EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sunday’s third quarter saw the Giants’ offense hold the ball for 12 minutes, snap it 29 times, run 14 plays in the red zone and …
Score three measly points!?
“We’re not soft,” nose tackle Linval Joseph said after the Vikings’ 28-10 victory. “Penalties were killing us. Things were going wrong. And then we just attacked.”
Leading the charge was Danielle Hunter, who tied Eric Kendricks with a team-high seven tackles while posting two key red-zone sacks that broke the Giants’ will in that third quarter.
“Good luck blocking him,” said Anthony Barr, who had a safety and an interception. “I’m glad I don’t got to do it because I see it every day. It’s not possible. He’s going to keep doing that, I’m sure.”
The Giants took a 28-yard field goal off the board when Joseph was flagged for hitting the long snapper. They trailed 18-7 and had first-and-goal at the 5.
No problem. Hunter sacked rookie Daniel Jones for a 10-yard loss.
“And then my penalty actually helped us,” Joseph joked, referring to the fact the Giants actually ended up having to make a longer field goal from 32 yards to get back the three points they took off the board.
Later, in the closing minutes of the third quarter, the Giants got a 37-yard pass interference penalty on Trae Waynes and an illegal contact penalty on Xavier Rhodes. They had first-and-10 at the 11 and third-and-2 at the 3.
One of the many blitzes in coach Mike Zimmer’s aggressive game plan forced Jones to throw incomplete on third down. Giants coach Pat Shurmur went for it on fourth down.
Again, Zimmer blitzed. And again, Hunter dropped Jones for a 9-yard loss.
“We talked to [Hunter] this week about doing some things a little bit different from what he’s been doing,” Zimmer said. “It showed today.”
So what, Danielle, were the changes Zimmer was talking about?
“I don’t think I can share that,” said Hunter, proving he’s also a smart player. “It was just something a little different but I don’t think I want to share it. But it did work.”
And so did Zimmer’s heavy dose of pressure packages. With Saquon Barkley sidelined and Wayne Gallman Jr. injured early in the first quarter, the Giants ran for only 64 yards. Meanwhile, Jones, making his third NFL start, lost for the first time while completing 21 of 38 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 65.9 passer rating.
“[The defensive game plan] was aggressive,” Zimmer said. “We probably need to be like that a little more. I felt good about some of the pressures we had this week. Quite honestly, we had another pressure drawn up for one other thing and they really didn’t do it today. I wish they would have because I wanted to see if it worked.”
The Vikings collected four sacks. Everson Griffen had his third of the season while Ifeadi Odenigbo, a second-year pro playing in his sixth game, had the first of his career.
Six of the Vikings’ 12 accepted penalties were committed in the third quarter. Four were on the defense, including two on Rhodes and another offsides penalty on third down on Griffen.
“It’s not like we weren’t playing well,” Kendricks said. “The penalties were killing us and keeping us on the field. But, honestly, I think the penalties were also making us angry.
“We were playing angry. We were determined they weren’t going to reach the end zone. I wish they would have missed that longer field goal they tried [after taking the 28-yarder off the board]. That would have been perfect.”
The defense bailed itself out in the third quarter. In the second quarter, they bailed out the offense when Dalvin Cook lost a fumble at the Giants’ 1-yard line.
“Facing a single-back set, it’s just try to get the safety,” Barr said of his perfectly-timed blitz that dropped Jonathan Hilliman in the end zone.
“These guys are fighters,” Zimmer said. “We had some adversity and I feel like we fought through that adversity, which is a sign of a good bunch of guys.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraignfl. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org