EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The arrival of Randy Moss in 1998 was a momentous addition for the Vikings receiving corps.
Moss joined Hall of Famer Cris Carter and Jake Reed to form "three deep."
Moss caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards with a long of 61 and set a rookie record with 17 touchdown catches, Carter recorded 78 catches for 1,011 yards with a long of 54 and added 12 scores. Reed caught 34 passes for 474 yards and four touchdowns with a long of 56.
Moss will be returning to Minnesota this weekend as a member of ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast team. He told members of the media this week that the Vikings will face a "three-headed monster" created by Giants receivers Odell Beckham, Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard.
"That's hard for defenders, for any defense to cover," Moss said.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the combination creates "a lot of stress" on defenses by forcing them to cover more of the field.
"They've got a guy that can throw the ball pretty good, too," Zimmer said of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. "So, if they were running the wishbone, it wouldn't stress us that much, but they're throwing the ball quite a bit; and they do a good job in the run game. … It's not like you can cheat [where players cover] very much."
The Giants played last season without Beckham (a one-game suspension), Cruz (injury) and before drafting Shepard. The Vikings held Manning to 0-for-4 in the first quarter, intercepted him one of three total times and sacked him once.
This year, Manning has thrown for 925 yards on 76-of-107 passes (71 percent) with four touchdowns and three interceptions for a rating of 98.1. Beckham has 19 catches for 280 (14.7 avg.) with a long of 45, Shepard has 16 catches for 233 yards (14.6 avg.) with a long of 32, and Cruz has 11 for 195 yards (17.7) with a long of 40.
"We've just got to understand route concepts and jump on the guys and the routes as quick as possible and make plays," Captain Munnerlyn said. "You can't give them room. If you give them room, they can make you look silly. They're quick, they're fast. They catch the ball well and run great routes. Eli finds the open space and throws it to those guys."
The Vikings lead the NFL with 15 sacks and are tied for second in the league with five interceptions in three games.
Minnesota expects Manning to try to get the ball out quickly to offset the pass rush that helped the Vikings record eight sacks and three interceptions against reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton at Carolina.
"We know he likes to get the ball out of his hand quick," said Everson Griffen, who was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Panthers that included 3.0 sacks of Newton. "He has some good wide receivers to throw the ball to, so we've just got to be disciplined on our assignments and execute."
Griffen said it will be important for the line to clog throwing lanes to counter quick passes if they can't get within reach of Manning.
Beckham told members of the media in New York that he will be mindful of Minnesota's pass rush during his routes.
"You have to know as a receiver that it's the rush between the defensive ends. It's not the race between the DB and the receiver, it's the race between you and the defensive ends," Beckham said. "Those guys are getting off the ball. They're exceptional players. It's going to be tough. We're going to have to be very precise. Like I said, we're not going to have to do anything different. We're just going to have to do everything and execute it well."
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Minnesota's coaches frequently point out the relationship between a good pass rush and good coverage.
"But with these three receivers, we definitely have to be disciplined as far as our leverage," Edwards said. "We've got to be disciplined with our footwork, the technique and the fundamentals from call-to-call of what we're trying to get executed. That's been a point of emphasis.
"I think they realize that and realize what we've got to be able to do handle the things that we need to be able to do as far as matchups on these receivers," Edwards continued. "They have an excellent corps and all three guys have big play capabilities. We've got to focus and concentrate on the things that we need to get accomplished within the situations of the game."