By Paul Dottino
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The Giants made like the U.S. Postal Service and delivered – and they would not be deterred by sleet or snow or a collapsed roof or a detoured trip that brought them to Detroit’s Ford Field via Kansas City to play the Minnesota Vikings.
A very strong defensive effort and formidable rushing attack allowed the Giants (9-4) to overcome a sporadic passing game and poor special teams play to earn a 21-3 victory that allowed them to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East.
As it turned out, they were able to use the neutral site to their advantage. With the Metrodome caved in by a blizzard, the passive Detroit fans did not create the kind of noise that might have otherwise impeded Eli Manning and company, who were out of sync for most of the night.
As for Brett Favre’s herculean consecutive starts streak ending at 297 games? It’s a great feat and this sure to be first-ballot Hall of Famer should be respected for it, but we’ll wait until then to sing his praises because we’ve heard enough over the past week to last a lifetime. So let’s get to the game.
Offense- RB Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs (14-116, 1 TD) and Bradshaw (11-103, 1 TD) each ran for 100 yards in the same game for the first time this season while allowing the Giants to become the first team to run for more than 200 yards against the Vikings since 2005. Impressive? Yes, especially with the Vikings owning the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing defense (90 ypg).
The combo worked to perfection, with Jacobs being the primary ball carrier on three of the Giants’ first four possessions – and it was on their fourth possession that they took the lead for good, thanks to Jacobs’ career-long 73-yard burst around the left side. Although Bradshaw relieved him for the next three plays, Jacobs returned and bolted into the end zone on third-and-goal from the 1 to make it 7-3 and the Giants never looked back. Bradshaw, being used as the relief back, dashed a season-long 48 yards for a TD with 2:55 left in the third to make it 21-3.
Defense-LB Keith Bulluck. How do you single out one player when this defense has allowed two field goals and a touchdown over the past 10 quarters? In this case, you go to the one play that snuffed out any chance the Vikings had of stealing this game – it came on a third-quarter interception with the Giants in front, 14-3. Bulluck, playing underneath receiver Sidney Rice as part of a zone in the left flat, intercepted Tavaris Jackson at the Giants’ 32.
The turnover came two plays after Greg Camarillo’s 52-yard punt return appeared to have sparked the Vikings, setting them up at the Giants’ 36 with 11:35 left in the quarter. The Giants’ lead did not feel in jeopardy for the rest of the night.
Special teams-LB Chase Blackburn. The special teams captain cannot do it all by himself, but he tried – compiling three solo tackles on special teams. Still, the Vikings got Camarillo’s 18-yard PR average on five returns and Lorezno Booker’s 30-8-yard average on four kickoff returns (He had a 96-yard KOR for a TD that was called back by a holding penalty).
Offense-QB Eli Manning. He struggled throughout the evening and it’s hard to excuse either of his two interceptions. On the Giants’ first possession, he underthrew a ball to the inside of Hakeem Nicks, allowing former Giants CB Frank Walker to grab it at the Giants’ 44. This turnover led to the Vikings’ only points of the game.
On the second play of the second quarter, Manning missed Mario Manningham with another poorly thrown ball and Asher Allen picked it off at the Minnesota 41. But even on his bad days, Manning can come up with an amazing throw – like the dart he fired over the middle to Kevin Boss for a 6-yard TD with 8 seconds left in the first half.
Defense-DE Jason Pierre-Paul. We admit it, we got spoiled with his consecutive two-sack games over the past two weeks. But we’re getting on him for the one sack that he SHOULD have had in the second half, getting two hands on Jackson, but allowing him to squirm away.
Consider this a learning experience – professional quarterbacks are stronger than those in college and have a better chance of escaping if you don’t properly wrap them up (See Mathias Kiwanuka vs. Titans’ Vince Young).
Special teams-Both coverage teams. For the first time in the history of this grading system, we’re going to pick a collective group. We’ll allow Blackburn to sit out the gassers (see above), but the rest of the punt return and kickoff return coverage units had much difficulty in shedding blocks and allowed the Vikings to alter field position several times before the Giants’ defense came to the rescue.
On a side note, the Giants must be concerned with Steve Smith (hamstring) and Manningham (hip flexor), who were injured during the game. Justin Tuck (ribs) also got nicked and Clint Sintim (knee) appears to have suffered a serious injury.