By Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins
The Vikings concluded their regular season with a 44-7 victory against the New York Giants on Sunday. They got more good news later when Philadelphia lost at Dallas, giving the Vikings the No. 2 seed and a bye in the NFC playoffs.
Sunday's game was a complete mismatch as the Vikings jumped on the lackluster Giants and had strong performances from all three phases.
Brett Favre had another monster game, completing 25 of 31 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns and a 148.7 passer rating. We'll have plenty on Favre's day online and in the paper tomorrow, but here was part of what he said after the game.
"It’s been a great year," he said. "I’m not surprised by the fact that we are in the playoffs. Once again, where we go from here, we will see. This team is capable of a lot of good things. To sit here now, I thought about that throughout the whole process of coming back, of what acceptable versus not acceptable (was). I had to be cautious with anything less than Super Bowl. Although that is the main goal and the only goal, but I can’t beat myself up. I can only do what I can do and hope that that’s good enough. I’m very pleased with where we are right now and will obviously be with each win from here on. Hopefully we have a few more. It sure would make it a lot sweeter."
Here are some more notes and quotes from postgame.
Light day for Peterson
Adrian Peterson did not touch the ball on the Vikings first two series, but he said he doesn’t believe he was being punished for his critical fumble last week.
“There have been times where I fumbled and the next series come out and they feed it to me four or five consecutive times so I don’t think there was a punishment,” he said.
Vikings coach Brad Childress described it as a product of the game plan, but Peterson had a relatively light workload.
He rushed for only 54 yards and one touchdown on nine carries, which tied for the fewest carries in his career. Peterson had vowed to bounce back after his fumble in overtime last Monday night set up the winning touchdown for Chicago Bears.
“We just had a little different set up and things that we could start with that would work,” Childress said. “There is no magic to that, just luck of the draw on how we were attacking the defense.”
Peterson finished the regular season with 1,383 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. His touchdowns ranked as the second-most in team history, behind Chuck Foreman’s 22 in 1975.
But Peterson had 49 fewer carries and 377 less yards than last season thanks to the emergence of the passing game under quarterback Brett Favre.
“As long as we keep doing what we’re doing and we’re winning, I don’t have any complaints,” Peterson said.
One working theory was that Favre’s arrival would take pressure off Peterson because teams would be forced to play the Vikings offense more honest. But Peterson joked that defenses still put eight men in the box “98 percent” of the time.
“I really feel like even though the running game doesn’t see the touches like we have the past few years, I feel like we have contributed in a major way,” he said. “It opens up things for [Favre] in the passing game with the play-action and things like that. That really helps him with his reads and puts those [receivers] in one-on-ones and give those guys opportunity to make plays.”
Childress said he hasn’t given thought to making a switch at strong safety but it was interesting that rookie Jamarca Sanford replaced Tyrell Johnson during the Giants’ first possession of the second quarter.
“We wanted to get Jamarca in there a little bit and get his feet wet,” Childress said. “He has done a good job with the snaps that he’s had. He’s played extremely well and continued to play extremely well today on special teams. He’s a good ball player, a good hitter.”
Sanford made a quick impression by bursting through to stop Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw for a 2-yard loss on a third-and-1 play from the New York 44 during his first series.
“It just gives you confidence to calm down and play, be yourself and just do your job,” Sanford said. “I know my role. I’m just waiting and being patient.”
Sanford said that Derek Mason, assistant defensive backs coach, told him last week to be prepared to get into the game. “[He said], ‘Just be ready because we’re going to try and get you in a couple of series this week,’” Sanford said.
“He said the third series I’m going to go in and after that they’re just mixing it up.”
Asked about a potential switch to Sanford for the playoffs, Childress said: “No, [we’re] just getting him some experience with the first group.”
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who struggled in losses to Carolina and Chicago while continuing to nurse a right foot injury that sidelined him for six games earlier this season, played about 15 to 20 snaps in the nickel defense.
Benny Sapp started at Winfield’s normal position (left corner) and Winfield came in on passing downs and played inside in the slot. Winfield recorded two tackles and did not seem to have any of the issues with tackles or pass coverage that were obvious against the Panthers and Bears.
“That was the plan,” Winfield said of his role. “I talked to [defensive coordinator Leslie] Frazier on Tuesday. He said we’re going to reduce your role and try and buy you another week to come back healthy. Everything worked out. ... I feel good, like I didn’t even play.”
Forced to improvise
Sidney Rice’s 50-yard catch in the second quarter was supposed to be a slant route, but he saw Favre rolling right so he ran for the “second window” deep down the sideline. Favre placed the ball perfectly over the defenders head.
“He’s one of those guys that goes right for the jugular,” Favre said of Rice. “He took a high corner angle. He’s one of those guys that you just want to give him a chance to catch the ball. I was just hoping that I didn’t underthrow it.”
Strong defensive effort
The Vikings held the Giants to 181 total yards and forced two turnovers while giving up a season-low in points. Even those numbers were inflated in garbage time. The Giants managed only 73 total yards and four first downs through three quarters.
“We just kind of wanted to shut the outside people up and show ourselves that it’s all about what we do,” Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen said.
Though the Vikings defense clearly stumbled and fell short of its own standards in recent weeks, Allen seemed annoyed by suggestions that the team has a few serious concerns on that side of the ball heading into the playoffs.
“Hopefully we can shut some of the naysayers up,” he said.
The Vikings went 8-0 in the Metrodome for the first time since the 1998 season and kicker Ryan Longwell feels having a divisional round game in the stadium will be a big help.
“Our fans are awesome and I speak from experience,” Longwell said. “The Metrodome is a very tough place to play in and the noise is so loud and so we definitely think it’s an advantage to be playing at home. The fans got us to 8-0 this year at home and hopefully in the playoffs it will be even louder. It’s a very, very tough environment to come win a game in and we certainly would like to take advantage of it as the home team and to have the guaranteed home game in the divisional round is a huge advantage.”