The Giants know smart football beats big numbers.
Their winning formula for exceeding expectations was used against them on Saturday in a 27-24 loss to favorite Vikings in Minneapolis.
Blame the offense for two unusual turnovers after the Giants ran through midfield and a few other cross-wires. Blame the defense for an abandoned interception on a drive that ended with the Vikings touchdown and for an ill-timed blitz that allowed a big play. Blame the special teams for a punt blocked by Minnesota. Blame all units for seven penalties combined.
In a complete reversal of what the Giants did in a surprise push on the eve of the playoffs, they filled in the offensive box score for 445 yards, but came away ruining a handful of errors and zero takeout and lost on a last-second 61-yard field goal.
“You can’t make those mistakes,” said head coach Brian Daboll.
The most obvious must-haves were:
Rookie cornerback Cor’Dale Flott undermined a pass to Adam Thielen and celebrated his first career interception to protect a 13-10 lead in the third quarter. Except the replay showed that Flott hadn’t finished the takedown. The Vikings capitalized on the canceled call by scoring for a 17-13 lead.
“We didn’t play a clean game,” safety Julian Love said. “That’s what these [December] the games boil down to.
Jamie Gillan’s punt on a fourth-and-five with 4:10 remaining was blocked and turned into a short-field touchdown that extended the Vikings’ lead to 24-16. Josh Metellus knocked down long snapper Casey Kreiter and came in the middle of Gillan’s outstretched leg. It looked like Gillan took an extra split second to get the ball out – perhaps still thinking about his accidental fumble that cost the Giants against the Eagles two weeks ago.
Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger lost a fumble on the end of a 16-yard catch and ran to the Vikings 23-yard line in the first half.
Later, on a second-and-6 from the Vikings 40-yard line, Daniel Jones tested future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson one too many times and was intercepted.
“The fumble took three points, the interception took three points,” Daboll said. “It’s a minimum.”
A few other mistakes that might not be so obvious: Richie James, who totaled catches for 90 yards, dropped a third pass and didn’t know which route to take on another third, leading Jones to scramble and prompted Daboll to burst on the touchline.
Aggressive defensive coordinator Wink Martindale sent a blitz on third-and-11 with 19 seconds left, leaving too many defenders chasing the ball as Justin Jefferson turned a screen into a 17-yard gain to set up the winning field goal.
“I think Wink had a good plan and mixed it up,” Daboll said. “They made a few more games than us.”
Love said the Giants thought they had tackled Jefferson before what the scouting report said was the yard line needed to attempt a field goal.
“You can say, ‘Oh man, if we attacked a yard or two earlier,’ but we have to win this situation,” Love said. “It sure is frustrating.”