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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Giants vs. Vikings: Tarvaris Jackson Flops Filling In for Brett Favre

The buildup for Monday night's game between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings was bizarre: All the talk was about the quarterback who wouldn't be playing (Brett Favre, whose NFL-record streak of 297 straight starts was snapped), and a stadium the game wasn't even in (the Metrodome, with its snow-damaged roof). But once things got started, with Tarvaris Jackson starting and the Vikings playing a "home" game at Ford Field in Detroit, it was just another NFL game -- albeit a pretty boring one, and one with a much quieter crowd than NFL games typically have.

Filling in for Favre, Jackson had a lousy game, and he was banged up on two different occasions. The Giants, meanwhile, got a huge game from their 1-2 punch at running back, withBrandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw both of gaining more than 100 yards rushing. The Giants' big running game and the Vikings' terrible offense combined for a 21-3 Giants victory.

Some thoughts on the game:

• The first big play of the game took place when Giants quarterback Eli Manning underthrewHakeem Nicks and was intercepted by Vikings defensive back Frank Walker in the first quarter. Manning (who was making his 100th straight start) just didn't get enough air under the ball, and it set up the Vikings in great field position. Minnesota had to settle for a Ryan Longwell field goal, which provided the Vikings their only points of the night.
• On the Vikings' next possession after a Giants punt, Jackson and Adrian Peterson had a knee-to-knee collision on a handoff. Both went to the ground in obvious pain and briefly had to come out of the game, with Jackson being replaced by third-string quarterback Joe Webb, who threw his first NFL pass as both Favre and Jackson watched from the sideline. Both Jackson and Peterson were OK and eventually able to return.

• Manning made another bad decision early in the second quarter, throwing an interception right into the arms of Minnesota's Asher Allen.

• With Manning's passing miscues, Giants coach Tom Coughlin wisely decided to keep the ball on the ground on the Giants' next possession, and that strategic decision was the turning point in the game. Running back Brandon Jacobs had a career-long 73-yard run to start a Giants' possession midway through the second quarter, and he finished the drive off with a one-yard run up the gut to give New York a 7-3 lead.

• When the Giants got the ball again with less than two minutes to go before halftime, they could have played it safe. Instead, they took an aggressive tack, with Manning throwing downfield -- the result was a Manning-to-Kevin Boss touchdown pass with three seconds remaining in the first half, which gave the Giants a 14-3 halftime lead.

• A great Greg Camarillo 52-yard punt return gave the Vikings good field position early in the third quarter, but two plays later, Jackson threw a pass right into the hands of Giants linebacker Keith Bulluck for an easy interception that ended the Minnesota drive.

• Late in the third quarter, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw broke free for a 48-yard touchdown run, making the score 21-3.

• The fourth quarter was garbage time, with both teams looking like they just wanted to get home, as the offenses stalled and the teams traded punts. About the most interesting thing that happened came when a shotgun snap sailed over Jackson's head and Jackson recovered it in the end zone for what should have been a safety, only to have the officials wrongly rule that Jackson had regained possession just outside the end zone. That play was symbolic of the entire game: The story of the day was the Vikings' inept offense without Favre.

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