EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Giants' road trip ended as they anticipated it would, with a much-needed victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Of course, they didn't expect it to be here, but their three-day tour of the Midwest prior to the game is what makes the story so compelling. The teams were scheduled to play on Sunday at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis, which became impossible when the dome atop the stadium collapsed under the weight of 17 inches of snow. That storm diverted the Giants to Kansas City for a night and ultimately here, where the teams began play 30 hours later and 690 miles to the East of what the original plans called for.
The Giants were unfazed by the unanticipated itinerary changes and cruised to a 21-3 victory in Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions. The Giants' third consecutive triumph improved their record to 9-4 and left them tied atop the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles, who visit New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday.
The Giants snapped a four-game losing streak to the Vikings.
"We knew we were going to play a game sometime, it was just a matter of when," quarterback Eli Manning said. "There was a lot of sitting around – sitting in airports or on airplanes or in hotels. It was a long week. This morning we had a little walk-through – a chair drill when we were still in our dress clothes, but I thought that was a sign that said, 'Hey, the game's coming now.' I got little reminders of what Minnesota does and got through some of the mental (reminders) after not having practice for three days. Our last practice was on Friday, so it had been a long time since we had done anything football related. But I thought we did a good job mentally handling some things. We didn't make too many mistakes. We weren't as sharp as we could have been, but we did enough good things to win."
"The word of the day is resiliency," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Regardless of where we play, who we play, what time we play, it doesn't matter. We've flown all over the Midwest this week. I'm all for stopping in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago – make some more stops on this Midwest tour. It would have been easy for us to come in here and been distracted and not be focused on the task at hand. But we did a good job. It just shows the mental toughness this football team has."
The Lions did their best to make their NFC North rivals, the Vikings, feel like a home team. The Vikings logo replaced the Lion that is normally displayed at midfield. And the word "Vikings" was painted in each end zone. The logo and "Vikings" were continually shown on the scoreboard. The Vikings video that is played prior to home games in Minneapolis was shown on the video boards here."
Most ubiquitously, the sound of the Vikings horn that constantly plays at Mall of America Field was imported to Detroit.
"You could hear that bullhorn – maybe someone could slide over and turn that off," Coach Tom Coughlin said.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw each rushed for more than 100 yards and a touchdown. It was the second time in Giants history they have had two 100-yard runners in the same season. The first was Dec. 23, 2007 at Buffalo, where Bradshaw and Jacobs accomplished the feat.
The Giants' third touchdown was a pass from Manning to tight end Kevin Boss.
"We know we're a good running team, and we know we can throw the ball as well," Jacobs said. "We have electrifying receivers that can make plays on the ball and we have a good quarterback that can get it to them. Ahmad and I just go out and do what we have to do to help the team win no matter what it is – pass blocking, catching the ball, running it, whatever it is. We love to run the ball, and I think that's what our offense is made of. We have a line that wants to run the ball, and that's what we do best. When we get that going, it's going to be awfully hard to beat us."
"It's a good thing we did have the run," Coughlin said. "We've had the run the last couple of weeks in terms of lots of numbers; both backs sharing in the load and both doing an outstanding job, both having long runs tonight. You saw the game, you saw the fronts, and a lot of times there were eight, sometimes nine, down there and we were still able to run the ball, not with a lot of consistency, but we did break through and we were able to mount the yardage. I'm glad that we did do that."
Manning was sacked in the third quarter, ending the Giants streak of not allowing a sack at five-plus games, the longest in team history.
Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (who missed two games) and Steve Smith (four) and left tackle David Diehl (four) returned to action after sitting out with injuries. Nicks had game-high totals of seven catches and 96 yards.
Ryan Longwell kicked a field goal for the Vikings, who fell to 5-8. Minnesota's evening was noteworthy because of the absence of quarterback Brett Favre, who was unable to play because of a shoulder injury suffered last week against Buffalo. That ended Favre's NFL record 18-year streak of 297 consecutive starts, which began on Sept. 27, 1992, when he was with Green Bay. Tarvaris Jackson started in his place.
The only player in history to play in more consecutive games than Favre was former Giants punter Jeff Feagles, who played in all 320 games in his career. Feagles retired earlier this year
"I was surprised (Favre didn't play)," Tuck said. "It seems like all the times he has a little bump or a bruise or something is wrong with him, he finds a way to speed up the healing process and get out on the football field.
"We did prepare for both. We prepared for Tarvaris a little bit more, because we figured with that injury he had, even if he started, if he got a couple of hits on him he might not stay in the football game. I'm kind of upset he (ended the streak) against us. I wanted the opportunity to hit him one more time before he gets out of here."
Bradshaw's 48-yard touchdown run increased the Giants' lead to 21-3 with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter. On first down, Bradshaw took a handoff, cut left behind Bear Pascoe's block and outran the Vikings' secondary to the end zone.
The 48-yard run was Bradshaw's longest of the season. His previous long was a 45-yarder vs. Detroit on Oct. 17. It was the Giants' longest touchdown run since Bradshaw's 88-yard scamper at Buffalo on Dec. 23, 2007.
Manning's six-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss with just six seconds left in the second quarter gave the Giants a 14-3 halftime lead.
On second-and-goal, Boss lined up on the right side, bypassed linebacker E.J. Henderson with a head fake and caught Manning's pass in the back center of the end zone. The touchdown was upheld after a review by the replay official.
The Giants drove 71 yards in nine plays and 1:40 following a Minnesota punt. The big play was a 30-yard Manning throw to Nicks, which gave the Giants a first down at the Vikings' 24-yard line.
A seven-yard pass to Boss gave the Giants a first down at the 13 with 23 seconds to go. Two plays later, Manning's 10-yard throw to Derek Hagan advanced the ball to the three-yard line. Penalties on each of the next two plays left the ball at the six with eight seconds to play. With the clock ticking, Manning calmly found Boss for the touchdown just prior to halftime.
Jacobs' one-yard touchdown run gave the Giants a 7-3 lead with 8:11 remaining in the second quarter. On third-and-goal, Jacobs ran behind the right side of the line and into the end zone.
It was fitting that Jacobs scored the touchdown, because he was most responsible for moving the Giants down the field. On the second play of the 89-yard drive – the Giants' third-longest of the season – Jacobs broke out to the left side and gained 73 yards, by far the longest run of his career. His previous long was 44 yards vs. Seattle on Oct. 5, 2008. Jacobs' longest run this year had been a 39-yarder last week vs. Washington. It was the longest run by a Giants player since Nov. 16, 2008, when Ahmad Bradshaw had a 77-yard gain vs. Baltimore.
"We called the play," Jacobs said, "and I had a good pre-snap read on the whole thing because the linebacker was down, he was tied up in there, so I knew he wasn't really going to be able to get out to chase me down outside so when I came downhill I got toward the line of scrimmage and pressed the line, went outside and off and running."
Jacobs' run began at the Giants' 13-yard line and ended on the Minnesota 14. Bradshaw immediately followed with an 11-yard gain to the three. He appeared to score on the second of two one-yard runs that followed, but the officials spotted the ball just short of the goal line. Tom Coughlin challenged the ruling, but after review, referee Jeff Triplette upheld the call on the field. Jacobs scored on the next play.
Defensively, the Giants held Minnesota to 10 first downs, 164 total yards (58 on a meaningless drive that ended the game), including 61 on the ground. Adrian Peterson, the NFL's fourth-leading rusher entering Week 14, was held to 26 yards on 14 carries.
"We just made sure that he didn't have any cut-back lanes," Tuck said. "He had been very successful at kind of pressing it to one side and coming back to the back-side seam and we made it a tremendous emphasis in practice for us. We followed him doing it a lot on film. His speed, his athleticism, he does a great job of cutting it back and outrunning the coverage and outrunning the defense. We just made sure he had no cutback lanes. We played physical upfront, the linebackers filled holes and our secondary tackled well when he tried to bounce outside. We just played an all-around great game against him."
Longwell's 21-yard field goal with 5:25 remaining in the first quarter was the Vikings' only score.
The Giants' offense was sluggish early. Manning was intercepted on the team's first and third offensive series (by former Giant Frank Walker and Asher Allen) and the Giants also punted before Jacobs' long run seemed to break them out of their lethargy.
"I thought our defense played really well," Coughlin said. "They did an outstanding job, particularly in the first half, bailing us out with the two turnovers, which is the absolute way that we did not want to start the game.
"We're pleased with the win. I was proud of the way our guy's handled the inconvenience, if you will – the changes that were made in the start time and the location of the game, etc. I thought we did a good job with that. I thought that in the beginning, our offense wasn't sharp and we didn't do a very good job on special teams; our coverage teams didn't do a good job tonight, but we did win the game and that's what we came here to do and under any circumstances leaving with a win is a huge plus for us. We're 9-4. We have kept pace, so we're excited about that."