The New York Giants won a playoff game for the first time in eleven years and managed to upset the Minnesota Vikings. In the 31:24 win, the home side simply failed to answer Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
Vikings vs. Giants: At a Glance
Daniel Jones put on a stellar performance in his playoff debut with 301 yards through the air and 78 yards rushing. He made history with him and led his team to their first playoff win in over a decade.
Contrary to their tendencies, the Giants played defensively and gave Kirk Cousins and Co. problems. They also had a special plan against wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
The Vikings’ tight game streak ended with this loss. For the first time this season, they lost a game which ended with only one score difference.
Vikings vs. Giants: The Analysis
The Vikings started off at high speed, and Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson crushed the Giants defense with ease. In the end, Jefferson got his team close to the end zone with 4 catches. The cousins snuck in for the first touchdown of the game.
The response from the Giants was not long in coming. The guests also marched towards the end zone, led by Saquon Barkley. Barkley himself finished with a 28-yard touchdown run. And after the Vikings dug a little too deep – a double pass to Jefferson and back to Cousins at 3rd and 1 led to a stoppage in the backfield – the home side’s offense got a bit weakened. The Giants did better and walked down the field again after a punt. Eventually, Jones found Isaiah Hodgins for a 14-yard touchdown pass to give New York the lead. However, the scoreline was helped by the referees overlooking a clear false start from left tackle Andrew Thomas.
The only reason the Giants didn’t extend their lead to two touchdowns is because Daniel Bellinger was the second man to get in motion before a touchdown by Jones, which of course is forbidden. They therefore settled for a short field goal to make it 17:7.
Before the break, the Vikings managed to catch an Osborn touchdown in the middle. However, that was preceded by Giants coach Brian Daboll’s questionable decision to dismiss a holding penalty on 2nd-and-9 on his own 26 against the Vikings. Shortly after, Kirk found Cousins TJ Hockenson for a 27-yard pass that set up the TD.
With 45 seconds left on the clock and two timeouts, Daboll then decided to let the time pass while his counterpart, Kevin O’Connell, also didn’t bother to stop the clock for another offensive. The score at the break was 17:14 Giants.
Vikings vs Giants: No response to Daniel Jones
After the break, Bellinger made amends for his misstep and caught a 9-yard pass from Jones into the end zone. Earlier, Jones had openly found Barkley and Hodgins for chunky plays.
The Vikings then came out of the locker room with a slightly different approach and took advantage of the Giants’ focus on Jefferson by looking for other receivers like Adam Thielen or Hockenson. The result was also a few longer receptions that quickly took the team into the red zone. The cousins finally found Irv Smith to catch up in the end zone. At the start of the fourth quarter, the locals even equalized with a field goal from Greg Joseph on 38 yards when they had in fact wanted to play a fourth try (1 YD). But left tackle Christian Darrisaw made a false start that thwarted that plan.
After that, the Giants regained the upper hand and were undeterred by a deep 4th run into the red zone. Jones snuck in another first down, then Barkley got the rest in the middle for a 2-yard touchdown! Renewed visit to New York.
After a stoppage, the Giants played the clock out until about three minutes before the end, but failed to finish the game early as wide receiver Darius Slayton openly dropped a pass which most likely led to a another first down before the two – Minute Warning on 3rd Down – the Vikings ran out of timeouts.
Instead, New York had to punt and the Vikings were given new life. A nasty passer-roughing penalty again helped the Vikings, but they were eventually stopped on 4th down for throwing the pass five yards from the marker.
The Giants delivered the perfect upset and are now in the divisional round, for the first time since the 2011 season, by the way. Now onto the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFC’s number one seed.
NFL Wildcard Playoffs: Minnesota Vikings (13-4) vs. New York Giants (9-7-1)
Result: 24:317:14, 7:3, 7:7, 3:7) BOXSCORE
Vikings vs. Giants – the most important stats
Barkley’s starting touchdown was the Giants’ first playoff rushing touchdown since Ahmad Bradshaw scored in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.
Barkley’s touchdown was also the Giants’ longest playoff rushing touchdown since Rodney Hampton’s franchise-record 51-yard touchdown in the 1993 wildcard game against the Vikings.
Daniel Jones already had 100 passing yards after one quarter – that’s a career high for him in the first quarter. And his 78 rushing yards is a franchise playoff record for a quarterback.
- Hockenson is the first Vikings player to cross 100 yards in his playoff debut. No other Vikings player before him had 80 receiving yards in his debut.
- Daniel Jones is the first quarterback in playoff history with at least 300 passing yards, at least 2 passing touchdowns and at least 70 rushing yards.
- The Vikings were 11-0 in one-scored games prior to this game this season. It was now their first loss in such games.
The star of the game: Daniel Jones (quarterback, Giants)
Jones had one of the best games of his career in his playoff debut. He distributed the ball well, avoided mistakes and was unstoppable on the pitch. He even intimidated the defense a bit with his shoving and made sure the Vikings practiced very defensively, barely blitzing and weren’t particularly consistent in coverage as they always had their eye on the QB. A solid performance from Jones.
The flop of the match: Front Seven (Vikings)
Too often, the Vikings’ front seven didn’t have access. Neither when Barkley ran with the ball and certainly not when Jones had the ball. Also, it was almost never possible to put consistent pressure on Jones (despite three sacks). He always had plenty of time to pass and the tackles often missed anyway. An almost typical performance from a defense coached by Ed Donatell in the playoffs.
Analysis: Vikings vs. Giants – the tactics table
The Vikings played Cover-2 defensively throughout with virtually no adjustments. They always played in the subset, which made it easy for the Giants to get rushing yards. They also dispensed with a spy for Daniel Jones, which he exploited in both playback options and engineered runs and scrambles.
After Jones’ successful early runs, the Vikings’ front became increasingly hesitant with Jones on the ball, often giving him a little extra time to get the ball to an open receiver.
- The Giants unsurprisingly turned their attention to Justin Jefferson in the passing game, who was regularly pinched by multiple players. The defensive backs were either to his left and right or just in front and behind him. Although the result was mostly unavoidable catches, the ensuing damage was contained with quick tackles. He didn’t have much room for yards after the catch. As a result, Jefferson made his final catch three minutes from the end of the third quarter.
- It was striking that they did not flash as often as usual. They only sent an extra rusher in about 30% of Cousins’ dropbacks, which isn’t really Don Martindale’s game. Instead, they even dropped seven players in coverage, mostly on 3rd Down, which made it difficult for Cousins to find the open receiver.
The Giants frequently used variations of their offense with two cruisers running through the middle, which kept confusing the Vikings secondary.
The Giants increasingly used pre-snap movement, in-game action, various play options, and even a Statue of Liberty as the game progressed, but it was not successful. Almost all of this was to be expected, which made it all the more surprising that the Vikings seemed surprised to encounter him.
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