The ghosts of Monday Night Football have been exorcised as the Minnesota Vikings (4-0) earn their first Monday Night victory since 2009. One of only three undefeated teams in the NFL, Minnesota has now defeated a one-loss opponent by a double-digit margin two weeks straight. The New York Giants (2-2) came in still stinging from a fourth quarter loss to the Washington Redskins and left U.S. Bank Stadium without comfort after another frustrating defeat. Here are the aspects that stood out during the Vikings impressive outing.
Minnesota Vikings Week Four Takeaways
The Vikings defense continues to confuse Eli Manning game after game. Manning joked that he was unaware of any Vikings player having his number. He did not, however, rule out head coach Mike Zimmer, whose defense made Manning look skittish all night long. The best receiver trio in the NFL, Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, was held to 103 total yards by a suffocating “Purple and Gold” cornerback quartet. After averaging more than 203 yards per game in their first three contests, the Giants receivers were blanketed by Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn and Trae Waynes from start to finish.
The Vikings pass rush did not register a sack in the game, but that didn’t stop Manning’s frantic movement in the pocket. His internal clock sounded alarm bells once the clock struck about two seconds. The Giant quarterback threw several balls into the turf if any purple jersey got within five yards of him.
“Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!”
The Former Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Kyle Rudolph made critical catch after critical catch, ending up with five catches for 55 yards. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford connected with Rudolph for a touchdown and several chain-moving first-down plays. This led to an eleven-minute time of possession advantage and was key in keeping the Giants powerful offense at bay.
Rudolph was not the only noteworthy contributor. The Vikings starting trio of receivers, Stefon Diggs, Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen, each had longer receptions than any of the Giant wideouts, combining for 138 yards. Cordarrelle Patterson played inspired football, adding five catches, including a 21-yarder.
Norv was Dead On
During a press conference last Wednesday, offensive coordinator Norv Turner indicated that his offensive line showed improvement. He also said running back Jerick McKinnon “can do it all.” These statements clearly proved themselves out against the Giants defense.
Many fans and pundits prophesied that defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul would terrorize Bradford all night. Instead, the Vikings signal-caller stayed clean and had plenty time to survey the field. The Vikings pass protectors allowed no sacks in a game for the second time this season. Bradford went largely untouched despite losing another starting offensive lineman early in the game. Jeremiah Sirles stepped in for the second straight week and filled in nicely at right tackle for Andre Smith. T.J. Clemmings continues to show he can handle the blind side responsibilities.
Despite having only two remaining starting linemen from the original starting five, the Minnesota offensive line showed life. Though lack of explosiveness in the running game is still a concern, McKinnon moved the ball on the ground effectively. The diminutive former college quarterback squeezed through very small holes, carving out 85 yards on 18 carries. The “Minnesota Moving Company” finally did a decent job run blocking as the Vikings eclipsed the 100-yard mark in rushing for the first time all season. They effectively and meticulously wore down the ninth-ranked run defense in the league.
The Minnesota Vikings defense is arguably one of the three best defenses in the NFL. They lead the league in takeaways and place second in both points allowed and sacks. More worrisome to their next opponent, the Houston Texans, is the improving offense. The Vikings put up 366 yards on a Giants defense ranked in the top-ten. The team will face another top-ten defense next week and will need an equally-impressive performance to remain undefeated.