Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is quick to explain that earning a win in the NFL, regardless of the opponent’s record, is a big deal, so he’ll gladly take the sloppy 23-7 win over the hapless Vikings.
“It’ll be good to win and correct, which in my opinion is a much better way to teach,” said Coughlin. “I’m happy for our players, our coaches and our owners. It’s nice to get one again and say, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like.’”
New York (1-6) got back to that winning feeling by using a surprisingly staunch defense that throttled the league’s defending rushing champion Adrian Peterson and harassed newly signed quarterback Josh Freeman all night. Peterson could only muster 28 yards for the Vikings (1-5), while Freeman was wildly inaccurate in going 20-of-53 for 190 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
Peterson, who is the league’s reigning MVP, has been underused in recent weeks as he followed up last week’s 10-carry afternoon with just 13 totes Monday night. Part of that frustration was undoubtedly because the scoreboard dictated a pass-heavy game plan, as the Giants defense technically pitched a shutout.
But Peterson’s angst was also caused by a Big Blue defense that made it their sole mission to make the running back black and blue.
“We came with a lot of purpose,” said safety Antrel Rolle. “He’s an MVP and the best running back in the league, so for us to hold him to such short yardage speaks volume of our defense. It was a mentality.”
The Giants’ mentality on the offensive end was to use a ball-control tempo and minimize mistakes. Both were accomplished as quarterback Eli Manning was efficient and methodical in going 23-of-39 for 200 yards and one touchdown. And even more importantly, he had no turnovers for the first time all season.
The running game didn’t offer much support, but newly signed tailback Peyton Hillis (36 yards on 18 carries) and rookie Michael Cox (23 yards on 11 carries) provided just enough. Hillis scored a touchdown and registered a couple of key safety-valve catches out of the backfield (five catches for 45 yards), while Cox was hot early in tallying all but one of his yards on the opening drive.
“We had 32 attempts, not a lot of yards, but we continued to try and run the ball which balances things out. It’s better for us that way,” said Coughlin. “Peyton Hillis did a nice job of coming right off the [free-agent] workout and onto the field for us. Michael Cox did a god job, too. To go from scout squad to playing on Monday night is quite an achievement.”
Manning was also appreciative of the way those two new faces in the huddle played— particularly the veteran Hillis, who was unemployed just a week ago.
“I thought Peyton played really well in a week’s notice. He understood [pass] protections, knew when to chip and knew when to get out in the routes and get check-downs on third downs,” said Manning. “He’ll be good for us [because] he’s a big, strong athletic running back and it’ll be good to have him going forward down the road.”
Before the Giants look forward, they are happy to look back on nearly a calendar year between winning games that count in the standings. Heading into their Monday night matchup it had been 295 days since the Giants enjoyed the satisfaction of winning a meaningful game.
Rolle said there was both relief and joy in finally getting off the schneid.
“It’s a little bit of everything [emotionally]. We’ve been fighting hard for six weeks despite our record and coming up short. But it was good to just have fun tonight,” Rolle said. “All we need to do is believe, keep this wonderful feeling of winning and get back to work. ... We have a great opponent coming up in Philly.”
The NFC East-rival Eagles (3-4) are indeed next on the docket, which means there will be little time for the Giants to pat themselves on the back.
“It’s good to be smiling and having a little excitement after a game,” said Manning. “It was good to get that winning feeling again. It can be frustrating when we work so hard in practice and compete in games, but not get the results we wanted. We needed one, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Big Blue notes ...
» The Giants have allowed three punt-return touchdowns this season. The rest of the NFL has allowed four total. Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels returned a Steve Weatherford punt 86 yards for a touchdown to get Minnesota on the board for its only points.
Vikings rookie wideout Cordarrelle Patterson also almost got into the end zone as he returned a kickoff 69 yards before getting bumped out of bounds by Rolle.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @MetroNYSports.