EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The respect opponents pay the Vikings running game has started to come in very handy for purposes of opening up things with big pass plays early.
A week after receiver Sidney Rice connected with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on a 79-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage to set up a touchdown against Oakland, the Vikings struck again Sunday to establish the tempo in their surprising 41-17 victory over the New York Giants.
Rice again was involved, although this time the rookie was on the receiving end -- and the Vikings waited until the second play from scrimmage to go to the air.
Starting from their own 40-yard line after the kickoff by New York's Lawrence Tynes went out of bounds, the Vikings opened with running back Chester Taylor going right for no gain. It was the ultimate setup.
On second down, the Vikings went out of the I-formation. Seven Giants defenders already were in tight and one of the safeties began to sneak up toward the line. It was exactly what the Vikings wanted.
Jackson took the snap, faked a handoff to Taylor, looked left and then turned right. Rice was streaking down the sideline on a go-route with cornerback Aaron Ross covering him. Jackson let fly, and Rice, having beaten Ross, slowed up for a moment to catch the ball at the 9-yard line, then ran into the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown.
It would have been a big gain regardless of whether Rice caught the ball because Ross -- the 20th overall pick in this year's draft -- was called for pass interference. But this was exactly what the Vikings had in mind as a way to take the Giants Stadium crowd out of the game.
"We had play action on it," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Our run game is what we do best, so our passing game has to come off of that. It was just one of our runs that we did a play action off of. It lets Tarvaris take a little bit deeper drop. ... They had all three of the linebackers and the safety basically within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage. So you get it down to 1-on-1 outside, and they made a great throw and a great catch."
It was Rice's team-leading third touchdown reception of the season.
"We always want to come out and try to attack first," said Rice, the second-round pick who has 23 receptions for 312 yards. "It doesn't always work like that. We were just fortunate to come out these last two weeks and the second play of the game score a touchdown. We just have to keep executing on our plays."
The execution on the early touchdown was another that came during the scripted portion of the Vikings offensive. Each week, the first 15 plays are drawn up and shared with players the night before the game.
"[We] just wanted to take a shot," said Jackson, who put a nice arc on the throw for only his third TD pass of the season. "Just give a guy a chance to make a play downfield. We knew they were going to be coming after us, so we had good protection on the play and it was just 1-on-1 on the outside.
"The offensive line did a great job of protecting, and I gave Sidney a chance to make a play, and he made a play."