Offense explodes, Vikings win big, earn bye

The Vikings continued their offensive rhythm from the second half of the Bears game and turned it into a 31-0 halftime lead on their way to a 44-7 drubbing of the Giants. The win, combined with a Philadelphia loss, gives the Vikings a bye next weekend.

Hello, good bye.

The Vikings' 44-7 domination of the New York Giants turned into more than just a confidence-builder when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-0, thereby assuring the Vikings of a bye in the first round of the NFC playoffs by securing the second seed. If Philadelphia had beaten the Cowboys, the Eagles would have had the second seed and the Vikings would have been playing next weekend. Instead, the Eagles will return to Dallas next weekend while the Vikings get a week off.

The Vikings were looking to carry their offensive momentum from the second half of the Chicago Bears game into the regular-season finale, and a 44-7 win that saw QB Brett Favre being pulled in the third quarter would seem to have done it.

Minnesota scored on five of its six possessions in the first half, including four touchdowns in building a 31-0 lead against a short-handed Giants team, rolling to a 44-7 win and giving themselves a shot at the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

Favre was the catalyst, completing 25 of 31 passes for 316 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 148.7 rating. Four of his receivers – Sidney Rice (112), Visanthe Shiancoe (94), Percy Harvin (59) and Bernard Berrian (50) – had 50 yards or more. With so much going well in the air, the Vikings stuck with it and Adrian Peterson finished with only nine carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. Between the offense's efficiency and a solid defensive effort that held the Giants to 181 yards, including 35 yards on the ground, New York was forced to become one-dimensional early.

"Right now you have no chance if your great players don't play great," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "The best team wins. The best T-E-A-M wins this time of year."

The Vikings offense couldn't have started much better. Shiancoe picked up the initial first down with a 13-yard reception, followed by a 10-yard run by Chester Taylor and a 22-yard end around by Harvin. Shiancoe got the chance to end the drive and did so when he caught a pass in the flat and turned upfield 10 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead only 2:03 into the game.

The defense held by allowing only one first down on each of the Giants' next two drives. Shiancoe started out the Vikings' third drive with a first-down reception, Berrian got another first down with 10-yard catch and Peterson picked up 23 yards on his second carry of the game to put them in scoring position. However, after getting inside the red zone, a false start penalty kept them from considering a fourth-down offensive snap and Ryan Longwell gave them a 10-0 lead with a 36-yard field.

That would be just the start of it for the Vikings offense in the first half. They took their next possession 91yards for a touchdown, spurred by a 50-yard toss to Sidney Rice. Shiancoe followed that with a 27-yard reception and Peterson capped that drive with a 1-yard run for a 17-0 lead.

Shiancoe got the Vikings across midfield on their next drive with back-to-back receptions of 9 and 18 yards, the first of which had a 15-yard penalty tacked on for a late hit on Favre. Once inside the red zone, Favre hit Harvin for 9 yards and topped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Rice for a 24-0 lead with 2:39 left in the half.

It wouldn't end there. On the Giants ensuing play, Manning fired across the middle of the field, Ben Leber tipped the pass and Chad Greenway made a diving interception. Just to be sure that everything was going the Vikings' way, Leber recovered Greenway's fumble after the interception.

On the next play, Favre bought time and lofted a 40-yard touchdown to Harvin that was called back on offensive pass interference. The Vikings would just have to settle for a longer drive. They turned first-and-20 into a first down on four plays, the final one a 2-yard dive by Naufahu Tahi, and then got back to their passing ways with halftime closing in. Favre connected with Harvin for 17 yards before finding Rice for a 12-yard touchdown and a 31-0 halftime lead.

The beatdown continued into the third quarter, as Favre used a 29-yard pass to Rice and a 15-yard run by Peterson to move into field goal position, and Longwell was good from 24 yards out for a 34-0 lead.

On the next play from scrimmage, Jared Allen stripped Manning of the ball and recovered it to set up the offense on the Giants 8-yard line. Tahi hit paydirt with a 1-yard reception for a 41-0 lead with 6:13 to play in the third quarter.

Brian Robison added to the sack total to end the Giants' next drive and Tarvaris Jackson pressed the issue on his first drive of the game. He converted third-and-7 with an 18-yard completion to Harvin, and running back Albert Young moved the chains with a 10-yard run, but the Vikings settled for a 27-yard field goal and a 44-0 lead.

The Giants responded with their first and only scoring drive on Manning's final series of the game. He did it mostly through the air, but D.J. Ware got the 1-yard touchdown run for the final 44-7 score.

Even with the convincing win, the Vikings were forced to pin their hopes of a first-round bye on Dallas being able to beat the Eagles in a late-afternoon game. They were able to watch the Cowboys come together in similar fashion as the Vikings experienced themselves, and it gives the Vikings the opportunity to watch Cowboys-Eagles again next weekend while enjoying some time off.

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