After Minnesota’s 44-7 victory over the New York Giants, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
I thought tailback Adrian Peterson handled himself well after splitting carries with Chester Taylor against the Giants and finishing the season with about 50 less rushes than last season. Peterson said he would have no complaints as long as the Vikings are winning, and noted fairly that much of quarterback Brett Favre’s success can be traced to the respect opposing defenses showed Peterson and the running game. Peterson estimated that defenses put at least one extra man in the box “98 percent” of the time this season. If that number is accurate, it’s a wonder Peterson finished with nearly 1,400 yards. It’s also important to note Peterson contributed in other ways. He more than doubled his career high with 43 receptions and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns.
I was a proponent of the “quantity over quality” theory in the running game, but in the end the Vikings got themselves in trouble when they tried to “exert their will” and force the run late this season. It wasn’t until they shifted back to the passing game that their offense caught fire again. Here’s my amateur interpretation: The Vikings did a decent job of filling two spots on their offensive line with young players, John Sullivan at center and Phil Loadholt at right tackle, but ultimately they weren’t strong enough to force the run when the blocking numbers weren’t there for them. On the flip side, their receivers and tight ends were left in single coverage too often to ignore. That’s part of the reason receiver Sidney Rice finished fourth in the NFL this season with 1,312 receiving yards. It’s why Percy Harvin tied for first among rookies with 60 catches, and it’s why Visanthe Shiancoe finished second among tight ends with 11 touchdown receptions.
Defensive end Jared Allen was animated Sunday in the postgame locker room, claiming the Vikings defense had re-established its dominance by shutting down the Giants. I think Allen should be careful with such claims. The Vikings played well against an opponent that shut it down several weeks ago. It doesn’t make up for giving up 36 points to Chicago last Monday -- or 26 points to Carolina two weeks ago or 30 to Arizona a month ago. There is much left to be determined about this group. Allen? He managed only two sacks over the Vikings’ final five games (and four over their final eight), but still finished the season ranked second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks overall.
And here is one question I’m still asking:
I couldn’t have been the only one who noticed the Vikings held a 41-0 lead at one point in the third quarter Sunday, could I? That was the Giants’ winning score in the 2000 NFC Championship Game, one immortalized by receiver Randy Moss’ “41-donut” catchphrase. Redemption arrived a mere 10 years later!