Skip to main content

What we learned: Vikings' D shuts down Odell, Giants

The Minnesota Vikings' swarming defense limited Odell Beckham to the lowest output of his career, stifling the New York Giants' offense in a convincing 24-10 victory Monday night. Here's what we learned in the Week 4 tilt:

  1. Since making his debut with the Vikings in Week 2, Sam Bradford has outplayed the 2014 MVP (Aaron Rodgers), the 2015 MVP (Cam Newton) and a two-time Super Bowl MVP (Eli Manning). Bradford missed a few throws versus the Giants, but made plays under pressure, dialed up twin deep strikes to Charles Johnson and answered the Giants' fourth-quarter touchdown with a textbook, eight-play, 76-yard scoring drive of his own to effectively seal the victory. Playing the best ball of his six-year career, Bradford has completed 66 of 95 passes (69.5 percent) for 719 yards (7.57 YPA), a 4:0 TD-to-INT ratio and a 105.6 passer rating.
  1. To be fair to Bradford's counterparts, the degree of difficulty is much higher versus an athletic, pressuring defense that has allowed 17 or fewer points in seven consecutive games dating back to Week 15 of last season. That trio of former MVPs combined for one touchdown and five interceptions over the past three weeks. Although the Vikings failed to sack Eli Manning Monday night, they entered the game leading the NFL with 15 QB takedowns to go with a stout run defense led by Linval Joseph.

Coach Zimmer has featured strong secondary play going back to his days as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator. Along with Vikings DC George Edwards and secondary coach Jerry Gray, he has developed a physical, rangy defensive backfield that shrinks the field, eliminating intermediate passes between 10 and 20 yards. The unit's effectiveness has reached a new level since star cornerback Xavier Rhodes returned from a knee injury in Week 3. Against Beckham and Kelvin Benjamin the past two games, Rhodes allowed a total of three catches on seven targets for 23 yards and a 11.9 passer rating, per NFL Research.

  1. Rhodes was the clear victor in a one-on-one battle with Beckham that featured plenty of hand-fighting, shoving and a 15-yard taunting penalty on the Giants' wideout. Manning didn't test the Vikings downfield until a miscommunication with Beckham led to a Rhodes interception in third quarter. Much will be made of Beckham's disappointing production at the quarter-season mark, with zero touchdowns and 303 yards on 22 receptions. Keep in mind, however, that Beckham was slow out of the gates last year as well, catching 24 passes for 307 yards and two scores in his first four games.
  1. The Vikings got an unexpected lift from afterthought 2013 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, who set the tone as a special teams gunner by forcing a muffed punt return from Dwayne Harris early in the first quarter. Featured on offense for the first time in two years, Patterson also took a handoff, caught a bubble screen, secured a pair of first downs and set up Matt Asiata's touchdown by drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Patterson's touches still have to be manufactured by the play-caller, but it seems the coaching staff might finally be intent on making that happen more frequently.
  1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's groin injury was a devastating loss for New York's secondary. Forced into the starting lineup opposite Janoris Jenkins, inexperienced cornerback Trevin Wade wore a target on his back all night. On his heels from the outset, Wade was charged with two penalties, surrendered a pair of big plays to Charles Johnson, was the victim on Rudolph's touchdown and was lucky to get away with pass interference on a deep ball to Adam Thielen.

In Wade's defense, he received precious little help from a pass rush that has yet to live up to expectations created by a windfall investment in the defensive line. The Giants are dead-last in the NFL with just four sacks this season.

  1. Blair Walsh's shaky confidence remains an issue going back to the missed field goal that cost the Vikings a playoff victory last season. Walsh hooked a 46-yard attempt on the first drive of the second half.

Asked after the game if Walsh's confidence level is affecting his performance, Zimmer replied, "I wish I knew. I wish I knew. We need to make those, they are going to bite us in the rear end. Our team is going to be playing close games, that's how we're built."

  1. Among all NFL tight ends, Rudolph ranks first in touchdowns and sixth in receptions and yards. He's found new life with Bradford under center, operating as a reliable chain-mover and red-zone threat. Moving better this season, Rudolph could be headed for his second career Pro Bowl selection.
  1. Even with Bill Belichick's masterful clinic in the first three weeks of the season, Zimmer deserves the spotlight for mythical quarter-season coach of the year honors. In addition to game-planning the defensive prowess that has instigated Minnesota's undefeated start, he has kept the team focused and hungry despite devastating injuries to its two highest-profile players in Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.

"I think this team likes to win," Zimmer said after Monday's game. "I think they like to compete and prove to everybody that they can be talked about as good of a team as any ... the attitude of this team is they like to win and it's good."

If you're keeping score at home, the Vikings and Eagles are a combined 7-0 since they collaborated on the last-minute trade that sent Bradford as an Eden Prairie savior and propelled Carson Wentz to the forefront of the Rookie of the Year discussion.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content