1. Poor Eli: From Beckham to Nicks
Here’s how much maturity matters in the NFL: Odell Beckham Jr.’s inability to control himself when baited into losing control of himself cost Giants quarterback Eli Manning 26.1 percent of his completions (91), 35.8 percent of his passing yards (1,396) and 40.6 percent of his passing touchdowns (13) heading into Sunday night. It showed immeasurably during the 49-17 debacle. With Beckham suspended because of his unruly behavior throughout the Carolina game the week before, the Giants had to start Hakeem Nicks. Nicks, the Giants’ 2009 first-round draft pick, was in Indianapolis last year and spent the offseason in Tennessee before being cut before the season. The Giants re-signed him in November. In four games with no starts, he had four catches for 26 yards. The Vikings’ first interception came when Manning threw a pass intended for Nicks, more of a lumbering player, who was blanketed by cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes deflected the ball, and safety Andrew Sendejo made the easy pick. Nicks had one catch for 4 yards.
2. Giants defense: Third-and-awful
The Giants’ struggles defensively are reminiscent of what the Vikings went through in 2011 and 2013 before coach Mike Zimmer was hired to help rebuild the franchise with a sound defensive foundation. The Giants went into Sunday’s game ranked last in overall defense (423.0), last in pass defense (308.4), last in sacks per pass play and had blown six leads in the final two minutes of games. The root of the problem was their 32nd-ranked third-down defense (45.8 percent). The Vikings converted only one of five third downs while taking a 3-0 lead after one quarter. But they converted two of four in the second quarter as offensive coordinator Norv Turner turned more to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who hit Jarius Wright, perhaps the sneakiest slot receiver in the league, with completions of 21 yards on third-and-3 and 18 yards on third-and-8. The Vikings converted only six of 16 third downs (38 percent) but did better than the Giants (1-for-11).
3. You want numbers or wins?
Bridgewater went into Sunday’s game with a 6-1 record when passing for fewer than 200 yards. Make that 7-1 now that Bridgewater threw for 168 on Sunday. Meanwhile, Manning went into the game with a 1-2 record when throwing for at least 350 yards and four touchdowns. Manning had thrown at least four touchdowns in two consecutive games, giving him a career-high 32 touchdowns to rank third in team history. Without Beckham, Manning’s options were ridiculously limited. When safety Harrison Smith returned Manning’s second interception 35 yards for a touchdown and a 16-3 Vikings lead, Manning was 3-for-10 for 62 yards and two interceptions. Manning was 0-for-4 when he had his first completion with 10:50 left in the first half.
4. Peterson’s pounding helped
Adrian Peterson went into the game trailing Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin by 40 yards in his race for a third NFL rushing title. He finished with 104 yards on 22 carries. The Vikings were balanced in the first quarter with 11 Bridgewater passes and nine runs, including eight for 33 yards by Peterson. The Vikings led 3-0. Peterson had only four second-quarter runs for 5 yards, forcing Bridgewater to step it up. He completed six of 10 second-quarter passes for 85 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. Peterson pounding the ball in the first quarter helped loosen things up in the passing game in the second quarter. At halftime, the Vikings had run the ball 14 times and thrown it 21 times against the league’s worst pass defense. Peterson later scored his 10th rushing touchdown, giving him eight seasons with at least 10 touchdowns. That ties him with Emmitt Smith for second place in NFL history behind LaDainian Tomlinson (nine).
5. Hunting QBs
The Giants were out of sorts, to say the least, when rookie third-round draft pick Danielle Hunter notched the sixth career sack with a speed rush around right tackle Marshall Newhouse. On the snap before, the Vikings gave the Giants a look they clearly hadn’t seen before. With 10 defenders at the line of scrimmage and Sendejo deep, Manning tried to set his protection as best he could. But he ran out of time and the Giants were penalized 5 yards for delay of game. On the next snap, Hunter sprinted around Newhouse for the easy sack.