ATL: What We Learned  

 

What we learned: Vikings make Giants' D look good

Somewhere Greg Schiano is smiling.

The primary takeaway from the New York Giants' first win of the season -- a 23-7 takedown of the Minnesota Vikings -- is that they can shut down an NFL offense when the opposing quarterback provides absolutely no reason to fear the pass.

Playing as poorly as the position can be played in his rushed Vikings debut, Josh Freeman overthrew more passes than any quarterback this season. Before garbage time, Freeman managed just five first downs against the league's 32nd-ranked defense.

The Giants promptly stacked the box, limiting Adrian Peterson to 28 yards on just 13 carries while daring Freeman's scattershot arm to complete more than two consecutive passes.

Even with a 16-point margin, wins don't come any uglier.

The Giants remain a flawed team that still can't pass protect, run the ball or prevent big plays in the return game.

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Optimists will note, however, that Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte and Peterson have been held to 206 yards on 70 carries (2.94 YPC) over the past four Giants games. Jason Pierre-Paul finally is moving better, his pass-rushing partner, Justin Tuck, has rebounded from a disappointing 2012 season and linebacker Jon Beason is plugging the middle since coming over from the Panthers a few weeks ago.

In other words, the league's worst defense no longer rests in the Big Apple. Baby steps.

Here's what else we learned Monday night:

1. Peyton Hillis' 81 yards from scrimmage for the Giants led the game, which sums up the quality of offense on both sides. The majority of Hillis' "damage" came after the catch with not one Vikings defender within 10 yards. Slower even than last season (when he appeared to be running on water skis), he fumbled once and failed to make defenders miss in open space. Hillis might be more trustworthy than rookie Michael Cox in pass protection, but he's certainly not better with the ball in his hands.

2. Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks failed to reel in his first three targets, all of which hit his hands. He's playing through a fractured finger, but that doesn't explain the lack of separation in coverage. At this point, Rueben Randle is making more plays in the passing game.

3. In what is quickly becoming a lost season, it would behoove the Vikings to shop pass rusher Jared Allen around the league. Perhaps his monstrous one-handed, around-the-back takedown of Eli Manning will boost his trade value.

4. Cornerback Marcus Sherels was never a bigger factor in a game than he was Monday night. His 86-yard punt return accounted for the Vikings' lone score. He also authored one of most woeful two-play stretches of the season with a drop of a potential pick six and a muffed punt that led directly to a 1-yard Hillis touchdown.

5. First-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson had an increased role on the Vikings' offense, with an end-around and a season-high six targets. Now the trick is to find a quarterback who can get the ball in his hands.

6. The Vikings are paying Freeman $3 million for the remainder of the 2013 season. His misguided audition won't come to an end after one epically disastrous start.

The latest Around The League Podcast recapped all of Sunday's Week 7 games.

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