The one bright spot for the Giants’ offense Monday night in Minnesota was the play of Paul Perkins, the rookie running back who caught the exciting 67-yard screen pass and also ran for 8 yards on two carries on a night when he took the first offensive snaps of his NFL career.
“It was awesome,” he said of the experience and his first taste of regular-season action. “Just being out there was a surreal moment. It’s truly a blessing to be out there. Monday Night Football, you can’t ask for a better opportunity to play and just showcase.”
Perkins was pressed into service as the third running back behind starter Orleans Darkwa and the speedy Bobby Rainey. Injuries to Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings forced the Giants to reach deep into their depth chart to give him his chance.
Perkins said he didn’t know how much he would get to play.
“I just go out and practice,” he said. “Whatever the coach decides on how he divides the reps, I’m OK with it.”
He made a pretty good impression on the screen pass, finding blocks from Weston Richburg and John Jerry and bringing the ball all the way to the 4-yard line to set up the Giants’ only touchdown of the game. It is the longest play from scrimmage for the Giants this year, and it accounted for more than a quarter of the team’s 261 passing yards Monday.
“Just run,” he said of what he was thinking once he caught that short throw. “Just having fun. I was truly blessed to even be out there. Just to have an opportunity to be out there was a really great moment.”
Apparently the coaches gained some measure of trust in him because later in the fourth quarter he was in the backfield again on one of the most crucial offensive snaps of the game. On fourth-and-5 from the Vikings’ 36 with 6:14 remaining, Perkins was in the backfield and Eli Manning made a point of directing him to the potentially blitzing linebacker he was to pick up. Perkins missed the block on Anthony Barr, who came up the middle and rushed Manning’s throw to Sterling Shepard that fell incomplete. The Giants, trailing by two touchdowns at that point, turned it over on downs and essentially ended the game with 6:11 left.
Perkins did show his promise on Monday night. But he also showed the peril of relying on a rookie running back.