The formula seemed simple enough for Minnesota: pit NFL MVP running back Adrian Peterson against the Giants' 26th-ranked rushing defense. Not only did it seem a favorable matchup, but it might ease the pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman, who was making his first start for the Vikings since being released by Tampa Bay.
But Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave ignored the obvious. He called 54 pass attempts by Freeman and 13 rushes by Peterson, who was held to a season-low 28 yards as the Giants won for the first time this season, beating Minnesota, 23-7, Monday night at MetLife Stadium.
It was far and away the Giants' defensive performance of the season. They held the Vikings, whose only points came via a punt return, to 206 total yards and one measly rushing first down. "To hold that team to zero points on defense and the best back in the league to 28 yards, that's pretty good," said defensive end Justin Tuck, who tackled Peterson for a 3-yard loss on his second carry and had the Giants' only sack.
Considering Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards last season and came into the game ranked seventh in the NFL with 483 yards, the Vikings' pass-run ratio played into the hands of a Giants defense yielding a league-worst 34.8 points per game.
Asked if it was surprising to see Peterson get so few touches, Tuck said, "A little bit, especially with Josh only being there a couple of weeks. We expected to see a lot of No. 28."
With Peterson, one mistake can be a killer, and it nearly happened to start the third quarter. After the Vikings recovered a fumble at the Giants' 31, Peterson bounced outside on first down with room to go all the way, but linebacker Jon Beason dragged him down after an 8-yard gain. On the next play, Freeman threw an interception. "I was able to pull him down by the arm," Beason said. "He would have gone for a TD, and then he's right back where he expects to be."
This was Beason's second game as a Giant. Tuck called Beason, who already is calling the defensive signals, "a godsend with his passion and his knowledge."
Beason recalled his pregame speech this way: "I said, 'This isn't a stat game. No solos [tackles]. Swarm. Everybody gets assists.' I had a front-row seat to a great display of a group effort."
And he led the way with nine total tackles, including five solos.