New York Giants 15 – Minnesota Vikings 10
by Tim B. in NOVA
Summary: The Giants looked like a different football team against the Vikes. The offensive had a good mix of passes and runs starting in the first drive and continuing throughout the game. The opening drive really set the tone. It was a good 7/8 minute drive in which Brown went 5 for 5 hitting two nice slants in the drive (1 to Dawsey, 1 to Lewis for a first down). Unfortunately, the Vikes made two excellent defensive plays down in the red zone and then sacked Brown on third down forcing the Giants to settle for a field goal. Keith Elias made an excellent cut block on a blitz as the third down back in this drive. Most interesting at this point was the announcers comment that Brown would be audiblizing throughout the game. He was clearly giving the team instructions on every play from behind center. Brown looked in complete control. The most disheartening aspect of the game in the first half was the offensive lines inability to deal with any type of blitz. Brown took the brunt of the punishment. Defensively the Giants looked good all game with much of the credit going to the DBs. The DBs get the credit because the front seven was not getting any sort of pressure on Moon, particularly in the first half. Moon had three times the space and time that the Giants were giving Brown. Fortunately the DBs were leaving very little room to throw. Against the run, the Giants were solid with most of the running yards coming off of three or four big plays were tackling broke down. Even with the one breakdown on specials, the Giants special teams played very well. It was a good team effort all around.
Quarterback: This was the best Dave Brown has looked all year. Throughout the entire game he looked in complete control. His execution on slants was perfect with the ball coming in low and on-target every time. He made two bad throws, one where Lewis had his man beat and Brown over threw him and the missed TD pass to Cross (of course there’s no guarantee that Howard would have caught the ball if it hit him in the numbers). I would give Dave a grade of A-/B+.
Receivers: The Giant receivers did their best job all year of running their routes. Lots of slants, a good seam by Pierce and good blocking. But with five dropped balls (1 each by Toomer, Calloway, Dawsey, Cross, and Lewis for a 2 point conversion) that were all right on the money and easily catchable. The group gets a D.
Running Backs: The Giants entire stable of backs made good contributions. Hampton looked very good when he had somewhere to run, Wheatley did a good job spelling Hampton, and Way made the most out of his few carries. Pierces end-around was a surprise, fun to watch, and it worked. Grade B. Note on Rodney Hampton: There has been a great deal written about Hampton losing a step, being too slow, and advocacy of trading Rodney for draft picks or a DT. This would be a mistake. I think most of RH’s problems this year have resulted from a lack of anywhere to run (i.e. the new O-line just not getting it done). RH was never a burner but he still is very dependable, hard to bring down, and his motor just never stops running. I think as the season goes on, Rodney will be more and more of a factor and an indispensable asset.
Offensive Line: In the first half the line was up and down on running plays and getting manhandled on passing plays. They handled the four man fronts with no problem but whenever 1 or more players blitzed, it was lights out for the Giants. The line seemed to rebound in the second half with consistent run blocking and improved pass protection. With about 10 minutes left in the game, the sheer size of our offensive line was starting to wear on the Vikes and they took over the line of scrimmage. The Giants first offensive penalty came with 6:32 remaining (procedure-Gragg) with another procedure penalty (on a punt-Rudolph) one minute later. This is the second week in a row the Giants have avoided costly penalties. First half C-, second half B+, Overall Grade C+.
Defensive Backs: Spectacular. Sparks was on his man like glue and was obviously fired up all game. Sehorn is getting better and better ever week. His play is becoming more instinctive and he is making good decisions. On the play when he forced Moon to fumble you could almost see his deliberate change in body motion changing from a head down and bury Moon to a go for the ball when Moon stuck it out to throw. Excellent reaction on the fly. Percy Ellsworth did not look like a guy starting his first game. He looked disciplined, wrapped up his tackles and was in the right place for a pick (nullified due to a hold on a receiver that was not the target of the throw). Hamilton and Randolph also made good contributions. Jesse Campbell looked very good against the run and broke up a catch with a solid hit. Watching Jesse play, it is hard to understand why the coaches are not happy with his play. He has been on the ball consistently over the past two weeks. Considering the fact that the DBs had no help in the form of pressure on Moon (especially in the first half) Grade A+.
Linebackers: Nothing spectacular out of the backers but they held their own. Widmer got caught out of position a couple of times not shedding his block quickly enough. Armstead while quiet from a big play standpoint did a good job in coverage and run support. Miller controlled the TE for the entire game and maintained containment all game. Miller did miss what would have been a great tackle for a loss by not wrapping up the runner. Grade B-.
Defensive Line: The D-line was an enigma. They played the run extremely well 5 out of 6 times, but on the 6th time they would miss a tackle or get pushed of the ball and allow a 12/18 yard gain. On one of the 20 yard pickups Cedric Jones allowed himself to get sealed inside and the back just blew by him. In the first half, they put virtually no pressure on Moon who had time Brown could only dream of to throw. They got a little more pressure in the second half but not the kind of effort we saw against Buffalo. The DBs made the line look better than they played. Grade C-.
Special Teams: With the exception of the punt return for a TD the specials maintained the level of play they have displayed all year. Coverage was excellent on KOs, Brad was 3 for 3. Horan had an off-average night. One of these days either Wheatley, Toomer, or Lewis is gonna hit the homer on a kick-off. Knowing those three can be back there must really worry opposing special teams coaches. Grade C.
Coaching: Dan Reeves and Mike Nolan put together the best game plan of the year. Credit Reeves for giving Brown the opportunity to sink or swim and mixing up the plays the way the Giants did. The offensive game plan looked like someone else’s. Execute one or two plays down in close and it would have been a blow out. Dan is really proving his coaching ability the way he has kept his team together. Let’s not push him out the door to fast, no matter how the rest of the season turns out.
by Michael N. in Ottawa
Offense: The Giants executed their game plan perfectly although they should have had more points…particularly a couple of TD’s. The short slants to Thomas Lewis were particularly effective as were a couple of dump offs to Charles Way…similar to the one against Buffalo where he scored a touchdown. Dave Brown played his best game in quite a while but that may be due to Dan Reeves finally putting the game in his hands and allowing him to do the things he does best. The rollout and play action passes were particularly effective and play to Brown’s strengths. Brown was able to take off on a couple of rollouts when receivers were covered and got a couple of key first downs to keep drives alive. The play action passes kept the Vikings front seven honest and was the key in the pass to Chris Calloway which kept the final drive going and allowed the Giants to run out the clock. Brown did miss a wide open Howard Cross that would have put the Giants up 19-12 early in the fourth quarter but we’ll accept his reasoning that the play’s timing was messed up. Brown looked confident, in control, made good decisions, and no INT’s…all in all his best performance in two years. A large stepping stone for Dave and we hope it continues but once again emphasis must be put on the game plan by Reeves which finally allowed Brown to play. The running game, while not spectacular, eventually wore down the Vikings front four and allowed the Giants to control the clock. Rodney was Rodney…power running at its best…and once again, he proved the more he gets the ball, the more effective he is. Tyrone Wheatley saw only limited action due to a laceration on his hand but was very effective on a sweep early in the game, and finally seemed to be hitting the hole as he should. Charles Way continues to become a very fine fullback. His blocking is outstanding and his ability to come out of the backfield and take passes in the flat will keep linebackers at home. The O-line continued to show progress, particularly in run blocking, although they had difficulty in pass protection with Minnesota’s blitzes. I put that down to a lack of experience since the Vikes’ schemes are excellent. In regular protection, the line did a very good job allowing Brown to sit in the pocket. Finally, a huge pat on the back to Dan Reeves. It’s easy to criticize Dan sometimes but yesterday his game plan was very well thought out and executed perfectly. Obviously, he and the coaching staff had the Giants very well prepared. Minnesota may have underestimated the Giants but the G-men played a perfect game with no turnovers, only two penalties, and a tremendous effort.
Defense: The front seven continues to get better and better and while they only got two sacks…they did put good pressure on Moon for most of the game. In addition, outside a couple of runs, the front four contained Robert Smith. Corey Widmer showed some good instincts and reads of running plays between the tackles but still has difficulty shedding blocks, getting tied up unnecessarily at times. Corey Miller was solid if unspectacular but his credit is in the fact Andrew Jordan did virtually nothing. Jessie Armstead was also solid. The secondary was spectacular and a nice surprise was the play of free safety Percy Ellsworth. This kid is a keeper and Tito Wooten, who has not played up to expectations, may find himself on the bench when he’s healthy, if his play doesn’t improve. Corners Phillippi Sparks and Jason Sehorn were outstanding. We’ve come to expect big games from Sparks against top receivers but he completely nullified Chris Carter and Jake Reed. His interception was a thing of technical beauty, the way he read the route and broke on the ball before Carter did. Sehorn continues to show the decision to start him over Thomas Randolph was a good one and this allows the Giants to play nickel and dime coverages with almost no dropoff. Jesse Campbell was very effective stopping the run and solid in pass defense. Overall, the Defense deserves an A-plus for this performance.
Special Teams: Serious breakdown in coverage on the punt return touchdown by Palmer but that may be due more to Horan’s punt which was to the centre of the field than the coverage team. That was a low kick with almost no hang time. Any good punt returner loves those. Outside of that, kickoff and punt coverage was good and the return team did a good job particularly on the return after Palmer’s touchdown as Lewis almost broke one for a TD. Nevertheless, it set the G-men up in good field position and allowed them to narrow the score to 7-6 with a Daluiso field goal. All in All, this was a great win but while it’s too early to tell if this is a turning point for the young Giants, it gives us hope for the rest of the year.
by Scott C.
I thought I would send in a game analysis since I was able to catch it on the satellite. I will try to temper my enthusiasm and remain rational.
Offensive Line: Starting to work well with one another. They were facing a very quick Viking defense and they were able to control the ball and open gaping holes as the game wore on. They were particularly poor at containing the speed rush and the stunts of the Viking line. Gragg was beaten at least three times and seemed lost. Dave Brown took 4 pretty tough hits and was sacked 5 times, but the line responded when the Giants needed to control the clock. They were able to sustain field position which ended up being an important factor in the win. However, they HAVE to be more effective in the red zone. If it wasn’t for the continued good play by the D, the line could have given the game away by not punching it in for TD’s.
Receivers: A mixed review. Lewis and Brown hooked up 3 or 4 times on a slant/screen which picked up good yardage after the catch. It appeared that the Viking DB’s were mixing up their coverage, and the receivers were able to read the changes and find the open areas. Unfortunately, Calloway, Lewis, and Toomer dropped easy balls. Toomer’s hit him right in the numbers. He appears to be struggling since the Bills game and he is not getting open or using his size. Dawsey had a clutch catch, and hopefully this will signal his emergence in 3rd down REC’s. Both Cross and Pierce played effectively. Pierce scored the only Giant TD of the day on a running play, and showed some strength in breaking a tackle (although it was a horrible attempt). His 30 yard reception set up the second FG. Cross was a monster blocking for the running game. He controlled his side of the line all afternoon and was crucial in springing one of Wheatley’s runs. He was also wide open for an easy TD that would have put the Giants up by 9, but Brown threw his worst pass of the day.
Running Backs: Hampton still looked sluggish in the early part of the game, but had his best runs in the 4th quarter, which is probably a testament to the work of the line tiring the smaller Vikings down. Wheatley gained 24 yards on only 3 carries and should have been used more. Elias didn’t look bad, or good, but he was adequate. The backs did a better job picking up the blitz, but Elias released early on one play and forced Brown to scramble and throw incomplete. Charles Way continues to be an excellent lead blocker. He picked up good yardage on a running play, and caught a couple of passes. It was good to see him involved in the offense more. Rodney did the job today, but a more balanced attack with him and Ty could keep defenses on their toes. As a group, they must also get into the end zone when they get inside the 10.
Quarterback: Dave Brown played one of his best professional games. The statistics will show he had a solid, not spectacular game, but he is showing more maturity. He actually appeared to check off several times at the line of scrimmage, he was patient and did not bird-dog. One troubling aspect is his inability to finish a drive. He overthrew Cross in the end zone, and rushed a throw from the 8 earlier. He showed his ability to take a hit, as he was pounded several times, and he scrambled for a key first down that put the Giants in FG range. If the receivers held on to 4 of his catchable throws, his statistics would have been padded. He also did a good job at spreading his passes out to RB’s WR’s and an occasional TE. He threw the slant well, and didn’t make any mistakes when the Giants were driving. A very workmanlike performance.
D-Line: Surprisingly, they controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the game. Robert Smith gained over 80 yards, but had little impact in the scope of the offense. They also pressured Moon by mixing up their rush patterns. Strahan continued to dominate his blocker, and it appeared that the line was filling the passing lanes, causing Moon to alter his throws.
Linebackers: Also a very good game. Armstead was all over the field and dropped into pass coverage several times. Mike Nolan was able to create confusion for the Vikings by showing several different looks and to fake a couple of blitzes causing Moon to check off and miss slant routes. Miller didn’t have an evident impact, but he continued to open opportunities for the rest of the line and LB’s. He has really sacrificed his numbers for the good of the team.
Defensive Backs: The stars of the game. Percy Ellsworth was perfectly positioned the entire game. Sehorn was sent on 3 blitzes, and recorded two sacks (one of which resulted in a fumble). Sparks was in the Viking receivers faces all day long, and although Carter had 6 catches and 2 drops, they contained the big play, which was effective in frustrating the WR’s and Moon as the game progressed. Thomas Randolph played a lot of minutes and was not heard from. This is GOOD. He shut out his man, and Moon kept throwing away from him. Every replay showed that Randolph was right with his receiver. The DB’s nullified the height advantage of the Vikings by providing excellent positioning and timing. Once again, Ellsworth looks like the real deal. He didn’t make an outstanding play, but he never was beaten and made the appropriate reads. Sparks’ INT helped ice the game. It was a direct result of frustrating Moon into trying to make a big play, and Phillippi was right with his man.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Up and down. The punt return by Palmer was inexcusable. Horan punted it right down the middle, and the coverage let him slip right through. It also appeared to be one of the slowest developing plays for a TD in some time. However, Daluiso nailed all of his long-range bombs (grin) and he kept the Vikings in poor starting position with his KO’s. Lewis had a fantastic return of a punt, and the blocking on special teams was much improved.
COACHING: A brilliant game plan. Reeves had the Viking defense guessing on the play selection, and Nolan had their offense confused. One area of concern has to be the red zone. Reeves appeared to have the right play calls, but the execution wasn’t there. This could have allowed the Vikes to come back, and it would have been demoralizing. Reeves is showing a great deal of confidence in Dave Brown, and his play-action pass on third and ten with two minutes left stunned everyone. I am taking that as a good sign and a vote of confidence in Dave. This game will be a boost for the young team, and it is now crucial to win the next two to put themselves in the thick of the playoff race. A little dose of winning can go a long way if Reeves motivates them properly.
by David B.
Overview: Easily the most satisfying win of the season. The Giants played 60 minutes of football for the first time in what — 2 years?. It also marks the first time in two years they’ve beaten a team above .500. It wasn’t perfect, but they did enough right that the win WAS finally something to build on.
Offense: The Giants offense had possession of the ball for 37:43 — 15 minutes more than MINN. In the previous games the Giants averaged 8 minutes less than opponents.
Quarterback: This was possibly Dave Brown’s best day as a starter. He was 18 for 29 but had FIVE CATCHABLE balls dropped — some were perfectly thrown including a 2-point conversion. If those are catches, he’s 23-29. There was a different game plan in place for this game, and Brown not only had some audibles available to him, but Reeves gave him more opportunities in situations where he has not in the past. Brown wasn’t perfect or even pretty. There were still a couple of mistakes, but when it mattered most, Brown came up big. SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT HAPPENED BETWEEN COACH AND QB THIS DAY. REEVES FOR ONCE, PUT THE GAME IN BROWN’S HANDS, AND BROWN DELIVERED. Late in the 4th, the Giants were trying to hold a slim lead and run the clock out. Hampton got stuffed on this series and NY was facing 3&10. In this situation, in the past, Reeves would hand the ball off, Hampton would get stuffed. The Giants would punt the ball away and hope the D would hold. On this day, with the D playing as well as we’ve seen in years, Reeves gave Brown the ball and basically said: “finish it.” The play was a play action fake, and Brown threw a perfect 20 yard strike to Calloway. NY took a knee on the next 4 plays. Game over. As for Brown’s mistakes, he sometimes still appears to get over-excited on occasion and blow a play. The big one here was with the Giants at the goal line, he had Cross wide open in the end zone. Brown said the play had broken down, but he misfired on what should have been an easy TD. If NY had lost this game because of that play, everyone would have called for his head. What I’ve noticed in the last two weeks is that if Dave Brown isn’t constantly under siege and can get into a rhythm, he HAS improved, including his accuracy.
Running Backs: Last week I ragged on Hampton for being slow and non-explosive. He is, but he showed something yesterday that’s easy to forget about (I forgot about it). Hampton is simply much better in the 4th quarter than he is the first 3. He averages less than 3 YPC in the first 3 quarters of a game and more than 5 YPC in the 4th. Hampton had a year high 82 yards and made the bulk of it the hard way as usual. The Giants have not been in many situations this year where they need to run the clock out at the end of the game, but if they have more, they still have a guy who’s terrific at doing that, even though regular 100 yard days are a thing of the past. Wheatley suffered a laceration to his thumb on the opening kickoff. He came in for one series when it appeared that Hampton got dinged. He looked good. He had 3 carries for 24 yards (8 YPC avg.) including a 17 yard run that is just not in Hampton’s playbook. In my opinion, it’s time the Giants give the bulk of the first-half work to Wheatley letting Hampton spell him a bit, they reverse it in the second half and let Hampton get the bulk of the work toward the end of a game. Keith Elias was back as the 3rd down back — 3 for 8 for a 2.7 avg. Mr. Wonderful. Charles Way had 3 runs and 3 catches for a total of 27 yards.
Receivers: Not great. Once more, it’s just infuriating because when the QB makes a play the WR doesn’t, and vice versa. Chris Calloway had 2 receptions for 20 yards, but had an absolutely APPALLING drop of a key pass that hit him in-stride, and in the numbers. He redeemed himself later on the aforementioned 3&10. Calloway was also key to the run game all day. The Giants used him very effectively. According The NY Times: “When (Brown) got to the line of scrimmage with a running play, he would bring Calloway, one of the best blocking receivers in the league, in motion before the ball was snapped. If Randle was on the left and Calloway was on that side, Calloway would come in motion, stop short, then go after the free safety downfield. If Randle was on the right and Calloway was on the opposite side, Brown would bring Calloway all the way across the field to go after the safety.” Lewis caught several key slants for short yardage first downs. This play routinely beat MINN’s blitz and should be a standard play in the Giants offense. Lewis also seemed to run a poor route under (what I thought was) a catchable deep ball from Brown. It looked like Lewis didn’t properly judge where the ball was going to end up. If he hadn’t wasted steps, he should have been under it for a big gain. Lewis also dropped a perfectly-thrown pass on a 2 point conversion. HE HAS TO MAKE THAT CATCH. Dawsey caught 2 for 13. Amani Toomer dropped a perfectly-thrown pass that hit him in the numbers — would have been at least a 20 yard gain. HE HAS TO MAKE THAT CATCH or he’ll never keep a starting job. Howard Cross couldn’t pull in a poorly thrown pass from Brown in the end zone. Of course, Cross has had trouble catching any kind of pass in the endzone this year — this one wasn’t his fault. Pierce showed still more glimpses of the big-play kind of ability he possesses. He caught 3 passes for 45 yards including a 30 yarder. Pierce also now holds the dubious distinction of having the Giants only Rushing TD of the season. He scored on an end-around from about the 1.
Offensive Line: I said in the Jets review that it was difficult to tell if the line had made any progress. This week, it seems that the OL has in fact made some progress. It’s not happening fast, but it IS happening. Brown was sacked 5 times (several were coverage sacks), but the line got better as the day wore on. Holy-terror DL, John Randle (1 sack) was a pretty much a Non-Factor. The Giants neutralized him by running the ball right at him. Where ever he lined up the Giants ran at him. When they didn’t run the ball, they double teamed him and 270 lbs of Randle could not get through 600+ lbs of Big Blue beef. Our huge OL pounded the smaller MINN DL for over 37 minutes, and by the end of the game it had taken its toll on them. They opened up some big holes in the line in the 4th quarter. The group performed pretty well as a unit. I remember Bishop destroying his man on a sweep. I think there may have been (only) one penalty. Combine that with last week (which was penalty-free) and you can see that they’re beginning to come together.
Defense: Wow. The Giants defense held MINN to 47 plays, 220 yard total Offense, and 88 yards Rushing, 10 first downs, 0 TDs and 22 minutes of possession. This wasn’t the Jets, this was Warren Moon, Robert Smith, Chris Carter, Jake Reed and company. In 8 quarters of football, this defense has not surrendered a TD!
Defensive Line: A workman-like effort from this group. While they didn’t pressure Moon much, they clogged up the middle and stuffed the run pretty effectively. Chad Bratzke got the bulk of the work again at RE and looked as if he was being held on several plays that were never called. Strahan didn’t get much done against Korey Stringer. Hamilton and Harris were pretty solid inside. If Cedric “McGhee” played, I never saw him.
Linebackers: Plenty of tackles, but no memorable plays from anyone.
Defensive Backs: These guys were more responsible for the win than anyone else. Sparks turned in one of the finest CB performances I have ever seen — absolutely Brilliant! I was curious to see which WR they would cover with Sparks. He ended up lining up against both Reed and Carter, and effectively shut both of them down. Sparks just knows the CB position so well, it’s just a pleasure to watch him. Sparks’ single coverage of Carter or Reed let the other DBs converge on whoever Sparks didn’t have. On MINN’s final possession, Sparks made a beautiful INT on Cris Carter that effectively stuck the fork in MINN. Jason Sehorn made another “play of the game” when he came on a CB blitz and stripped the ball from Moon. He got a great jump off the line and instead of sacking Moon, he had the presence of mind to go for the strip. The Giants recovered and got points off the turnover. Sehorn’s coverage may, in fact, be improving, but I still think he flat-out misses too many tackles. Percy Ellsworth started his first game at Free Safety, and I think by the time Wooten gets healthy again, Tito won’t get his job back. Ellsworth has his head is in the game, knows where to be, is a sure tackler, and is very athletic. Wooten’s rap is that his head is NOT in the game, he makes too many mental errors, and his positioning is questionable. Campbell had one tackle on a run support that was a good play. Otherwise, he wasn’t mentioned.
Special Teams: Not great. Daluiso did fine kicking 3 short FGs. Horan had several lousy punts: 6 punts: 1 TB, 2 inside the 20, a 38.2 Avg. The coverage teams were poor allowing 84 yards in KRs and David Palmer’s 69 yard PR TD. The Giants returners: Toomer 22 yard KR/PRs for 30 yards and 8 yards. Wheatley 1 KR for 22.
Coaching: There’s a theory that states that you shouldn’t play conservative football with average talent. All year, this is what Reeves has given us fans. The MINN game, however, was a real turnaround for Reeves and Co. Prior to the game there was a lot of talk about how NY was going to pound the ball using their big OL against the small MINN DL. In the game, there was plenty of running, but Reeves really passed more than anyone expected. One of the post-game stories commented that “Reeves seems to finally understand that his own success is tied to Brown’s.” In this game, Reeves showed more confidence in Brown than in the past. He let Brown throw the ball, and Brown responded pretty darn well. Reeves also put in some audibles letting Brown use what’s widely regarded as his best asset — his head. This gave Brown the ability to change the play if he read something. More audacious than any of this was Reeves fighting all his instincts (admitted so in the press today) and going for it on 4th and short when he could have kicked an easy FG. He made some really gutsy calls during the game and they worked. He used an end-around to Pierce on the goal line for a TD. He used slants to beat the blitz and make key 3rd and 4th down conversions. Generally, he played for the WIN, rather than “not to lose.” THIS IS THE KIND OF STUFF REEVES SUPPORTERS TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY SAY HE’S A GREAT COACH. I’d like to see it more often. Reeves gets an “A” for this one. Nolan and Yaralian get an “A” De Camillas gets a “D.” Rehbein gets a standing “F” as long as route running is poor, and many good passes are dropped.
by Les in Toronto
OVERVIEW: This was an enjoyable game to watch for two reasons: (1) They held on to a lead in the fourth quarter against an undefeated team. (2) They played GIANTS football. Meaning, THEY dictated the pace of the game via a strong offensive attack, while making plays at crucial times on defense.
QUARTERBACKS: This is probably the best game Dave Brown has had as a pro. He was on target all day, throwing cannons which reminded me of another Reeves coached QB. At the beginning of the telecast, it was mentioned Dave Brown was allowed to call audibles this game. You could just tell by his look that he was happy about this. He burned the Vikings on the slant pattern about 6 or 7 times. His play action fakes were done to perfection and called at appropriate times. He ran with the ball when there was nobody open and was willing to take a sack rather than do something risky or stupid. If Brown did anything wrong, it happened in the first quarter when on a couple of occasions he focused on his target too early, which enabled the quick Vikings D to respond.
RUNNING BACKS: Hampton gives new meaning to “grind it out” each week. He looks extremely slow however he really became a factor in the fourth quarter when the Giants needed to run out the clock. Tyrone Wheatley saw limited action but made the most of the time he saw. On the last play of the game, before Brown kneeled down, Hampton ran for 13 yards between the tackles. If Wheatley had been in, he could have broken it for a score. However, Hampton is the safe choice as he knows how to hang on to the football. Elias had a couple of runs on draw plays, but didn’t do anything special, however he looked really good picking up the blitz. Charles Way continues to be a dominating blocker and receiver out of the backfield and if Larry Centers was in the AFC, Way would be my choice for the Pro Bowl.
RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Thomas Lewis and Chris Calloway had up and down games. Lewis made some really nice catches on slant patterns, but also dropped a crucial one on the two point conversion. Calloway was making nice moves all day, however he had difficulty getting open early. Amani Toomer dropped a rocket that was right between the numbers. Lawrence Dawsey looked solid and definitely should be getting more action. Aaron Pierce had an excellent game for a guy who was playing injured. He had a TD run and a 35 yard reception. Matt Millen noted that Pierce is another solid weapon in the Giants arsenal and he should be used more often. Cross should not be earning the money he is. He is basically another tackle on the offensive line. His blocking was great, but Howard can you hang on to the football?!!
DEFENSIVE LINE: Although they didn’t get much penetration rushing the passer, they did hold their ground against Robert Smith and held the Vikings to under 90 yards rushing. Hamilton continued his solid year by effectively stuffing the run. Robert Harris seems to be an on again/off again type of player and this week he was off. Michael Strahan was a consistent playmaker, while Chad Bratzke had a quiet afternoon. Holsey and Jones saw limited action.
LINEBACKERS: Corey Widmer seems to be developing a good eye as to how a play is going to unfold. He missed a crucial tackle, allowing Smith to scamper 20 yards but he also got behind the line of scrimmage to make a couple of plays. Jesse Armstead was relatively quiet this game. Corey Miller stuffed Andrew Jordan all day. Miller was a little slow on a couple of blitzes, however.
SECONDARY: Everyone had a great day. If Phillippi Sparks consistently puts out performances like yesterday then you can book him a ticket for Honolulu around the end of January. His interception was even more remarkable considering Carter was holding on to him. I wonder if the Giants can use him like the Chiefs use Dale Carter. Jason Sehorn did an admirable job covering Jake Reed, while sacking Moon twice and forcing a fumble. Percy Ellsworth actually is an improvement over Wooten. While Tito always seems to be a step behind, Ellsworth was able to stuff the run and seemed to be involved in almost every play. Jesse Campbell was quiet, so it could be said he had a good game. Conrad Hamilton is a player, although he did let David Palmer get a step on him on the touchdown that was nullified.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Brad Daluiso went three for three kicking field goals, however they were all under 30 yards and Reeves elected to punt when Daluiso could have kicked a 48-50 yarder. He only had one touchback out of five kickoffs. Horan was shanking it all day and looked goofy trying to tackle Palmer on his punt return for a TD, The coverage units played well, despite the touchdown and the blocking was decent. Toomer had a really nice punt return while Lewis returned a kickoff 44 yards, almost breaking it for a touch.
COACHING: Reeves really had his team ready to play. The Vikings didn’t know what to expect at some points in the game. Although Reeves said for the Giants to win the offensive line would have to wear down the defensive line through running, I believe there were more passing plays than running plays. He gave Brown some freedom and he thrived in the situation. Kudos to Zaven Yaralian for having his unit in fine form.