1. Opening-possession jitters
In their first five games, the Vikings’ opening possessions resulted in three touchdowns, a field goal and a Matt Cassel interception. Josh Freeman’s debut series Monday night wasn’t nearly as successful as the first four, but not as bad as the last one. Freeman went 1-for-4 for 9 yards and a first down. John Carlson dropped a pass, Freeman overthrew Cordarrelle Patterson wildly and the possession ended with Freeman throwing the ball away under pressure. Adrian Peterson had two carries for zero yards, including a 3-yard loss. On the season, Peterson has 93 yards and one TD on 11 first-possession carries (8.5 yards per carry). But his past 10 have gone for only 15 yards (1.5). Christian Ponder was 2-for-6 for 25 yards in first possessions, while Matt Cassel was 5-for-10 for 55 yards and an interception.
2. Slow out of the gate after halftime
The first possessions of the second half haven’t gone nearly as well for the Vikings this season. The first five weeks produced two three-and-outs, a TD run by Peterson and both of Peterson’s lost fumbles. Monday, the Vikings went three-and-out and were lucky to do so. On third-and-2 from the Vikings 28-yard line, Freeman threw a ball that cornerback Antrel Rolle dropped. Had Rolle made the catch, he could have jogged into the end zone for a 17-7 Giants lead. Peterson went into Monday night with 11 carries for 44 yards, a TD and two lost fumbles on the first possession of the second half. He didn’t carry on the first possession of the second half on Monday.
3. First-half famine for Peterson
As miserable as the Giants were defensively heading into the game, they ranked 13th in average rushing yards allowed per carry (3.9). The Vikings made them look downright ’85-Bearish in the first half. Peterson carried the ball eight times for 9 yards in the first half. His first seven carries went for 3 yards or fewer. At that point, 61 of Peterson’s 110 carries (55.5 percent) on the season had gone for 3 or fewer yards. That included 49 carries of 2 yards or fewer (44.5 percent). Peterson entered Monday’s game with 483 yards, 63 more than he had through five games a year ago. A year ago, Peterson had 499 yards through six games before breaking loose with 1,598 yards in his final 10 games.
4. Freeman’s big arm quiet
Freeman’s strength is his, well, arm strength. But it wasn’t on display in his first half as a Viking. He threw only three passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air. He completed one to tight end Kyle Rudolph for 21 yards. He failed to connect on one that went 25 yards to Rudolph and another one that went 22 yards to Jarius Wright. Ponder was, statistically, the worst deep-ball thrower in the league a year ago. According to ProFootballFocus.com, a league-low 7.5 percent of Ponder’s 2012 passes were thrown at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Only 25 percent of those were completed, also a league low. Cassel stepped in for two weeks and went 3-for-8 with two picks and a touchdown on balls that traveled at least 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. A year ago, the Buccaneers set a franchise record with nine plays of 60 yards or more. Seven of those plays were passes by Freeman.
5. Sharing third-down woes
The Vikings defense came in ranked 31st in third-down conversions, having given up a first down 49.3 percent of the time (33 of 67). The Giants came in ranked 30th at 48.9 percent (44 of 90). The only team worse than both was Atlanta, which gave up 50 percent (33 of 66) through last week. In the first half Monday, the Vikings held the Giants to four conversions in 10 attempts. Of course, that didn’t include a pass interference penalty on cornerback Xavier Rhodes that resulted in a 23-yard gain on third-and-5. One play later, cornerback Chris Cook gave up a 24-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle. Manning also helped the Vikings out by overthrowing two wide-open receivers on first-half third downs. One of them should have been a touchdown to Hakeem Nicks, who had beaten Rhodes badly. The Giants, meanwhile, held the Vikings to only two third-down conversions in seven attempts in the first half.