MINNEAPOLIS — They were supposed to be unstoppable. So many weapons. So many headaches and tough decisions for defenses. So much potential for production.
But four games into the season, the Giants’ passing attack has been a flop. Monday night’s 24-10 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium was the latest example of that disappointment as their big three receivers — Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard — totaled only 12 catches and 103 yards, with no play longer than 14 yards.
This on the heels of only 20 points against a poor Dallas defense, 16 points against the Saints (who seem to spot everyone else in the league 30) and an inability to score any second-half touchdowns against a Washington defense that lost two starters in its secondary to early injuries.
Realize that the Giants are 2-2 despite allowing only 21.3 points per game. That battered defensive unit was hardly without blame Monday night, allowing a late touchdown drive, but it certainly wasn’t the glaring issue.
It’s a sign that perhaps the league has caught up with the Giants’ schemes and routes. Caught up before they ever had a chance to fall victim to them, really. Eli Manning has only four touchdown passes this season.
Much as Washington did, the Vikings played a lot of schemes with two safeties deep in coverage to take away the deep threats, while the cornerbacks pressured the receivers at the line of scrimmage. At some points, the Vikings were dropping eight men into coverage. Even with their talented receivers, the Giants couldn’t get open.
“We have to score more points, plain and simple,” Manning said after completing 25 of 45 passes for 261 yards with an interception. “We’re doing some good things, but not good enough, not efficient enough, and we have to put it all together.”
They also repeated some of the sins of the Washington game, committing eight penalties for 69 yards with two turnovers. Coach Ben McAdoo called those issues “correctable” after last week’s loss. Now they are starting to look more like habits.
“We have to eliminate the turnovers,” McAdoo said. “You can’t give a good team on the road, especially this team, you can’t give them two possessions.”
That’s exactly what the Giants did when Dwayne Harris muffed a punt return in the first quarter, which set up the Vikings’ first touchdown, and Manning was picked off by Xavier Rhodes in the third quarter, which led to a field goal.
It took 22 minutes and 14 seconds for the Giants to get Beckham involved in the game, and one minute, seven seconds after that for him to draw an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. Two plays after Beckham was targeted for the first time on a 9-yard reception, he caught a 4-yarder and was ridden out of bounds by Rhodes. Beckham came up complaining about the late hit, and as he shouldered his way past Rhodes and two officials on his way back to the huddle, a flag was thrown from the back judge about 40 yards away from the action.
That penalty, 15 yards for taunting, helped destroy another first-half drive. The only possession in the half that resulted in any points was the final one, which ended with a field goal that made it 14-3.
After a miserable first three quarters, the Giants’ offense flashed on the first play of the fourth. Manning hit rookie running back Paul Perkins on a screen pass that he turned into a 67-yard gain to the 4, setting up a 1-yard TD run by Orleans Darkwa that cut the Vikings’ lead to 17-10 with 13:38 left.
The Vikings responded, though, finally taking advantage of Giants backups in the secondary. Sam Bradford (26-for-36, 262 yards, one TD) hit a wide- open Kyle Rudolph for 16 yards on third-and-4 with Leon Hall out of position, Charles Johnson beat Trevin Wade badly off the line for a 40-yard gain, and Jerick McKinnon ran in untouched from the 4 to put Minnesota ahead by two touchdowns.
“That’s what everybody is brought here to do, put up their best effort,” safety Landon Collins said. “We didn’t bring it today.”
The game essentially ended when the Giants turned the ball over on downs at the Vikings’ 36 with 6:11 remaining.
“I thought the defense kept us in the ballgame and played hard,” McAdoo said. “We didn’t play good team football. You don’t play good team football against a good opponent, it’s tough to win.”
Notes & quotes: TE Larry Donnell left the game with a concussion in the second quarter . . . S Andrew Adams made his first NFL start and played the first defensive snaps of his career . . . RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) was inactive for the second game in a row. Darkwa started in his place . . . CB Eli Apple (hamstring) also was inactive. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) was active but did not play. McAdoo said he was available only in case of an emergency.