In his two career starts vs. the Vikings, Manning has been brutal. He has a record of 0-2 with two touchdowns and eight interceptions – throwing one TD and four picks in each game. Manning, who has built a reputation for protecting the ball and not making stupid mistakes, has had a rough time with the Vikings. Last year, the Vikings pounded the Giants 41-17 at the Meadowlands and returned three Manning interceptions for touchdowns – one of 20 yards by Darren Sharper, one of 93 yards by Dwight Smith and another of 37 yards by Chad Greenway.
It was a beatdown for the ages that some believe actually helped the Giants on their postseason run. Their loss to the Vikings, much like last year's 34-0 beating taken by the Vikings against Green Bay, forced the Giants to take a hard look at themselves and determine what they needed to change to improve as a team. The Vikings would like nothing more than to get the Giants once again in self-assessment mode.
So just how did they do it? As per usual, it was stopping the run first.
"I wasn't around for the first game, but in last year's game, we were able to stuff the run and make their offense one-dimensional," linebacker Ben Leber said. "They got almost all of their rushing yards in the first quarter. After that, we gave them almost nothing and forced them to pass."
With the game tied 7-7 in the first quarter, the Vikings went on to outscore the Giants 31-3 before a late touchdown in the final minutes. Manning completed just 21 of 49 passes and the Vikings were able to pull out some trickery to confuse and befuddle the eventual Super Bowl MVP.
"Once we got them in the position where they felt they had to pass, we were able to bring blitzes at him from every direction," Leber said. "We had linebacker blitzes, safety blitzes, corner blitzes – we brought them all. We were able to disguise them and bring them from different directions – to the point he knew they were coming, but didn't know where from. No quarterback likes to get hit in the mouth and we were getting to him a lot."
Can the Vikings repeat history and frustrate Manning again Sunday? If his history to date means anything, Manning may want to join some of his injured teammates on the sidelines for the second half Sunday. There are just too many painful memories of playing the Vikings on his résumé not to.