MARK CRAIG'S FIVE EXTRA POINTS
1. What’s right with Thielen
Those still asking why Jarius Wright isn’t playing need to start watching why Adam Thielen IS playing. Wright is a good player. Thielen is a good player with more to offer. In Monday night’s first half alone, Thielen had an 18-yard reception on second-and-18, went in motion and threw the key block on 275-pound end Olivier Vernon to spring Jerick McKinnon’s 25-yard run and beat cornerback Trevin Wade by a step and a half for a deep ball that inexplicably wasn’t ruled pass interference on Wade. On the 18-yard catch-and-run, Thielen stopped and used linebacker Jonathan Casillas’ momentum to shove him out of the way in a poor man’s version of Adrian Peterson’s famous sideline move against the Browns in 2009. On the deep ball, quarterback Sam Bradford’s pass was spot-on. But Wade clearly raked Thielen’s right arm before the ball arrived. But there was no penalty call, and the Vikings had to punt.
2. Crowd responds to D’s pleas
Vikings fans still are getting used to this new dome home. The Metrodome’s artificial noise was so earsplitting and relentless that fans could take plays off. This building is loud, but not always at the right time, as left guard Alex Boone so colorfully noted a few weeks back (shut yer yap when the offense is on the field). And it’s not always as loud as it can be at the right time — i.e. when Giants quarterback Eli Manning is changing the play at the line of scrimmage on the opening drive of Monday night’s game. Nose tackle Linval Joseph wanted more noise so badly at that point that he rose from his three-point stance to wave his arms in a plea for more noise. End Brian Robison also waved. The crowd got the message. The Giants’ opening drive ended with a punt because left tackle Ereck Flowers false started on third-and-5 from the Vikings 38-yard line. Good job, folks.
3. Locke does it again
If Jeff Locke is a superstitious young man, he needs to keep doing whatever it is he’s been doing the past three games. After a career filled with inconsistency from week to week, the Vikings punter has put together the best three-game stretch as a pro. A week after his 62-yard punt pinned the Panthers inside their 5-yard line and led to the safety that changed the game’s direction, Locke stepped up again early in Monday night’s game. After New York’s opening drive stalled, the Giants pinned the Vikings at their 1-yard line with a 37-yard punt. The Vikings ran three plays and had to punt. But Locke had one of the best punts of his career, a towering 53-yarder that allowed gunner Cordarrelle Patterson to disrupt the catch, causing a muff that the Vikings recovered. That led to a Vikings touchdown drive and a 7-0 lead.
4. Easy pick after Beckham botches route
Giants quarterback Eli Manning is terrible against the Vikings. He came into Monday night with a 2-5 record, 14 interceptions and only five touchdown passes. But he’s not so bad that he was responsible for the ridiculously easy interception by Xavier Rhodes in the third quarter Monday night. No way. The ball was overthrown by about 10 yards. Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. looked lost on his route and didn’t locate the ball. Meanwhile, Rhodes peeled off Beckham for the easy pick. That led to a field goal and a 17-3 lead. Ten of the Vikings’ first 10 points came after turnovers. A week ago, Giants coach Ben McAdoo called the volatile Beckham a distraction. The talented receiver also loses focus. But, hey, he’s worth it. He caught 96 balls for 1,450 yards and 13 TDs a year ago. Monday, however, he had a career-low 23 yards receiving.
5. A rare upright day for Bradford
Bradford has shown in three games as a Viking what he can do with time to throw. Monday night was his best protection by far. The Giants, who spent $200 million in free agency to upgrade their defense, aren’t the best pass rushing team in the league. But it still was impressive to not allow a sack, especially with starting right tackle Andre Smith going down in the first quarter. Bradford had been sacked in 11 consecutive games going back to Philadelphia last season. In his career, Bradford has been sacked 154 times in onlys 65 games. He has been sacked six times in three games as a Viking. He’s 3-0.