MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings were ready for primetime this time.
Minnesota defeated the New York Giants 49-17 on *Sunday Night Football *to earn its first postseason berth since 2012.
The Vikings (10-5) closed their two-year regular season run at the University of Minnesota with a dominant defense that posted three takeaways, an offense that played keep away and a kicking game that scored from far, far away.
Minnesota's defensive dominance featured interceptions by Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith, who returned the second pick of Eli Manning 35 yards for a touchdown, in the first half. Captain Munnerlyn nearly duplicated Smith's feat in the third quarter, but stepped out of bounds after a 32-yard return.
Smith set a franchise record with his fourth career return of an interception for a touchdown, and only looked rusty when he tried to throw the ball in celebration. It was Smith's first game since a hamstring injury Dec. 6.
Adrian Peterson didn't mind that at all. The running back plowed forward for a gain of 2 before a relentless effort on a 2-yard touchdown. It was Peterson's 10th rushing TD of the season. It was the 101st total touchdown of Peterson's nine-year career, and he protected his bid to win the 2015 rushing title by racking up 104 yards on 22 carries without playing in the fourth quarter.
Peterson tied Emmitt Smith for second all-time with eight seasons with 10 or more scores and trails only the record of nine by LaDainian Tomlinson. After Peterson headed for the sidelines, Jerick McKinnon stepped in and rushed seven times for 89 yards including scores of 7 and a career-long of 68.
Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 25 passes for 168 yards, but shined like a diamond in a couple of moments that mattered most. Bridgewater precision cut a pass through Giants safeties Craig Dahl and Landon Collins for a 28-yard touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. Bridgewater also helped the Vikings play turnover-free football.
Blair Walsh added field goals of 32, 52, 22, 53 and 27 yards, continuing a hot streak on a night that was 13 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff.
The outdoor era of home games might not be over, however, pending next week's winner-claims-the NFC North battle between the Vikings and Packers (10-5) at Lambeau Field.
The Vikings defense held Manning to no completions and minus-6 passing yards in the first quarter against a Giants team that was eliminated from postseason contention Saturday night when Washington won the NFC East. New York also was without suspended receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., making a comeback attempt even more difficult.
Bridgewater surpassed the 3,000-yard mark with an 18-yard completion to Jarius Wright in the first quarter. Wright had three catches for 57 yards.
View images from Sunday night's game as the Vikings host the Giants.