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Vikings Defense Struggles to Contain Giants in Wild Card Loss

MINNEAPOLIS — Moments before the Vikings took the field for their Wild Card game against the Giants, former defensive tackle and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Randle helped fire up an already raucous U.S. Bank Stadium crowd.

Unfortunately, the defense struggled throughout the game.

Guided by the duo of quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants strung together quick drives and two methodical drives on offense and held on for a 31-24 victory on Sunday.

As a team, New York gained 431 yards of total offense. Jones was solely responsible for 379 yards, completing 24 of his 35 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Giants in rushing with 78 yards on 17 carries.

Barkley added 53 yards on nine attempts on the ground and hauled in five catches for 56 yards. Isaiah Hodgins led New York in receiving with 105 yards on eight receptions and a score.

"[It was] just not good enough," safety Camryn Bynum said. "We weren't perfect on all our assignments. It's playoff football, they're going to exploit every weakness that we show every play. At the end of the day, we weren't good enough and didn't get the win."

The loss brings the Vikings season to a close at 13-5 overall. It was also Minnesota's first loss by a one-score margin this season after breaking an NFL record in the regular season with 11 victories in tight games.

"That's what stings," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "We've been able to pull these types of games out all season long and when it matters most, we weren't able to get the stops on defense. We take a lot of pride on that, so again, raw emotion, it stings. It's hard."

Minnesota kept the early energy going on its opening offensive drive with 1-yard sneak by Kirk Cousins for a touchdown, but the Giants answered with a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive. New York capped the possession with a 28-yard touchdown run by Barkley to tie things at 7-7 with 5:11 left in the first quarter.

The Vikings pinned the Giants offense to their own 19- and 9-yard lines to start their next two drives, but New York remained efficient on that side of the ball.

On the Giants second possession, Jones connected with receiver Darius Slayton for 47 yards to the Minnesota 34. Three plays later, New York found the end zone on a 14-yard score from Jones to Hodgins to take its first lead of the afternoon.

Following a second consecutive Vikings punt, the Giants utilized the run game on their ensuing drive. Jones and Barkley combined for 65 of New York's 85 yards, who used 20 plays and chewed up 10:52 of clock before a 25-yard field goal from Graham Gano made it 17-7 with 3:25 left in the first half.

"I kept looking up at the clock and seeing how much time was ticking off, ticking off and that's just opportunities missed for our offense," Hicks said about the drive where New York converted four third downs. "That's a drive that hurts; it gives them momentum, makes them feel like they can continue to sustain moving through the game."

After the Vikings answered with a 9-yard touchdown from Cousins to K.J. Osborn to bring the deficit to 17-14 at halftime, the Giants had a response to start the second half.

New York needed just six plays to march 75 yards, as Jones connected with tight end Daniel Bellinger for a 9-yard score to push the Giants advantage to double digits at 24-14 with 11:37 left in the third quarter.

View game action photos from the Vikings-Giants Wild Card game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Jan. 15, 2023.

In search of a timely response, the Vikings defense forced the Giants first punt of the game after Danielle Hunter sacked Jones for a loss of 5 on third-and-seven from the New York 38.

Minnesota capitalized on offense, with Greg Joseph drilling a 38-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 with 12:34 left in the fourth quarter, but the Giants once again orchestrated another lengthy drive.

Jones connected with Slayton for 14 yards and Richie James for 11 to midfield before finding Hodgins for 19 yards to the Minnesota 26.

After consecutive plays by Jones and Barkley put the Giants in the Vikings red zone, the New York quarterback completed it to James to set up a critical fourth-and-one from Minnesota's 7.

The Giants went for it, and Jones ran up the middle on a sneak for a gain of two and a first down.

Jones' next pass fell incomplete, but a defensive holding penalty on cornerback Patrick Peterson awarded the Giants a first-and-goal from the Vikings two-yard line. The next play, Barkley found the end zone to bring it to 31-24 with 7:47 remaining.

The go-ahead drive included three conversions of second-and-10s.

Minnesota quickly went three-and-out, but got a crucial sack from linebacker Eric Kendricks on second-and-10 from the Giants 46 to force a New York punt and give the ball back to the Vikings with 2:56 remaining.

But Minnesota couldn't take advantage on the potential game-tying drive, as a short pass from Cousins to T.J. Hockenson on fourth-and-8 with 1:51 remaining resulted in a turnover on downs, and the Giants ran out the clock to seal the win.

Bynum said it was an extremely disappointing ending to a successful season.

"It's always frustrating," Bynum said. "Regardless of how it happened, that doesn't really matter to us, the fact that we didn't go out there and deliver for this organization, for this city, for everybody [is frustrating]. We came out there and lost the game. It's never acceptable."