The Vikings seemed to be an internal mess this week with one wide receiver complaining about the play-calling, another skipping a practice, and just about everybody in Minnesota annoyed with the play of quarterback Kirk Cousins.
But the team that looked on the verge of dysfunction found something to settle its issues: a Giants defense that couldn’t stop the Vikings no matter what it did. Team Turmoil turned into Team Terrific on Sunday as the Vikings rolled to a 28-10 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
The Vikings seemed vulnerable following a 16-6 loss at Chicago last week. Wide receiver Adam Thielen complained about the run-heavy offense after he caught just two passes for six yards. Stefon Diggs skipped Wednesday’s practice apparently unhappy he wasn’t getting enough balls thrown his way. In the midst of the controversy Cousins publicly apologized for his performance and Diggs was eventually fined for his actions. The Vikings looked to be a team ready to implode.
Now they are happy family again after Thielen burned the Giants for 130 yards receiving and two touchdowns, while Diggs added three catches for 44 yards. Cousins was stellar, completing 22 of 27 for 306 yards and the two touchdowns. Add 132 yards rushing from Dalvin Cook and the Vikings totaled 490 yards to just 211 for the Giants.
“It shows what kind of guys we have in this locker room and shows what kind of leadership we have,” said Thielen, who entered the game with just 179 yards receiving over the first four games. “After a frustrating loss it can go one of two ways, and I’ve seen it go both ways. I was excited to see how we practiced this week and how we came out and played this week. It was cool to see and makes you appreciate the guys in this locker room.”
It was the Giants locker room that was frustrated this week. Its defense couldn’t find a way to stop Thielen, Cook or Cousins.
“We have to go out there and make stops,” said Giants safety Jabrill Peppers. “We have to tackle better and stop shooting ourselves in the foot. It was missed assignments, and bad eyes. They did a great job of making their play-actions look exactly like their pass plays. It’s a credit to them, but we have to be more safe with our eyes.”
The Vikings simply had too much talent and experience for the Giants. Thielen made an impact early. He had 121 yards receiving in the first half, including a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch for a 15-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings an early 10-0 lead. Giants cornerback Grant Haley had decent coverage on the play, but was beaten by a perfect throw and catch.
“It was something we worked on throughout the week to make sure we were on the same page to where the ball is being thrown,” Thielen said.
His second touchdown reception came in the third quarter when Thielen shook rookie DeAndre Baker and Cousins found him in the back of the end zone from 9 yards out. It put the Vikings up 25-10.
“That was a heck of a ball,” Thielen said. “You put that anywhere else it’s probably not a completion.”
Thielen credited the Vikings running game for opening up the passing game.
“It opens up the whole playbook when you can do that,” Thielen said. “It allows us to be hard to figure out what we’re doing.”
The Giants needed to play better football. They missed tackles, couldn’t cover Thielen on crossing patterns and made crucial mistakes. A 98-yard drive that ended in Thielen’s first touchdown could have been a three-and-out had the Giants not allowed a 10-yard completion to Thielen on third-and-8. In the third quarter Baker was flagged for taunting on second-and-11 at the Minnesota 22.
“I had a conversation with him about why that can’t happen,” said Giants head coach Pat Shurmur.
Now the Giants face a quick turnaround to prepare for a Thursday game in New England against the Patriots. Maybe it’s a good thing they’re not a team in turmoil.