The stage was set for the Giants and Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday. An NFC Wild Card battle; New York’s first postseason appearance since January 2017.
It was the beginning of a shocking playoff run for the Giants, who entered the first season of the Joe Schoen-Brian Daboll era with minimal expectations. The optimistic portion of the impatient fanbase was hoping for progress following a dreadful 2021 campaign — a playoff run was even a pipedream to them.
But there the Giants were, on a playoff gridiron in the Twin City of Minneapolis, facing a talented Vikings squad that entered the postseason 13-4 as the conference’s three seed.
And after a hard-fought battle, the Giants notched their first playoff victory in over a decade, by a final score of 31-24.
The Giants’ offense, surprisingly, came out firing. The defense was on the wrong side of a 12-play, 75-yard Vikings drive as quarterback Kirk Cousins opened up the scoring with a quarterback sneak. But Big Blue, down 7-0, had an incredible answer. Led by Daniel Jones’ immense dual-threat abilities, the Giants put together touchdowns drives of 75 and 81 yards. Running back Saquon Barkley scored on a 28-yard run while Jones connected with wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins on a 14-yard touchdown, and the Giants were up 14-7 at the end of one.
Thereafter, these two talented ballclubs traded blows.
The Vikings outscored the Giants 7-3 in the second quarter before the teams traded touchdowns in the third.
The final frame thus commenced with New York in front 24-21, with the Vikings driving and already at the Giants’ 25-yard line. To conclude what was a 12-play possession, after the Vikings were called for a false start on a fourth-down conversion, Minnesota booted through a 38-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 with 12:34 left in regulation.
Another huge answer awaited Minnesota on its own field, however. The Giants capped off another long touchdown drive with a three-yard Barkley run, his second score of the day, to go up 31-24.
It was the Vikings who had one final shot to tie the game, though, with 2:56 remaining after a key third-down drop from Darius Slayton.
Following a few big plays from an exhausted Giants defense, the Vikings were tasked with a 4th-and-8 from their own 48-yard line. That’s when Cousins hit tight end T.J. Hockenson near the right sideline and safety Xavier McKinney made the biggest tackle of his life, forcing a turnover on downs as the Vikings had no timeouts left.
Jones then sat on it to run out the clock, resulting in an enormous win; one of the biggest in franchise history.
Some thoughts on the crucial playoff victory:
DB disaster. The Giants came into this game with cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and safety Xavier McKinney, two players they didn’t have for the Christmas Eve loss to the Vikings. This was huge, especially since Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson and tight end T.J. Hockenson combined for 25 catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16. The Giants needed to limit the impact of those two talented weapons.
Unfortunately, the secondary didn’t succeed in this area for much of 60 minutes. Jefferson and Hockenson combined for 17 receptions and 176 yards, while Cousins finished the game with 273 yards and two touchdowns on 31-of-39 passing.
So a passing game that torched the Giants in the regular-season meeting torched Wink Martindale’s crew yet again in the Wild Card Round. The hope is the unit will right the wrongs before facing Philly’s Jalen Hurts, Devonta Smith, and A.J. Brown next week.
Jones masterclass. The Giants’ quarterback of the future was great in his playoff debut. The fourth-year passer, who everyone was writing off entering the year, finished the postseason matchup with 301 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and 78 rushing yards.
Overall, the Giants’ offense was as productive and efficient as its been all year, and the unit’s top player was a huge reason for that. The Giants gained 431 yards of offense and were 7-for-13 on third down.
What’s next? The Eagles. For a third time this year.
The conference’s top seed beat the Giants twice during the regular season. This includes a Week 18 meeting in which New York lost by just six with backups playing.
This is one of the more well-coached teams the Giants could face in the postseason, with a talented offense led by a once-MVP candidate quarterback in Jalen Hurts. But the Giants have seen this team before; they’ve seen how this offense operates.
Given the fact they only lost by one possession with practice squad quarterback Davis Webb under center, the Giants should have a shot at what would be the franchise’s largest victory since Super Bowl 46.