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Vikings Begin Preparing for Quick Rematch Against Giants

EAGAN, Minn. — The last time the Vikings played a home game, they benefited from a franchise-record, 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph to edge the Giants 27-24 on Dec. 24, 2022.

The two teams didn't have to wait very long for a rematch, as Minnesota will host New York at 3:30 p.m. (CT) Sunday on FOX in the Wild Card Round of the NFC Playoffs.

Minnesota Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said he expects another tightly contested battle.

"[We] needed everything we had to win that one, and [there's] no reason in the world that the expectation won't be the same. We're going to have to play really good against this team," O'Connell said Monday to Twin Cities reporters. "All three phases will need to show up and play well. We'll be working really hard this week to make sure we do that, but being back at U.S. Bank [Stadium] will be huge for our team, knowing what our home crowd has meant to us this year. The environment there, [I'm] expecting it to be super energized on Sunday."

In the first meeting, the Vikings allowed 445 yards of total offense, which was a season-high for the Giants.

Quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 334 yards on 30-of-42 passing and a touchdown and added 34 yards on the ground on four carries. Running back Saquon Barkley ran 14 times for 84 yards, with 27 of those coming on a late touchdown before the Giants got a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 24 with 2:01 remaining.

O'Connell said shoring up the defensive mistakes will be a point of emphasis this week.

"There were some missed tackles in there. Every time we had a chance to get momentum and keep it, they were able to put a drive together and get points," O'Connell said. "Defense turned the ball over a couple of times with some timely interceptions, but you'd like to limit some of those explosive plays. First- and second-down explosive plays that tend to sometimes stack together a little bit and give offenses momentum.

"We want to get people to third down and see if we can activate a rush and tie the coverage into it. Whether we're sending pressure or not, it's a matter of wanting to get to those downs, and I thought we could've done a better job of last time we played them of doing that," O'Connell continued. "With how they run the ball and Daniel being a factor in the run game, they can be a real challenge to defend."

Offensively, Minnesota has struggled with slow starts and lulls in the middle quarters throughout the season.

The Vikings ranked 12th in first-quarter points per game (4.6), but 19th in second quarters (6.5) and 24th in third quarters (3.6). Minnesota, however, ranked first in points scored in fourth quarters (9.9).

O'Connell said it will be important to finish drives with touchdowns during the playoffs.

"You get in these games, and it's ultra-competitive, and it's a risk/reward proposition a lot of the time, managing the game, knowing how it will affect the other phases of your team offensively," O'Connell said. "I feel like our offense feels confident right now that if we just go out and execute and all 11 guys do their job, the talented players we have, our quarterback, and our ability to sustain plays and generate first downs and move the football, it's what is most important. And then when we get down there, can we finish drives with points? I think playoffs, a huge factor that sometimes goes unnoticed are some of those first, second or third quarter red zone scoring opportunities. Can you finish with touchdowns, as opposed to field goals, and help generate the points that you need to not only keep it close, and make it close in the end, but try to get yourself a lead."

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Giants.

As the Vikings prepare for the Giants in a win-or-go-home situation, O'Connell said the team must rely on what got it to this point.

"I think it's really important, just with 17 games of inventory in addition to just recently playing this team," O'Connell said. "We tend to see some different things defensively than what sometimes show up in the breakdowns leaving the game, so to have that game of inventory and try to play the game within the game of what moves are they going to make. They're getting a little healthier on the defensive side of the ball and in the secondary, so I'm sure we'll see a variety of different things new.

"Playing off what we did in that game and how they defended us in that game and then ultimately what they think is best to try to defend us in a one-game deal where you're moving on or you're not, I think it's important that we look at our scheme in all three phases," O'Connell continued. "What we've done and trying to identify where we're vulnerable, but then also the things we've done well and can we take things to another level and can we do some new things and use different personnel. That's the beauty of getting a guy like Irv [Smith Jr.] back and getting Alexander [Mattison] some more carries the other day because now we truly confirmed everything we already knew about our depth, especially at the skill positions that hopefully we can make come to life."

Here's an additional takeaway from O'Connell's availability on Monday:

O-line could get added depth after seeing crucial reps Sunday

The Vikings played their fourth different offensive line combination in the past seven games on Sunday. Reserve interior lineman Chris Reed made his first start with the Vikings and 30th of his career. He played his first offensive snaps of the season at Green Bay while filling in after Austin Schlottmann's injury on Jan. 1.

Olisaemeka Udoh also made his first start of the season Sunday in place of Brian O'Neill, whom Udoh replaced in Green Bay.

Left tackle Christian Darrisaw and left guard Ezra Cleveland each played a half Sunday in Chicago before being replaced by Vederian Lowe and Kyle Hinton at their positions, respectively.

O'Connell was proud of the progress he saw from Reed over the span of a week.

"First and foremost, I thought Chris took a big step forward, having a week of practice to really get under his belt and that communication and dialogue with Kirk [Cousins]," O'Connell said. "I thought we were much smoother being on the road again, and although as the game went on, we had some false starts and things by guys that just hadn't played a whole lot, but as far as Chris with Kirk in that first group, it was much, much smoother so that's a real positive."

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.

O'Connell said he hopes to get Garrett Bradbury back in practice throughout the week in a limited capacity.

"The hope is that we can have him out there, more than likely limited, on Wednesday and then we'll see if we can build his work in throughout the week and see how he feels," O'Connell said. "Ultimately, I just want Garrett to give it a go and see if he can turn the corner and possibly help us, but at the same time, I don't want to put him in a position where he may not be the best or feel like he's held back at all. So that experience for Chris with that first group yesterday was huge."

O'Connell added reserve tackle Blake Brandel's practice window will open this week. Brandel suffered a knee injury in Detroit in Week 14 before going on Injured Reserve. The Vikings will have up to 21 days to evaluate him.

Brandel stepped in for Darrisaw in five games and made three starts from Nov. 13 to Dec. 11.