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Vikings' pass rush poses challenge for Giants

Eli Manning of the New York Giants looks

Eli Manning of the New York Giants looks on from the sidelines late in a game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Credit: Jim McIsaac

What Eli Manning needs is a big bounce-back game.

He needs to forget about the two fourth-quarter interceptions he threw last week against Washington in the Giants’ first loss of the season. He needs to forget that his team could be undefeated instead of 2-1. And most of all he needs to do something to make everyone forget the feeling of frustration on the sideline in the fourth quarter Sunday when Odell Beckham Jr. threw a tantrum.

Yes, a good game would go a long way to fixing all of this. Unfortunately, the scheduling gods are not smiling upon Manning, because the Giants travel to Minnesota to take on the 3-0 Vikings on Monday night.

Suffice it to say, Manning hasn’t had the easiest time against the Vikings. As a starter, he is 2-5 against them and has never won in Minnesota. In those seven games, he had thrown as many touchdowns to Giants players as he has to Vikings defenders. That’s right. He has only five TD passes, and five of his 14 interceptions were returned for touchdowns.

Yet Manning wasn’t buying into the notion that the Vikings are a team that “has his number.”

“I don’t think anyone on the Vikings has my phone number. I’m trying to think if I have anyone’s number,” he said Wednesday with an I’m-messing-with-you laugh. “I think I have Sam Bradford’s number, so maybe he has mine.”

Too bad Manning can’t use it to get some advice from Bradford, the Vikings quarterback, on how to deal with what is emerging as the best defense in the league. You can only expect the members of the quarterback fraternity to go so far for one another. The Vikings’ pass rush is downright scary. It’s not only that they lead the league with 15 sacks. It’s that they’ve compiled those numbers against some difficult-to-contain quarterbacks, including Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton.

A lot of people were wondering what was the matter with Rodgers when Minnesota sacked him five times in Week 2. The Vikings showed that dominance was no fluke last weekend against Newton. In their 22-10 win, they sacked the reigning NFL MVP eight times and intercepted him three times.

This does not bode well for the not-so-nimble Manning, who is much more of a pure pocket passer.

“I think our offensive line has been doing a great job so far, but they will have their biggest test this week against a good front with a couple really special players,” Manning said. “But also our receivers have to get open at times, we have to run the ball well. It’s a combination of a couple of things.”

Manning said to beat a team like the Vikings the Giants have to take the right kind of risks.

“We have to hold onto the ball. Sometimes turnovers occur. You’re being aggressive and giving guys shots. You can’t be too risky with the ball. You can still be aggressive and push the ball down the field, but if things aren’t there, you have to take sacks and throw the ball away. You can still play aggressive and not be risky with the football.”

Manning has been pretty good about shrugging off a bad game, and he believes it is his job to do it again. He is not buying into the concept that any one team has his number, even one with a defense like Minnesota’s.

“You have to come back and play each week whether you play your best game or worst game,” Manning said. “Just because one game wasn’t your best, you can’t worry about it. You have to have great prep and have a good game plan and be confident in your ability.”

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