Vikings run defense gets another stiff test

The Vikings just got done holding the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack to 98 yards and now they face a Giants tandem of running backs that is approach a rare milestone in NFL history. See what they and head coach Tom Coughlin said about their productivity.

The Giants' near-incredulous running combination of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward gained 301 yards Sunday night against Carolina in the overtime victory that gave New York home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

But the 34-28 success only hid, for a while, the problem that general manager Jerry Reese is going to have once the season ends. Both Jacobs and Ward are going to be free agents at the end of the season and both will expect large contracts.

It will be difficult to keep both, less the budget-by-position that all teams attempt to maintain gets thrown all out of kilter, but after what the pair did Sunday night it would perhaps be foolish not to try, and try hard.

Ward had a career game with 215 yards in 15 carries. Jacobs, coming back from a knee injury that kept him out of last week's game vs. Dallas and out for most of the previous week's game vs. Philadelphia, added 87 yards in 24 crushing carries. He scored three short-plunge touchdowns, including the in overtime.

"Those two were amazing," said head coach Tom Coughlin. "We got back to Giants' football, which is running the ball and playing good defense, and after the two losses (to Philadelphia and Dallas) we played well enough to force ourselves back into good football."

Ward was exceptional in the overtime period, gaining 89 yards in just four carries, and Jacobs understood the value of his contribution.

"The ball after I scored the winning touchdown I gave to Derrick because he deserved it," Jacobs said. "He ran hard and he had a lot of big runs. He really deserved this game."

For his part, the 5-10, 230-pound Ward understands his role on the team. "I'm not the same build as the big guy (Jacobs)," he said. "But I do bring 230 pounds and I can pack a punch."

Nevertheless, it's Jacobs (6-4, 265) who appears to be the guts of the team. He brings fire and leadership and is more than "just" a running back.

Most of the players agree, but none of them wants to lose Ward, either. For Reese, it's going to be an agonizing off-season.


  • RB Brandon Jacobs shared a small secret on the motivating of his fellow RB Derrick Ward. "He was the healthy one," Jacobs said, "so I told him I just wanted him to go out and do his thing. I told him before we went to overtime, ‘Look, you're the better man out of us tonight, I want you out there,' and he got out there and proved it. I love him to death and we just have to keep on pushing. We still have a long road ahead of us."

    Jacobs feels there is "a better than good chance" that the Giants will see Carolina again in the playoffs. "That's a really good team," he said, "and they played us strong and hard and down to the wire. I don't see why they shouldn't advance and, well, we could see them again."

    If Carolina finishes as the second seed, the only rematch would be for the NFC championship in Giants Stadium.

  • WR Amani Toomer, a veteran of 12 seasons with the Giants, agreed that Sunday night was one of the top games he's played in during his career. "Oh, no doubt," he said. "Playing in these games will be the ones I remember. Blowouts and losses aren't even close; you remember games like this one because we got the home field advantage and have an opportunity for two home playoff games and then move on."

  • C Shaun O'Hara was impressed with Ward and Jacobs, more so than usual. "The general rule is that the offensive linemen take credit for the first four yards (of a running play) or take the blame for running plays that get stuffed," he said. "But what these guys did, especially Derrick, was a lot more than we could give them. It makes you proud to be an offensive lineman after a game like this."

  • The Giants' gained 301 rushing yards, the highest figure of Tom Coughlin's head coaching career with the team as well as the highest figure in team history since Nov. 19, 1950, when they rushed for 423 yards against Baltimore.

  • RB Brandon Jacobs rushed for three touchdowns Sunday, giving him 35 for his career. He moved past Ron Johnson and Frank Gifford and into a tie for fifth with Ottis Anderson on the team's all-time list.

  • QB Eli Manning finished the game with 181 yards passing and 3,119 for the season, making him the first QB in team history with four consecutive 3,000-yard seasons. It was also his 70th consecutive start, a team record for QBs, moving him one past Fran Tarkenton (1967-1971).

  • ORT Kareem McKenzie would not admit to any pain, but it was obvious from his lack of full movement that the back spasms that took him out of the Dallas game and curtailed his practice sessions last week had not entirely left. Now, with a "meaningless" game Sunday in Minnesota and then a week's rest during the playoffs bye week, he can see to getting healed. "I'd like that," he said.

  • MLB Antonio Pierce once again led the team with eight tackles, but he has displayed a disturbing problem with pass coverage. He simply isn't fast enough to stay with the wide receivers, and offensive coordinators are trying to put him in that position. "We all do our jobs, stay in our lanes, fill the gaps, and I'll worry about who I'm supposed to cover," he said.

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