In a game that featured three interception returns for touchdowns, the Vikings offense had an impressive drive that yielded only a field goal in the third quarter but helped seal the win. Plus, get more than 40 game notes that help tell the tale of the Vikings' 41-17 win over the Giants.
While the Vikings defense will get most of the credit when the highlights appear on the national sports TV and radio shows, perhaps the most important stretch of Sunday's 41-17 win for the Vikings against the Giants won't show up on the highlight package. But it may have been a season-defining drive that has put the Vikings back into legitimate talk of playoff contention.
The drive began with 11:07 to play in the third quarter after the Giants, who trailed 24-7 at halftime, drove quickly into Vikings territory and converted a 48-yard Lawrence Tynes
field goal to cut the lead to 24-10. Two touchdowns down, the crowd at the Meadowlands was back into the game and the Giants needed a defensive stop to get momentum to swing heavily in their direction. Instead, the Vikings kicked their teeth out.
Starting from the Vikings 23, they faced one of the biggest problems of the 2007 season – converting third downs. Ranked 31st in the league – only ahead of the woeful 49ers – in converting third downs, Tarvaris Jackson
took it upon himself to move the chains. With the Giants bringing a big pass rush and his first option covered, Jackson tucked the ball and scrambled for 19 yards and a first down. Two plays later, Jackson faced another third-down challenge with a third-and-4 from the Giants 46-yard line. He zipped a five-yard slant to Bobby Wade
and the drive continued. After a 3-yard run by Chester Taylor
, Jackson appeared to be going down to a sack by Michael Strahan
. But Jackson escaped and took off running for an 11-yard gain and another first down – keeping the clock rolling and drive moving.
Two plays later, the Vikings faced another third-down situation, but Jackson gave a hard count and got Fred Robbins
to jump offside for another first down. While the drive would stall on a third-and-1 run for a loss by Taylor, the Vikings sent out the field goal unit to tack on three points with 1:43 to play in the third quarter.
Any momentum the Giants had coming off their field goal was long since gone. From the time the Giants offense went to the sideline until the time they came back, the Vikings had been on the field for 14 plays and run nine minutes and 24 seconds off the game clock.
The Giants were back in the exact position they were coming out of the locker room. But instead of having 30 minutes to try to erase a 17-point deficit, they now had less than 17 minutes. It forced them to essentially abandon the run and made the Giants one-dimensional on offense.
"One of the keys is when the quarterback runs for first downs, and I think he had two or three," Vikings coach Brad Childress said of Jackson. "I thought the way we started the second half was going to be big in shutting them down and holding them to three. Obviously our drive took some time off the clock, and I would have liked to have seven because I thought that would have really driven a dagger in what they wanted to do."
While the defense rightly deserves credit for the amazing performance it put in Sunday, it may have been a season-defining drive by the offense that will propel the Vikings into the regular-season stretch run.
"We have been letting teams stay in there and giving them rays of hope, but today we were going to try to put our foot on their throat and keep it that way," said safety Dwight Smith
The Vikings are now 5-2 this season in games in which Jackson has started and 0-4 in the games he hasn't.
It took 11 games, but the defense has caught the passing game. After scoring three touchdowns Sunday, the Vikings defense has seven touchdowns on the season. The Vikings pass offense has scored six touchdowns.
With 10 minutes to go in the game, there were maybe 20,000 fans remaining as a mass exodus of fans left too few people remaining at the Meadowlands to be deafening.
Sunday was a homecoming for Zygi Wilf, who grew up a huge Giants fan in New Jersey and was a longtime season ticket holder of the Giants. He used his cache as the owner to spend Sunday's game on the sidelines. If Zygi is superstitious, he might start making a habit of it.
Sunday was the first time the Vikings have won back-to-back games since Oct. 22 of last season, snapping a stretch of 20 games without back-to-back victories.
Eli Manning made his 50th career start Sunday, and in those games he has only had two games in which he threw four interceptions – his last two games at home against the Vikings.
The Giants won the yardage battle 309-251, but when your offense gives up 21 points, you tend to be on the field more. Despite that, the Vikings won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 32:14 as opposed to 27:46 for New York.
The Vikings had their least productive rushing day of the season, averaging just 3.3 yards on 39 carries. The Giants had 19 rushes for 75 yards. The Giants won the passing battle 234-124.
In a "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" moment, if watching nature shows has taught us anything about lion attacks, it's that the prey invariably goes down once it changes directions. Late in the game, Manning hurt his team's passing numbers by taking a 26-yard sack in which he tried to change direction twice in panic mode being chased down by Ben Leber.
Despite looking efficient on offense, the Vikings finished the game just five of 13 on third-down attempts. The Giants got crushed on the scoreboard but converted on seven of 17 third-down opportunities.
The Vikings gained 169 yards in interception return yardage. Jackson had 129 yards passing.
The 41 points scored by the Vikings are the most since Dec. 20, 2003, when they scored 45 points against Kansas City.
The Vikings are 5-0 this season when scoring 20 or more points and 0-6 when they don't.
In Brad Childress' first 20 games as a head coach, the Vikings scored 29 or more points three times. In the last seven games, they've done it four times.
The Vikings got in the red zone three times and came away with 13 points – one touchdown and two field goals.
Individually, Jackson was extremely efficient, completing 10 of 12 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown. Chester Taylor led the running attack with 77 hard-earned yards on 31 carries, while Jackson added 38 yards on five rushing attempts. Sidney Rice was the only Viking with more than 14 yards receiving, catching three passes for 82 yards, including a 60-yard bomb on the second play of the game for a touchdown.
For the Giants, Manning completed just 21 of 49 passes for 273 yards with one TD and four interceptions. Reuben Droughns, who got off to a strong start, finished with just 46 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, who got his first NFL carry due to injuries to Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward (both of whom were inactive), ran four times for 29 yards. Injured receiver Plaxico Burress led the receiving attack with seven catches for 93 yards and the only TD through the air, while Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey caught four passes each.
The Giants' league-leading sack total grew by four Sunday with Osi Umenyiora registering his ninth and 10th sacks of the year and Fred Robbins getting 1.5 sacks – and another that was wiped out due to a penalty.
Pat Williams tied with E.J. Henderson for the team lead with six tackles – another strong game from the big man inside.
Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie left the field on a cart with a leg injury suffered when Chad Greenway returned a Manning pick for a touchdown.
Greenway's touchdown was the first of his career.
In a strange piece of history, it has been 30 years since an NFL team scored three defensive touchdowns in one game. But on Sept. 29, 1968 two teams did it the same day. The Baltimore Colts did the trick against Pittsburgh, while Buffalo scored a defensive trifecta at the same time against the New York Jets.
Dwight Smith's touchdown was his first since scoring twice for the Buccaneers in their Super Bowl win over the Oakland Raiders.
Cedric Griffin looked to be in the act as well when he had an apparent interception with two seconds left in the third quarter. The Vikings offense took the field, but Tom Coughlin and the Giants challenged the call. After looking in the review booth, it was shown Griffin never had full possession and that pick came off the books.
You could tell things were going good for the Vikings following Smith's 93-yard touchdown return – the ninth longest in team history. Ryan Longwell's extra point banged off the left upright but was at an angle that it deflected in for a conversion.
Taylor showed his toughness in a big-time collision with Giants cornerback Kevin Dockery. Dockery flew toward Taylor on a broken play looking for the big hit. Instead, both players went down and Dockery was left on the turf long after Chet got up and went back to the huddle.
Childress' heart had to skip a couple of beats Sunday as Jackson, who did a fine job with his legs to avoid trouble, refused to hook slide and left himself open to a couple of potential game-ending hits. The youngster will learn over time that discretion can lead to a more productive career.
In the third quarter, Amani Toomer caught the 600th pass of his career – becoming the first Giant to reach that plateau.
At halftime, Manning had completed just six of 20 passes for 92 yards and two interceptions. In the second quarter, he completed just one of 10 passes for 13 yards and an interception.
The second quarter should have been reason for concern for the Vikings. During the season, they had been outscored 66-43 in the second quarter – their worst deficit of any quarter this season. The Giants, on the other hand, had outscored their opponents 81-58 in the second quarter. So how did it work out Sunday? The Vikes outscored the Giants 10-0 in the second quarter.
At halftime, Jackson had completed six of eight passes for 110 yards and one TD. Rice had three catches for 82 yards, but didn't catch a pass in the second half – not surprising seeing as the Vikings threw just four times. Taylor had 16 carries for 37 yards in the first half (he had 15 rushes for 40 yards in the second half).
For the Giants, Droughns had 12 carries for 39 yards in the first half – he would have just three carries for seven yards in the second half. Plaxico Burress, who had just one catch for 20 yards in the first half – had six catches for 73 yards in the second half. Manning's six first-half completions were to six different receivers.
The Giants' 17-point halftime deficit was their biggest since Week 3 of the 2006 season.
The Giants only got called for a handful of penalties, but had just as many declined because of the result of the plays.
Taylor's 8-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty. He appeared to be bottled up for a loss, but kept his legs moving, shed at least two tackles and scored to give the Vikings a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
In the first quarter, Droughns had 33 yards rushing on eight carries. The rest of the game, he would gain 12 yards on seven rushes.
You could see the difference in offensive philosophy at work in the first quarter. The Vikings had a fourth-and-short from the Giants 36-yard line and opted to punt and pin New York deep. The Giants had an almost identical situation later in the quarter, went for the first down and failed.
Eli's brother, Peyton Manning, whose Colts played on Thanksgiving Day, was in attendance at the game. There was no confirmation if he was claiming to be Eli's brother after the game.
Darren Sharper's interception return for a touchdown was the 10th touchdown of his career and his first since intercepting Manning in 2005.
The Vikings got an early break on their first drive of the game when Umenyiora forced a T-Jack fumble, but the ball rolled forward nine yards, where it was recovered by Wade for a first down.
The big-play Vikings on the opening drive struck again as a Jackson playfake made both safeties bite and left Rice locked one-on-one for his touchdown score.
Adrian Peterson worked out on the field before Sunday's game, but was held out as a precaution. Antoine Winfield missed his third game in the last four with a continuing hamstring problem.