The New York Giants lost to the Minnesota Vikings 27-24 Sunday on a last-second Greg Joseph field goal. Big Blue turned the football over twice, had multiple Kirk Cousins interceptions dropped, and had a late punt block that eventually led to a touchdown.
Despite losing the turnover battle and not maximizing defensive opportunities that were presented to them, the Giants took a now 12-3 team to the final seconds on the road in one of the more hostile environments.
New York outgained Minnesota 445-353, and the Giants had one more sack. Still, two turnovers and seven penalties to Minnesota’s two did not help the Giants overcome a team that is now 11-0 in one-score games:
The Vikings scored three points off both turnovers – a field goal after Bellinger’s fumble. The Giants’ defense forced a turnover on downs after Jones’ interception. The game was exciting, and New York was able to dig out of a 10-0 deficit, but the Vikings secured the victory despite a resilient and hard-fought effort from New York. Here are five plays, or sequences of plays, that were important in this game.
Play(s) 1: TJ Hockenson could not be stopped
Justin Jefferson recorded 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets – he got his, to no one’s surprise. However, with all the defensive attention geared toward Jefferson, tight end TJ Hockenson feasted on his 16 targets to the tune of 13 catches for 109 yards.
Hockenson had two touchdown catches: the first points of the game after an eight-play, 84-yard drive on the Vikings’ third offensive possession and at the end of a 12-play, 75-yard drive that spanned 5:19 in the second half. Here are those two touchdowns.
Shawn Syed of Daily Norseman broke down the throwback concept used on the Vikings’ first touchdown. From 22 personnel, Hockenson stemmed inside vs. man coverage before breaking outside towards the back of the end zone. No Giant defender was found around Hockenson after his break.
Another man-beater from a 3×1 set on third-and-five. Hockenson, originally in the No. 3 positions (inside), wheels around the two in-breaking routes before making a sensational grab in traffic for a touchdown.
Rookie Giants cornerback Cor’Dale Flott almost intercepted Cousins on the third play of the 12-play drive. Flott’s potential interception was overturned by replay, however, which gave the football back to Cousins and the Vikings.
Play(s) 2: Blocked punt sequence
After the Giants’ defense surrendered a 12-play, 75-yard drive, they forced a turnover on downs after a Daniel Jones interception; the defense then forced a three-and-out, giving the Giants the football trailing 17-16.
Unfortunately for the Giants, the offense went three-and-out, and the Vikings blocked Jamie Gillan’s punt attempt, setting up the Vikings’ offense at the Giants’ 29 yard-line.
Five plays later, Minnesota took an eight-point lead after a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson (18).
Jefferson found a soft spot between the corner in the trail and the safety over the top. The Giants responded strongly with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that included this very important third-and-2 32-yard pass to Darius Slayton:
The Giants run 2×2 Drive from a stack, with Richie James (80) clearing out a defender and Saquon Barkley (26) removing the linebacker to create a throwing window for Slayton. A huge 32-yard gain for the Giants to set up a great fourth-and-2 touchdown call and run from Kafka and Barkley.
New York tied the game after Jones connected with Daniel Bellinger (82) for the two-point conversion. Bellinger recognized the flow of the defense and sat in an open void, while Jones rolled right before finding the rookie tight end for a very important play.
Play(s) 3: Vikings’ two-minute drill
The Giants had a seven-play, 75-yard drive to match the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson touchdown in the waiting minutes of the game. In less than a minute, Daniel Jones led the drive that ended in the Saquon Barkley touchdown (Play 3 sequences).
New York left the Vikings two minutes on the clock to get into field goal range, with the score tied at 24. The Giants’ defense had two opportunities on third down; here’s a third-and-9:
As Chris and I say on the podcast – Wink will Wink. The Giants aligned nine players on the line of scrimmage, with two – the outside corners – assuming coverage responsibilities. The Giants pressured Cousins, but Jefferson was isolated against Darnay Holmes (30) in inside leverage, giving Jefferson space to operate outside the numbers in a one-on-one matchup. Cousins connected with Jefferson for a critical first down.
Three plays later, the Vikings had no timeouts left on a third-and-11, and Minnesota got Jefferson the football on a simple slot screen that was well blocked. The Vikings converted and spiked the football to give placekicker Greg Joseph a chance to be a hero.
Play 4: Again!
Joseph split the uprights with a 61-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. This was Joseph’s third walk-off, game-sealing field goal of the season.
The Giants are snake-bitten in recent memory, with walk-off 60-plus yard field goals going against them. Everyone, unfortunately, remembers our beloved Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal in 2018 to give the Carolina Panthers a 33-31 Week 5 victory.
Before that, in 2017, Jake Elliott set an Eagles franchise record by booting a 61-yard field goal with one second left on the clock. And now Joseph’s kick to secure this Week 16 win for Minnesota. New York did some nice things offensively, and they were competitive, but the Vikings squeaked out a win. I wouldn’t be shocked to see these two teams play again this season.
Play 5: Richie James drops
Darnay Holmes recorded an important open-field tackle against wide receiver KJ Osbourn on a mesh concept before breaking up a fourth-and-one corner route to Justin Jefferson, where WR Adam Thielen led his defender toward Jefferson.
The turnover on downs gave the Giants the football down 17-16 at their own 45-yard line – great field position. A healthy mix of passing and rushing got the Giants to the Minnesota 37 in this third-and-5 situation:
The Vikings ran a simulated pressure; the Giants slid their protection to the right, and Darien Butler (58) blitzed to the left side. Jones did a great job diagnosing the pressure and hitting James in the voided area, but the receiver dropped the football, and Graham Gano booted a 55-yard field goal.
A conversion may, or may not, have led to a touchdown, which would have changed the tide of the final few minutes of the game. New York performed well offensively, and Jones was cooking with the quick passing game. Receivers in the NFL have to catch easy passes in got to have it moments.