The Minnesota Vikings scored 49 points, their highest total since the 1998 season.
By Jordan Wright
Coming in to Sunday night, the Vikings were still not assured a playoff spot. Needing to win at least one of their two remaining games to punch their playoff ticket, the Vikings were solid in all three phases of the game and took care of business in the prime time match up, beating the New York Giants 49-17.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Teddy Bridgewater had himself a great game. Showing his customary poise and quick decision making, Teddy completed 15 of 25 passes for 168 yards, one touchdowns and zero interceptions. Bridgewater could’ve had bigger stats, but this contest became out of reach early, leading to a heavy dose of the run game. He was also pulled from the game with almost 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, giving way to Shaun Hill who simply took snaps and handed the ball off.
Speaking of the run game, the entire unit from the running backs to the offensive line had one of their best games of the season. Adrian Peterson ran the ball 22 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, but it was Jerick McKinnon who stole the show. McKinnon only ran the ball seven times, yet he still had 89 yards and two touchdowns, including a spectacular 68 yard score with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter. As a group, the Vikings ran for 222 yards which was their second highest total of the year.
With Odell Beckham serving a one game suspension for fighting with Josh Norman, combined with the Vikings getting their top three defensive players back, the Giants were unable to get much going offensively. Manning finished with 234 yards and a touchdown, but also threw three interceptions. Ryan Nassib replaced Manning in the fourth quarter and threw for an additional 68 yards and a touchdown in garbage time.
The Vikings really played together as a team and showed what they can do when all the cylinders are hitting. Because of that, the player of the week isn’t just one player, but four. Jerick McKinnon showed plenty of athleticism and speed, keeping the offense running when Adrian left the game. Jarius Wright led the team in receiving yardage, and besides having the best last name in football, he really stepped up and made some big plays. Harrison Smith was third on the team in tackles, while also snagging an Eli Manning pass and returning it 35 yards for a score. Tied with Smith in tackles was Tom Johnson, who also pitched in two sacks and two additional quarterback hits.
There isn’t too much to complain about after this victory. If I had to choose one area that could use the most improvement, it would be the defense allowing big plays because of the occasional sloppy effort and poor tackling. There is an excuse to be made because of the weather (I know I wouldn’t want to tackle a 200 pound athlete who is running at full speed when the temperature is in the single digits), but that excuse only goes so far. The Vikings defense allowed 12 plays of 10 yards or more, including plays of 50, 72 and 25 yards.
Looking forward, the Vikings will play the Packers in Green Bay for the NFC North crown next Sunday night, as the game has been flexed to the Sunday Night game on NBC for the second week in a row. The Packers are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals, losing 38-8, and will be looking to get back on track before the playoffs start. If the Vikings play like they did against the Giants, they have a legitimate shot to dethrone the Packers and secure a first round playoff game at home. However, it should be noted that as it stands now, the loser of the Vikings Packers game will play the Redskins in Washington, while the winner will play the Seahawks at home. A home playoff game would be nice, but I think the Vikings would have a better chance against the Redskins.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me at facebook.com/ skoljwright, or on Twitter @skoljwright. Skol!