Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Right before Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams stepped to the podium to talk to reporters Thursday, he chatted with defensive end Brian Robison and safety Jamarca Sanford. Williams said he didn’t single them out before he spoke to the media, but his message to them was one for the entire defense: stick to the plan.
“We’re still building the foundation to win football games and we want this to be the model of the NFL,” Williams said in his opening statement. “To be that, you have to build a firm foundation. You have to go through, sometimes, some growing pains, which we are right now. You don’t want it, but to build something solid, sometimes you have to go with that.”
Williams stressed the defense has to continue practicing hard and focusing on details despite the lack of results. In his second year as the defensive coordinator, Williams’ defensive hasn’t had the same success as it did last season. The Vikings are 30th in the NFL in total defense this season, allowing 401.6 yards a game. Last year they were 17th in total defense (350).
The issue has particularly been with the 29th ranked secondary. The Vikings give up 287.9 passing yards a game. Williams said the secondary shouldn’t work outside of the defensive structure.
”Sometimes when you’re maybe not getting interceptions or playing as well as you think you should, you’re thinking, ‘I need to do more. I need to go over here and make up for someone else,’” Williams said. “My message is, don’t do that. Be more detailed and if we tackle better, if we run to the ball more, if we execute assignments better, the results will be better. That’s one thing that we continue to reinforce."
The unit has seven interceptions this season but none in three October games. The last interception the Vikings had was against the Steelers in their only win this season on Sept. 22 in London.
Josh Freeman’s debut as Vikings quarterback was an utter failure.
Freeman was under pressure most of the night, but was missing receivers all night, and threw a crucial interception as the Vikings lost to the Giants 23-7 on Monday in the Meadowlands.
Freeman was 20-for-53 for 190 yards and no touchdowns and a 40.6 passer rating as the Vikings fell to 1-5.
Adrian Peterson had the sixth-lowest rushing total of his NFL career with only 28 yards on 13 carries.
Eli Manning passed for 200 yards and a touchdown for the Giants.
Key player: Marcus Sherels
The Vikings return man and backup cornerback scored the second touchdown of his career on an 86-yard punt return in the first half.
But in the third quarter, Sherels missed an interception chance and, on the following play, fumbled the ball away on a punt return although he was untouched, setting up a Giants touchdown.
Sherels’ punt return was the third longest in team history, behind a 98-yarder by Charlie West in 1968 and a 91-yarder by Nate Burleson in 2004. It gave the Vikings a 7-3 lead. Sherels has two career punt return TDs, tying the team record held by David Palmer and Mewelde Moore.
But Sherels’ fumble was costly. The Giants led 10-7 in the third quarter, and Sherels fielded Steve Weatherford’s kick at his own 10. He stumbled ahead to the 13, but lost the ball when he hit the ground, untouched, and the Giants eventually recovered the bouncing ball at the 3. Peyton Hillis scored two plays later on a 1-yard run.
The Giants have a 10-7 halftime lead over the Vikings thanks to a 24-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle midway through the second quarter.
The Good: Marcus Sherels’ 86-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Vikings a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. It was the 13th punt return touchdown in Vikings history. Sherels tied David Palmer and Mewelde Moore in the team record books for most career punt return TDs, with his second. The 86-yarder was the third longest in team history. Charlie West had a 98-yarder in 1968 and Nate Burleson had a 91-yarder in 2004. It was the third punt return for a TD against the Giants this season.
The bad: Vikings rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes had a rough first half. The Giants should have scored a touchdown on their first possession, but Manning overthrew Hakeem Nicks in the end zone from the 28-yard line. Rhodes got a late break on the play, and was clearly beaten. The Giants settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. The nine-minute, 36-second drive was the longest drive by time in the NFL this season.
Rhodes was called for pass interference on a third-down play to keep a Giants drive alive in the second quarter. Randle scored on the next play, beating Chris Cook.
The ugly: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has 9 yards on eight carries, and quarterback Josh Freeman is 7 of 16 for 74 yards.
Former Giants defensive end and New Jersey native Justin Trattou returns to MetLife Stadium tonight to do something he never expected to be doing two weeks ago: Helping extend the Giants’ winless start to the 2013 season.
“Definitely a strange turn of events,” said Trattou, who signed with the Vikings on Oct. 9.
Trattou joined the Giants as a undrafted rookie out of Florida in 2011. He played six games with one tackle in 2011, spent 2012 on injured reserve and played five games with three more tackles before being released two weeks ago.
Trattou was on the Vikings roster for last week’s loss to Carolina, but was inactive. His game-day contribution against the Giants wasn’t expected to match what he was able to do while helping the Vikings’ defensive coaches prepare the game plan.
“Yeah, I won’t answer that one,” Trattou said with a smile when asked how he was able to help the coaches prepare for the Giants.
Asked what was wrong with Giants two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who has 17 of the team’s NFL-high 23 turnovers, Trattou said, “I have no idea what goes on over on the offensive side of the ball, but obviously turnovers has been a major problem for them. But Eli is a good player. We’ve all seen that. But you can’t fight through turnovers, at least not the number of turnovers they’ve had this year.”
Perhaps Trattou will bring the Vikings some good luck. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder won a New Jersey state title with Don Bosco Preparatory High School, a BCS national championship alongside Percy Harvin and the rest of the Gators in 2009 and a Super Bowl title as a rookie with the Giants in 2011.
The Vikings signed defensive end Brian Robison to a four-year contract extension Wednesday for reportedly $13 million in guaranteed money.
Robison, who is in his seventh season with the team, is in the final year of a three-year deal he signed in 2011. He elected to sign during the season and forego free agency.
"I think in any player’s mind, anytime you have an opportunity to hit free agency, it creates a little bit of excitement," Robison said. "But after me and my family sat down and talked about things, we realize there’s not a whole lot of guys in the league that get to start their career in one place and end their career in one place. This is an opportunity for me to do that"
The team gave Robison an opportunity to start in 2011 by signing him to a $14.1 million deal, which included a $6.5 million signing bonus.
"That deal, to me, was an opportunity to be a starter and an opportunity to prove myself in this league," Robison said. "I was able to do that. I’m not going to sit here and toot my horn. I’m just very thankful to the Vikings for giving me that opportunity."
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