on the game. "I thought the defense came out and played a great game," he said, "and we just did enough on offense to get by and get the win."