The Vikings were sharp in all three phases of the game and even used bookending touchdown runs to notch a 24-10 victory over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The win came in front of a packed and raucous U.S. Bank Stadium crowd that watched its favorite team improve to 4-0 on the season, with the Houston Texans set to visit next Sunday for a noon CT kickoff. Here are 10 observations from the win over the Giants.
Click here to watch a replay of the Vikings 24-10 victory over the Giants with NFL Game Pass.
1. Sam spreads the ball around
Monday marked the month anniversary that the Vikings acquired quarterback Sam Bradford in a trade with the Eagles, but you'd never know it's been such a short amount of time based on his play or his box scores. Monday night was the offense's best performance of the season, as the Vikings scored 24 points, were three of three in red zone scoring, were eight of 16 on third downs and won the time of possession battle by 11 minutes. Illustrating Bradford's fine play was the fact that he connected with nine different receivers, finishing the game 26 of 36 for 262 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 101.9. Charles Johnson got involved in a significant way for the first time this season, catching two deep passes for a total of 70 yards. It's fair to surmise that spreading the ball around to that many receivers is an indication Bradford is comfortable with and trusts the offensive system.
2. Offense puts together game-clinching drive in fourth quarter
A mark of the 2016 Vikings has been complementary football. All three phases had not played well simultaneously in the team's first three wins, but at least one phases was more than good enough to pick up the slack for one or two other phases. On Monday night, all three phases were sharp and it was the offense that put the game on ice in the fourth quarter. A 67-yard gain by Paul Perkins on a screen pass set up the Giants lone touchdown early in the final quarter, cutting the Vikings lead to seven points. On the ensuing drive, though, the Vikings offense marked 76 yards on eight plays in 4:18 to score on a Jerick McKinnon four-yard run, extending the lead back to 14 points and all but closing out the Giants. On that drive, the Vikings converted two third downs and they gained yardage on every snap. The defense did its part after that scoring drive, ending two Giants series on downs, but it was the offense that put together a statement drive in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
3. Odell Beckham, Jr. held to career low 23 receiving yards
The Vikings defense did a number on Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in Week 2 and Week 3, respectively. In Week 4 against the Giants, it was Odell Beckham, Jr. who got the Vikings attention. Beckham, Jr. is one of the best receivers in the NFL and the Vikings defended him as such. He had three catches for 23 yards in the first half and was shut out on just two targets in the second half. The 23 receiving yards is a career low for Beckham, Jr. Xavier Rhodes, who had an interception on a pass targeted for Beckham, Jr., will gain the bulk of the credit because he traveled with Beckham, Jr. for much of the game, but it was a team effort on defense to hold such a talented receiver to the worst output of his career. It's also the mark of Mike Zimmer as head coach of the Vikings.
4. Linval Joseph set early tone for Vikings defense
It was tough sledding all night for the Giants offense against the Vikings defense, and the tone was set early by former a former Giants. Linval Joseph, who spent the first four seasons of his career with New York, spent the early moments of the game stopping the Giants offense in its tracks. Joseph had a quarterback hit on the first snap of the game and then had three tackles in the Giants first two offensive series, letting the opposing offensive line know it was going to be a long night battling a talented and deep Vikings defensive line.
5. Cordarrelle Patterson impacts the game again
Last week in Carolina, Cordarrelle Patterson made a surprise appearance in the game as a gunner on the punt team and he made a difference, with a downed punt inside the five and a tackle. On Monday night, Patterson once again made an impact as a gunner when he pressured Giants returner Dwayne Harris, who muffed the punt as Marcus Sherels recovered it. Six plays later, the Vikings scored their first touchdown of the game. Patterson also played on offense catching five passes for 38 yards on six targets and rushing one time for two yards.
6. Once again, next man up for the offensive line
Another game, another injury along the offensive line. Last week in Carolina, left guard Alex Boone left the game after the ninth snap for the Vikings offense. This time, it was right tackle Andre Smith who left early, following the offense's sixth snap. In both instances, Jeremiah Sirles was thrust into action and he played well. Sirles held down the right side along with Fusco while the Vikings generated their highest rushing output of the season (104 yards on 33 carries) and didn't allow a sack of Bradford.
7. No sacks, but pass rush still had an impact
At first blush, one might wonder what happened to the Vikings pass rush on Monday night because they failed to bring down Eli Manning behind the line of scrimmage. That's right, the NFL-leading Vikings pass rush (15 sacks) didn't have a sack during the entire game. But a big reason no one was able to bring Manning down behind the line of scrimmage is the Giants focused on a quick passing attack and Manning refused to hold the ball near long enough to be hit. The result was no sacks for the Vikings, but the result was also limited opportunities for Giants pass catchers to make big plays. Beckham, Jr. was held to his career low receiving yards, and the Giants other two big-time pass catchers (Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard) combined for only 80 yards on nine catches. In total, the Giants big three receivers were targeted 25 times and came away with only 12 catches for 103 yards, which comes out to 4.12 yards per target. That low output all comes back to the Vikings fierce pass rush and the extent to which Manning and Co. went to avoid it.
8. On 3rd down, you're in good hands with Rudy
Kyle Rudolph keeps coming up big for the Vikings offense. On Monday night, Rudolph collected five receptions on seven targets for 55 yards and a touchdown. Four of his receptions came on third down and four resulted in a first down or a touchdown; he also drew a defensive pass interference call on a third down.
9. Jeff Locke stays hot
Jeff Locke is in the midst of the best season of his career, and it only got better on Monday night. Locke had six punts on the night, and he generated a net average of 40.7 yards while pinning New York inside its own 20 three times. He now has 12 punts downed inside the 20 on the season, including two that were downed inside the 10 in the fourth quarter on Monday night.
10. Randy Moss sounded the Gjallarhorn and was welcomed home
Randy Moss is one of the most popular players in Vikings history, and he made a return to Minnesota on Monday night because he's part of ESPN's on-site Monday Night Football coverage. A part of Moss' night was sounding the Gjallarhorn, a moment that had U.S. Bank Stadium bursting at the seams as Vikings fans raised the decibel level to ear-piercing and head-pounding levels.