Jon Beason has been with the Giants for less than three weeks, but he is already one of their most important players and leaders on the defense. So when he issued a directive about stopping Adrian Peterson in the days leading up to the Giants' game against the Minnesota Vikings, his teammates listened.
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"Beason said that nobody can make solo tackles," fellow linebacker Keith Rivers said. "He said we all have to get to the ball."
The Giants did as they were instructed and in the process celebrated their first victory of the season. Last year, Peterson had a dream season, winning the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award while rushing for 2,097 yards, just eight shy of Eric Dickerson's NFL record.
But Monday night he had a nightmare, thanks to the Giants' defense. Peterson was gang-tackled into submission and finished with only 28 yards on 13 carries, a 2.2-yard average. His longest run was eight yards. He did catch two passes for 28 yards, but they did little to aid the Vikings' cause as the Giants won going away, 23-7, to improve their record to 1-6.
"It was an outstanding effort," coach Tom Coughlin said of the Giants' defense. "Guys played hard, a lot of people to the ball, which we knew we had to have."
With their run game shut down, the Vikings tried to pass, which didn't work, either. Josh Freeman, making his first start since signing with the team on Oct. 8, completed only 20 of 53 passes (37.7 percent) for 190 yards. He was sacked once by Justin Tuck and intercepted by Antrel Rolle. The Giants defense was credited with 13 hits on Freeman. Minnesota scored only on an 86-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels.
"I had front row seats to a great group effort," said Beason, who was acquired in a trade with Carolina on Oct. 4. "It started with our D-line up front, the guys inside. Our D-ends contained them. I said before the game, 'Hey, this isn't a stat week. I don't want any solos. Everybody has to get assists.' When you do that and you swarm, good things happen. You get takeaways and you can contain a great player in Adrian Peterson."
Seven different Giants defenders were credited with four or more tackles. Beason led the parade with nine, including five solo. Prince Amukamara and Jacquian Williams each had five unassisted tackles and Rolle had four solos and an assist.
The Giants frequently put eight or nine men in the box to stop Peterson, who entered the game as the league's fourth-leading rusher, averaging 96.6 yards a game and 4.7 yards a carry.
"It was tough sledding, it was definitely tough sledding," Peterson said. "We were just kind of out of whack. Those guys were bringing some stunts, doing a lot of movement up front. Nothing we haven't seen before, but it kind of put us in an uncomfortable position and we struggled with that all night."
The Giants scored on Eli Manning's 24-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle, Peyton Hillis' one-yard run and Josh Brown field goals of 35, 23 and 36 yards. Their only turnover was a Randle fumble on a punt return. In five of their first six games, the Giants were in a position to win in the second half. Monday night, they finally got over the hump and enjoyed a victory for the first time since defeating Philadelphia in the 2012 season finale.
"I sure do feel good winning and it's one of those, 'Oh, this is what it feels like, huh?'" Coughlin said.
Manning completed 23 of 39 passes for 200 yards, the touchdown and, for the first time this season, no interceptions. Hillis, who signed last Tuesday and practiced with the team for the first time on Thursday, rushed for 26 yards on 18 carries and tied Victor Cruz with a team-high five receptions for 45 yards.
"It's good to be smiling and have a little excitement in the locker room afterwards," Manning said. "Those things
are fun. If you play and don't win, after a while you kind of forget that winning feeling, so it's good to get one right here and we needed it. Hopefully we keep it going."
They'll have a better chance to do that if the defense can keep tormenting opposing offenses.
"The defense was outstanding." Manning said. "When they're dominating, the line of scrimmage and the game, and the offense can't get much going, it does help the offense. We built a little bit of a lead and said we can be patient. Let's not give their offense a short field. Let's not force anything. If we've got to punt and back them up, it's going to be tough for them to go 80 yards for a touchdown. It does make a difference for us and change our game plan a little bit with how we're pressing and what we need to do."
The catalyst for this victory was certainly the defense and the job it did on Peterson. The Giants gave him no space to run and the entire Vikings offense sputtered as a result.
"We were just being physical with him," defensive tackle Mike Patterson said. "He's big, not big necessarily like huge or anything, but he's a physical runner. With somebody like that, you have stay up high, wrap him up and everybody's got to gang tackle. We just got everybody surrounding him kind and didn't give him anywhere to go. I just think that, as far as a defense, we did a good job of surrounding the ball and everybody pursuing it."
"To hold that team to zero points on defense (and hold) who I think is the best back in the league to 28 yards, that's a good start," Tuck said. "We had a lot of pressure on the quarterback tonight. It didn't show up in sacks, but I think we had double-digit quarterback hits. He was under pressure all night, so, that's something I think we can continue to build on. Our secondary played well, they a got turnover and just had tight coverage all night. Hopefully, it's something we'll see more of around here."
They get their next chance Sunday in Philadelphia, the Giants' final game before the bye.