Needing to bounce back from a sloppy Oct. 24 home defeat to Detroit, the Giants routed Minnesota 34-13 at the Metrodome on Sunday. The Vikings came in with four straight wins and a 5-1 record, but their top-rated offense was shut down by New York.
Tiki Barber rushed for 101 yards and two short touchdowns as the Giants finally solved the red zone struggles that had plagued them all season. They scored on all five trips inside Minnesota’s 20-yard line, including four TDs— two from backup Mike Cloud in the second half.
“We rebounded in the right way,” said Barber, whose team looked sluggish in a 28-13 loss to the Lions the previous week.
While New York’s offense has often been inconsistent, strong defense has been a major factor in its resurgent season.
That unit had a subpar performance against Detroit, but reverted to its form from the team’s 4-1 start in Sunday’s win. The Giants frustrated Vikings star Daunte Culpepper, who went 24-for-42 for 231 yards, one late touchdown and two interceptions, and Minnesota managed just 93 yards on the ground.
The Giants held the high-powered Vikings scoreless until nine minutes remained in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, they’ve got a good offense, but we’ve got a good defense,” said cornerback Will Allen, who had one of New York’s interceptions.
“After hearing all week about (Culpepper’s) numbers this and his numbers that, we wanted to put a number on their team.”
New York, which came into the season expecting to rebuild under new coach Tom Coughlin, is two games back in the NFC East and leads the wild-card race.
After handling one of the NFL’s hottest quarterbacks, the Giants will try to do the same to a rookie who is making just his second NFL start. Craig Krenzel did well enough to help the Bears end a four-game losing streak last week, going 13-of-25 for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception as Chicago beat San Francisco 23-13.
Despite that win, the Bears had just 254 yards of total offense and rank 29th in the league in that category.
The only reason they had their highest point total of the season on Sunday night was because rookie defensive back Nathan Vasher had a 71-yard interception return for a touchdown that sealed the win. Chicago’s defense chased quarterback Ken Dorsey all night and held the 49ers to 162 yards of offense, including 62 rushing.
The competent performance by Krenzel, though, was the most encouraging one for the Bears, who needed him to step up after Rex Grossman suffered a season-ending knee injury and backup Johnathan Quinn had three ineffective outings.
“I did some really good things out there, threw some nice passes,” said Krenzel, who also lost a fumble. “I’m very disappointed in the way I protected the ball.”
Krenzel will need to improve in that area this week, as Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis is sure to employ heavy blitzing in an effort to rattle the young quarterback.
The Bears haven’t faced the Giants at the Meadowlands since Nov. 26, 1995, a 27-24 Chicago win.