Giants end long, strange trip with win

DETROIT -- The long and arduous trek began in Newark on Saturday morning.

And while the New York Giants never made it to their final destination of Minneapolis, they still did what they set out to do.

After taking detours to Kansas City and Detroit and enduring a wacky road trip more suited for the Griswold family than the Coughlin bunch, the Giants soundly defeated the Minnesota Vikings 21-3 in front of 45,910 who got to watch free unexpected Monday night football in Detroit at Ford Field.

The Giants got to witness history as well, when Brett Favre's legendary consecutive starts streak ended against them.

Even though Favre had told enough people in the days leading up to the game that he likely would not play, seeing No. 4 sit out was still another curveball thrown at the Giants, who did prepare for both Favre and Tarvaris Jackson but fully expected Favre to play.

Nothing fazed the Giants on this trip. Not even Mother Nature, who slammed the Midwest with so much snow that the roof at the Mall of America Field stunningly collapsed.

Because of the snow, the Giants were forced to spend the night at the Kansas City airport Marriott on Saturday night. By late Sunday morning, they would learn that they were heading to Detroit to play a Monday night game, continuing to throw everything into whack.

But the Giants handled everything so well that head coach Tom Coughlin even began to wonder if his team was too even-keeled. He tried to keep things as simplistic as possible.

"As I told the guys: Saturday night, we had a warm bed, and four hours before that we didn't know if we even had a bed, so that had to be looked at as a plus," Coughlin said.

The Giants might be a collection of rich athletes. But the adversity of the weekend made many players appreciate the simple things.

Safety Antrel Rolle said he found inspiration in a youngster named Kelvin Thomas, a 13-year-old battling lymphoma. Thomas, who is from Brooklyn, traveled with the Giants and his mother through the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation -- a cause to assist children with leukemia and other cancers -- and Friends of Karen.

Thomas received the game ball in front of the team afterward from Coughlin.

"If they can go through it under their conditions, then we should definitely take it with a grain of salt," Rolle said of a trip that he described as draining. "We came out and played hard for those guys and the fans that traveled through this disastrous weather."

The Giants, full of resolve, came out and shut down all-world running back Adrian Peterson, who managed a measly 26 yards on 14 carries. Perry Fewell's defense was superb, sacking Jackson four times and injuring him.

Offensively, the Giants got Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and David Diehl back from injuries. Eli Manning, who made his 100th consecutive start on a night when Favre's streak ended, wasn't at his best as he threw two interceptions. But he found a way to beat a team that he had previously been 0-4 against.

Nicks finished with seven receptions for 96 yards. Smith only had one catch for 12 yards before having to exit the game in the fourth after injuring his hamstring on a tackle. Also, the Giants lost Mario Manningham to a hip flexor injury.

Despite the uneven play from the passing game, the Giants' ground attack continued to thrive as Brandon Jacobs rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown and Ahmad Bradshaw added 103 and a touchdown against a very good Minnesota run defense that ranked fourth in the NFL.

And the Giants did all this in a strange atmosphere. The loudest thing all night was the Vikings horn blowing and fans chanting "Let's go, Lions!" when they weren't giddily doing the wave.

After all the Giants had been through this past weekend, playing football in front of any fans was pure joy.

Many just wanted to get home and into some clean clothes afterward. Most of the players only brought two days' worth of clothes with them. Some had to go shopping in Detroit.

"A few guys did, for some drawers and some socks," Nicks said, laughing.

Barry Cofield had relatives from Ohio bring clothes to him.

"I would stay away from everybody," Cofield cracked. "Some guys might not smell their best right now. I am not going to lie."

By late Monday night, the Giants' scent was one of victory. They bonded during this odyssey that defensive end Justin Tuck had initially likened to a "bad Christmas movie."

When asked what movie it would be now that the Giants had won, Tuck replied, "It is kind of like the ending of 'Groundhog Day.'"

"Tomorrow will be a different day for us."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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