Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' loss to the Giants
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 21-3 loss to the New York Giants on Monday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
Tarvaris Jackson (55 snaps) didn't stand a chance once Perry Fewell decided it was safe to blitz. From the start of the second quarter until Fewell called off the dogs with a minute to go, the Giants rushed five or more on 17 of 24 dropbacks (70.1%) by Jackson and rookie Joe Webb (nine), who combined in that nearly three-quarter span to complete 9 of 20 passes (45%) for 64 yards with two turnovers, a 19.6 passer rating and zero points in nine-plus drives. The Giants are good, but that's about as bad as it gets. The Vikings' only trip into the red zone ended with an underthrown fade WR Sidney Rice couldn't handle on third-and-goal early. Jackson finished 2-of-8 passing on third downs and 15-of-30 overall. He took a 15-yard loss when a shotgun snap went through his hands. He bore partial blame on two of the Giants' four sacks for holding the ball too long. He somehow didn't see SLB Keith Bulluck's slow buzz underneath Rice's stop route, yielding a horrible interception. Four false starts reflect poorly on the quarterback, too. Give Jackson credit for trying to play through turf toe, but throwing off-balance over and over only made matters worse. If this was an audition, Jackson didn't even do enough to justify his extended run as Brett Favre's top understudy. At least Webb didn't look so tight in three relief stints. His first NFL pass was on the money to up the sideline, but FS Antrel Rolle spun it out of Rice's hands. A 16-yard scramble was the Vikings' longest run by 9 yards. What more can really be expected when Webb hasn't even gotten practice reps?
Running backs (1½)
Not even HB Adrian Peterson (34 snaps) could bail out his blocking unit this time. The Giants extensively deployed a nickel set that included backup SS Deon Grant in place of a third cornerback, allowing them to shift in and out of 4-4 looks that confused the Vikings' zone-blocking assignments. When a cutback lane opened, the Giants repeatedly rallied to the ball and got stops, holding Peterson to a season-low 26 yards on 14 carries (1.9 average). He had to break two tackles for his long run of 7 yards -- only the third time in 59 career games he hasn't had one longer. He stayed in protection a lot as the Vikings used chips and extra blockers on 20 of 39 dropbacks (51.3%) and wasn't targeted in the passing game. He also dropped out briefly after banging knees with Jackson while trying to avoid Rolle's slot blitz. Why not add an embarrassing injury to insult? HB Toby Gerhart (17) was a nonfactor with four touches for 12 yards. HB Lorenzo Booker (14) got most of his action in garbage time, caught a screen pass for 6 and had a false start. FB Naufahu Tahi (13) roped WLB Michael Boley for a senseless holding penalty.
As long as Percy Harvin sits out, this group starts and ends with Rice, who played all 64 snaps but had only one catch over the final three quarters. It wasn't for lack of chances -- Jackson and Webb threw Rice's way 12 times, completing five of them for 60 yards. That included a 16-yard stop and a 22-yard throwback after Jackson broke pocket, the only two "explosive" gains the offense had all day. Pulling in the end-zone fade instead of letting it slip off his forearm would have made Rice's day a whole lot better. Why in the world was he on the field for the Hail Mary that left him tangled at the goal line as time expired? Bernard Berrian (59) caught five passes for 30 yards, couldn't make anyone miss on a couple of quick hitters and dropped an easy one on a drag. Why the Vikings' game plan still treats him like a vertical threat is anyone's guess. Berrian can't even get off the line. Greg Lewis (26) regained the No. 3 receiver role over Greg Camarillo (14) and had two catches for 13 yards to Camarillo's one for 3.
Tight ends (1½)
Has anyone seen Visanthe Shiancoe (42 snaps)? He went out in pattern 27 times and didn't have a ball thrown his way until the fourth quarter, catching one for 7 yards in the final minute. The Giants played mostly nickel even against two-tight end looks, reducing mismatches Shiancoe could exploit against linebackers. But it's startling coaches can't design more to go his way, especially when their other inside threat, Harvin, isn't even on the field. Shiancoe did himself no favors with another false start on the opening series. There's no questioning his passion. Even big Jimmy Kleinsasser (22) had some trouble with the Giants' talented front, getting stood up on several run plays and flagged for holding RE Osi Umenyiora. Jeff Dugan (14) does nothing but dirty work.
Offensive linemen (1)
The Vikings' inability to get movement up front stalled the running game from the get-go, allowing the Giants to open up their pressure scheme and pound Jackson and company into submission with a steady diet of line stunts and slot blitzes. LG Chris DeGeare didn't get overpowered as often as he did in his first start, but RDT Chris Canty kept holding his ground, beating the rookie once with an inside move to drop Peterson for no gain and disrupting multiple other plays in the backfield. DeGeare also surrendered five quarterback pressures, including two hits and a piece of two sacks. C John Sullivan had a hand in one of those sacks, allowed two other QB hits and twice got beat by MLB Jonathon Goff on runs for loss or no gain. RG Ryan Cook let LDT Barry Cofield hit Jackson on the opening snap, held DT Rocky Bernard, had a false start -- and probably played the best of the interior trio. LT Bryant McKinnie got chopped by Canty to force one sack and let LE Justin Tuck get in on another in 2.7 seconds. He's starting to look a little slower in the run game, too. RT Phil Loadholt held up well in protection until DE Jason-Pierre Paul beat him on a counter to flush Jackson into Umenyiora's knockout punch late. He's definitely improved of late.
Defensive linemen (2½)
The showdown between RE Jared Allen (66 snaps) and Giants LT David Diehl ended up a draw. Allen went outside for a sack in 2.9 seconds, thanks in part to a whiffed chip by HB Brandon Jacobs, and finished with four total QB pressures. But this was nowhere near a dominating effort by Allen on a day the Vikings could have used one, with Giants QB Eli Manning rallying from a slow start to complete 18 of his last 27 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. No one else along the line even touched Manning. Who knows how it might have been different if Allen had been summoning crowd support from the crowd at the raucous Metrodome, rather than muted Ford Field? LE Brian Robison had three pressures on the other side against RT Kareem McKenzie, who was stout as usual in run blocking. UT Kevin Williams (60 snaps) gave LG Kevin Boothe and RG Chris Snee plenty of trouble in the run game, making three tackles for loss and getting the penetration to set up two others. Williams also batted down a pass, had a neutral-zone infraction and got nowhere with his pass rush. NT Pat Williams (37) got shoved around more than the Vikings want to see. He did make a nifty play on Jacobs just shy of the goal line. DT Letroy Guion (17) took a lot of third-down rush reps but made his only notable play on first, shedding Snee to drop Jacobs. DT Jimmy Kennedy (15) and DE Everson Griffen (seven) were invisible until garbage time.
This was a day to forget for MLB E.J. Henderson (67 snaps), who perpetually seemed a half-step late until the game was out of reach. He tried to shoot a gap and failed to scrape on Jacobs' 73-yard run, which set up the Giants' first touchdown. He bit on the shake route that freed tight end Kevin Boss for a 6-yard touchdown. And he got caught in traffic again on HB Ahmad Bradshaw's 48-yard touchdown run that all but put away the decision late in the third quarter. No wonder Henderson seemed to be playing angry in the fourth, when he pressured Manning on consecutive blitzes and blew past C Rich Seubert to drop Bradshaw for a 3-yard loss. The Giants were running so effectively de facto DC Fred Pagac only dared to send nine extra-man pressures in 32 dropbacks (28.1%) by Manning, who finished 4-of-9 for 27 yards against the blitz. TE Bear Pascoe's lead block erased SLB Chad Greenway (67) on Bradshaw's TD run. Greenway's six credited tackles (four solo) were worth of one of his quietest performances. WLB Ben Leber (45) got a lot more time than usual because the Giants played almost the whole game with an extra tight end or eligible tackle on the field. He had one QB pressure and an offsides penalty that was declined. OLB Erin Henderson played one snap of goal line.
Defensive backs (2½)
Intercepting Manning's bad-idea slant for WR Mario Manningham was the high point for CB Asher Allen. Then, things unraveled as usual. Manning threw into Allen's coverage seven more times and completed six for 83 yards -- the only miss resulting from an overthrow after WR Hakeem Nicks had torched Allen by 5 yards on a go route. Two of those completions were option slants on the backside of designed running plays, which Manning threw because Allen kept bailing out of big cushions. Allen also took a stupid spearing penalty, got hurdled by Pascoe in the flat and lost contain on a draw play to Bradshaw that went for 23 yards. The Vikings probably would replace him in a heartbeat if they had any options left opposite CB Antoine Winfield, who broke up a pass in the end zone and was as sure tackling as ever. CB Frank Walker (17 snaps) made a good read to jump the skinny post to Nicks from outside leverage and get his first interception as a Viking. But Walker still hasn't even shown enough to take nickel duties outright from CB Lito Sheppard (eight). FS Madieu Williams took a poor angle on Jacobs' long run and an earlier power-right run by Bradshaw that went for 18. SS Husain Abdullah (48) was in and out after getting poked in the eye and replaced by SS Jamarca Sanford (19), who might have had a chance to help Henderson over the top on Boss' touchdown.
Whether Harvin plays or not, Booker probably has earned himself another opportunity to contribute on special teams in one capacity or another. He averaged 30.8 yards on four kickoff returns in his Vikings debut -- and that's after a borderline block in the back flagged on MLB Jasper Brinkley erased Booker's 96-yard kick-return touchdown. His initial cut between New York LB Chase Blackburn and TE Travis Beckum was fantastic. Camarillo was just as impressive on his wild, weaving 52-yard punt return, aided by two knockdown blocks from Griffen. Not to be outdone, P Chris Kluwe grossed 45.8, netted 42.4 and averaged 4.55 seconds of hang time on 10 punts, four of them downed inside the 20. Sanford was stellar in his return to gunner duties, save for the punt he failed to locate as it landed at the 2. PK Ryan Longwell hit a 21-yard field goal and got one of his two kickoffs to hop through the side of the end zone for a touchback. The only black mark here was penalties -- especially Brinkley's, although it sure appeared he engaged CB Aaron Ross in the shoulder, not the back. Erin Henderson false started on a punt, and an unnamed player drew an unnecessary roughness penalty that offset a Giants infraction.