EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Marcus Sherels had widely varying fortunes in the Vikings’ 23-7 loss to the Giants on Monday night.
The Vikings return man and 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, he 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 New York eventually recovered the bouncing ball at the 3. Peyton Hillis scored two plays later on a 1-yard run for a 17-7 lead.
By the way, the Giants backfield is so injury-riddled that they added Hillis, the former Cleveland Browns starter who had been working as an assistant coach at a Tennessee high school.
The reigning league MVP plans on having a talk with the Vikings offensive unit ASAP.
“One thing I’m going to stress on is being more physical as an offensive unit,” Adrian Peterson said after gaining only 28 yards on 13 carries. “Definitely be more physical. We were more physical last year. And that’s one thing that stands out this year.”
The Vikings ran the ball 14 times for 30 yards, a 2.1-yard average, with a long of 8 yards.
“It was definitely tough sledding,” Peterson said. “We just really couldn’t get anything established up front, and that’s where everything starts. We’re just kind of out of whack. [The Giants] were bringing some stunts and a lot of movement up front. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but it kind of put us in an uncomfortable position and we just struggled with that all night.”
Peterson said the problem isn’t just the offensive line.
“It’s a struggle, and I’ve seen these guys before and I know they can do it,” he said. “They’re just kind of in a funk. They make good plays as well, but there are plays where we just don’t execute like position-wise. We just can’t focus on the offensive line. There are a lot o things we can do as an offensive unit as well.”
Pressed into duty
Quarterback Josh Freeman was not the only Vikings player who played on short notice. Veteran cornerback Jacob Lacey was active after being signed this past week.
The Vikings signed Lacey, who spent training camp with the team, after placing safety Harrison Smith on injured reserve. Lacey was activated in place of injured backup A.J. Jefferson.
Lacey started 36 career games in stints with Indianapolis and Detroit. The Vikings signed him during the offseason, but he was sidetracked by injuries and released during the preseason.
• Second-year Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 53-yard field goal attempt, the first miss from 50 or longer in his career. Walsh, who has been battling a hamstring injury, has 12 of 50 or longer, and his streak of 12 makes in a row tied an NFL record. Later, given another opportunity to try a 52-yarder, the Vikings punted, but Jeff Locke’s kick went into the end zone for a net of 15 yards.
• Jared Allen made his 100th consecutive start, the longest active streak among NFL defensive linemen. Allen’s 100 consecutive games played also has moved him into first place among active NFL defensive linemen. Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware saw his streak of 134 end Sunday.
• The back tightness that Matt Kalil experienced this past week didn’t cause him to miss the game. Kalil started after being listed as questionable. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft missed two days of practice in order to get treatment on his back. He said Saturday that it felt better and he was optimistic he would play.
• The Vikings lost fullback Matt Asiata to a shoulder injury and tight end Rhett Ellison to an ankle injury in the second half.
• Cullen Loeffler participated in his 145th game, breaking Mike Morris’ Vikings team record for a long snapper. Loeffler recovered a fumbled punt return in Giants territory in the third quarter, but Freeman gave the ball back on an interception.
• The Giants played without their two leading rushers — Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) and David Wilson (neck). That left rookie Michael Cox, who made his first career carries Monday, and the veteran Hillis.
• The Vikings defense had another shaky start as the Giants opened the game with a 17-play drive that ended with a Josh Brown field goal of 35 yards. The drive lasted 9 minutes, 36 seconds as New York converted three third-down attempts and had five first downs.
• Former Giants defensive end Justin Trattou returned to MetLife Stadium as a visitor. Trattou joined the Giants as an undrafted rookie out of Florida in 2011. He played six games that year, spent 2012 on injured reserve and played five games with three more tackles before being released two weeks ago. The Vikings signed him Oct. 9, but he was inactive Monday.
• The teams combined for 463 yards of offense, or 287 yards fewer than the 750 they produced on punts.