MIN-NYG Grades: Vikings interior gashes Giants on the ground
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Vikings’ 49-17 victory over the Giants:
– It’s rare to see an offense dominate as physically as the Vikings did last night with their interior trio of Brandon Fusco (+3.1), Joe Berger (+2.5) and Michael Harris (+3.7) leading the way as they gutted the interior of the Giants’ defense. Time and again the Vikings were driving double teams right back into and through the linebackers to open gaping chasms in the New York defense. Even disregarding Jerick McKinnon’s (+2.2) untouched 68-yard touchdown run, the Vikings gained more than half of their rushing yards before contact last night.
– The Vikings’ defense was energized by the return of Linval Joseph (+0.4), Anthony Barr (+2.0) and Harrison Smith (+3.6), with all three playing together for the first time since Week 12. All three earned positive grades knocking the rust off after being out multiple weeks, and due to the comfortable nature of the Vikings’ victory, they were able to rest their bodies with Smith playing the most snaps of the trio: 46 of the Vikings’ 63 defensive snaps. With the spine of the defense returned to the field, the Vikings will surely like their chances of avenging their Week 11 home defeat against the Packers in the season finale.
– The Vikings’ defensive effort can only be helped by the emerging form of rookie defensive end Danielle Hunter (+2.3) who registered a sack and at least three total pressures for the third straight week. Having earned positive overall grades in five of his last six games, Hunter is starting to develop quicker than some might have anticipated and he was too much for the Giants’ subpar tackles to handle. After seeing how Don Barclay and Josh Walker struggled against the Cardinals yesterday, the Vikings’ three headed monster at defensive end will surely be eager to do their bit as the Vikings seek the NFC North crown.
RG Michael Harris (+3.7)
S Harrison Smith (+3.6)
LG Brandon Fusco (+3.1)
CB Captain Munnerlyn (+3.1)
DE Everson Griffen (+2.9)
New York Giants
– After two terrific performances against the Dolphins and Panthers, Eli Manning (-5.5) floundered without his top target last night. Pressured on 13 of his 33 dropbacks Manning actually turned the ball over more when he wasn’t under pressure (two interceptions with no pressure), gaining only 7.3 yards per attempt when the rush didn’t get to him. Having started the season with four grades of -2.0 or worse in the first six weeks, this was only Manning’s second grade below that mark in the nine games since.
– One of the few players up front on the Giants defense who didn’t struggle was Robert Ayers (+2.7), though he did give away the lane for Jerick McKinnon’s garbage time breakaway score. That play aside, Ayers was once again the Giants most consistent and clinical pass rushing threat and was solid against the run where most other defensive linemen were finding reverse gear against the Vikings’ double teams. Ayers recorded multiple sacks for the second straight week and recorded multiple pressures in his 16th straight game.
– If Ayers has been the consistent shining light for the Giants’ defense this season then the same can be said for Weston Richburg (+3.3) on offense, one of only three Giants offensive players last night to earn an overall grade of +1.0 or higher. A Pro Bowl snub last week, Richburg was once again sound in pass protection, made his blocks in the run game and also got out in front with a couple of nice blocks on screens which is an aspect of his game that is all too easy to overlook but helped to spring Rashad Jennings’ (+1.0) 50-yard reception in the first half.
C Weston Richburg (+3.3)
DE Robert Ayers (+2.7)
LB Jasper Brinkley (+2.5)
CB Prince Amukamara (+1.3)
RG John Jerry (+1.2)