The Giants have hope.
Well, it’s a little hope. Let’s not make it more than it is. But they have a little something to hold onto now after beating the Vikings 23-7 on Monday night. They finally have a win, which keeps them in the hunt in the NFC East for at least a few more days.
At 1-6, the Giants are three games back of Dallas, two games behind of Philadelphia and 1.5 games in back of Washington. Now, they face an all-in game at the Philadelphia Sunday. If the Eagles win, they will sweep the season series with the Giants, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker and a three-game lead over New York. But a Giants victory would move them just a game behind the Eagles at the season’s midpoint.
The Giants will need to pick up their play to have any chance at making a sustained bid at getting back into playoff contention. They made numerous mistakes Monday night but didn’t pay the price against the floundering Vikings. To wit: the Giants fumbled three times but only lost one. Also, quarterback Eli Manning had a couple of potential interceptions dropped by Vikings defenders, most notably when cornerback Marcus Sherels couldn’t handle a sure pick in the third quarter.
The Giants also benefited from some timely breaks. The play after Sherels' dropped interception, he fumbled a punt deep in Minnesota territory, which the Giants recovered at the three-yard line. Two plays later, Giants tailback Peyton Hillis scored from a yard out to give the Giants a 17-7 lead.
They were also fortunate to draw the Vikings now, when Minnesota’s offense is in a state of transition, to put it kindly. New quarterback Josh Freeman struggled in his first start with the Vikings, completing just 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards. Freeman’s accuracy was scattershot, his decision-making questionable. The Vikings’ offense didn’t score a single point.
However, give the Giants’ defense its due. Vikings star tailback Adrian Peterson rushed for just 28 yards on 13 carries, with no rush longer than eight yards. The Giants did their part to stop the Vikings from establishing a rhythm in the ground game. Frankly, so did the Vikings’ play calling. The Vikings were determined to pass, perhaps ultimately to their detriment. Of note: Peterson’s two longest rushes of the game were followed by pass attempts that ended in misfortune. One was intercepted, and the other ended in a sack pushing Minnesota out of field-goal range.
The Giants didn’t play especially well on offense themselves, but they did enough. Manning connected on a 24-yard TD pass to wide receiver Rueben Randle, who made a fine leaping catch. Victor Cruz also had a solid game, catching five passes for 50 yards.
New York didn’t get much at all from its running game, gaining just 64 yards on 32 carries. However, Hillis made a positive impact as a receiver, catching five passes for 45 yards. The Giants haven’t gotten much in the passing game from their backs, and Hillis’ contribution was a welcome sight.
Less welcome, however, was yet another round of Giants special teams errors, most glaring of which was Sherels’ 86-yard return touchdown that gave Minnesota a 7-3 second-quarter lead. The Vikings also surrendered a 69-yard kickoff return to Cordarrelle Patterson, and Randle fumbled away a punt.
The Giants can’t continue to make big kicking game errors and expect to win many more games. But enough lecturing: today, the Giants are no longer winless, and they are not hopeless.