Vikings 27, NY Giants 24: Takeaways from last-second loss in Minnesota

Art Stapleton
 

NFL writer

There will be a playoff game for the New York Giants next Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Not officially, of course, but in reality, no matter the frustration and angst that followed a 27-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings after kicker Greg Joseph sent Big Blue home for Christmas with a 61-yard field goal as time expired Saturday afternoon.

If the Giants (8-6-1) beat the Indianapolis Colts next week, they’ll make their first trip to the postseason in six years. The facts of that might not immediately soften the blow of what transpired in Minnesota in a Christmas Eve showdown between two playoffs contenders, however. The Vikings (12-3) have already clinched the NFC North, so they’re headed to the playoffs. The Giants are forced to wait for their celebration, and it could come next.

They got what they needed to have that opportunity against the Vikings with the Seahawks losing in Kansas City and the Lions getting upset by Carolina, but those outcomes set up a win-and-in scenario at home next weekend.

“I look at it as, let’s get ready for the Colts,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said in his post-game news conference before adding later: “You never feel good after a loss.”

A Giants-Vikings rematch in the playoffs is certainly a possibility if the Giants get there. But Minnesota is currently the second seed and a game ahead of San Francisco with two games to play, provided the 49ers beat Washington on Saturday.

San Francisco will be favored to win out, although their matchup with Washington is the toughest game on paper. The Vikings close with the Packers and Bears. So if the Giants end up qualifying and finish as the sixth seed, they’ll be set to visit the third seed.

Here are other takeaways from the performance for the Giants:

Too many mistakes to overcome

A lost fumble by rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger at the 24-yard line going in as the Giants were driving.

An interception by Patrick Peterson of a Daniel Jones pass at the 18 with the Giants, again, driving to the end zone.

“You can’t have those mistakes,” Daboll said. “The fumble took away three points. The interception took away three points, at minimum.”

But the worst of them all was the blocked punt with 4:02 remaining. The Vikings broke through the middle and Josh Metellus got a piece of Jamie Gillan’s kick, allowing them to retake possession at the Giants’ 29.

Five plays later, Kirk Cousins fired a strike to Justin Jefferson, who was doubled, and he shook free for a 17-yard touchdown and an eventual 24-16 lead.

“We didn’t play a clean game,” Giants co-captain Julian Love, “and that’s what games down the stretch come down to.”

The Giants had other missed chances, too, the biggest being an interception by rookie Cor’Dale Flott that was overturned as an incompletion when replays showed the ball hit the ground and he did not complete the catch.

Another statement from Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones carried the Giants again, and he continues to show why he has earned respect this season. However that plays out in terms of a contract and an anticipated return as the franchise’s quarterback remains to be seen.

But it’s clear that the Jones’ criticism on social media will never stop. There was a faction of Giants’ fans who never embraced Eli Manning, and he won two Super Bowls, so … yeah.

Jones was certainly not the reason for Saturday’s loss. He’s the reason they even had a chance.

He completed 30 of 42 (71.4%) for 334 yards, a touchdown and an interception with a 2-point pass to Bellinger that tied the score at 24 with 2:01 remaining. Jones also rushed for 34 yards, including a critical 8-yard run on third down that set up Saquon Barkley’s touchdown run on fourth and short.

His leading receivers Saturday were Richie James (8-90) and Isaiah Hodgins (8-89-1).

Live and die by the blitz

Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will adjust, but he isn’t going to change what he believes. He loves to blitz, and the defense excelled throughout much of Saturday’s game because of the schematic advantages gained by Martindale’s approach.

The Giants were aggressive again on the final offensive play that set up Joseph’s game-winning kick, and the Vikings countered with a screen to star receiver Justin Jefferson that went for 17 yards on third-and-11.

Love said the Giants were willing to live with stopping Jefferson short of what had been Joseph’s career long.

This content was originally published here.

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