Adrian Peterson and the Vikings‘ defense ran away from the Giants early and often in a 49-17 rout on ‘Sunday Night Football’ in Week 16. Minnesota clinched a playoff berth with the victory and set up a prime-time winner-take-all matchup for the NFC North against Green Bay in Week 17. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Teddy Bridgewater didn’t need to do much of anything to secure the win for Minnesota — Adrian Peterson did that for him. The Vikings ran away with a double-digit lead early enough that Norv Turner stuck the pigskin in A.D.’s grip for the rest of the night. The Vikings‘ workhorse took back the league rushing lead (1,418 yards) with a 104-yard, one-touchdown showing. Following three sub-100 yard performances, a breakout game like this one should inspire Turner and coach Mike Zimmer heading into the postseason to feed Peterson repeatedly.
2. Sans Odell, Eli Manning and the Giants‘ offense resembled British croonstress Adele, calling out to her long-lost loved one. The suspended Beckham was sorely missed against the Vikings, especially in the first half. Eli Manning threw two interceptions in the first 26 minutes and three in the game, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He didn’t complete his first pass until 10:49 of the second quarter. Part of the problem was that Manning was throwing to anonymous receivers (see: Myles White and Matt LaCosse) who couldn’t find separation in the secondary, but that doesn’t excuse many of the throws Manning tossed well behind his targets.
3. With nothing left to play for — the Redskins clinched the NFC East and eliminated the Giants on Saturday — the New York defense mailed it in in Minneapolis, assuming the role of a human turnstile in its worst defensive performance of the season. The Vikings ran for 218 rushing yards — Jerick McKinnon piled it on late — eating up time with scoring drives throughout the contest. Though the Giants mustered three sacks of Bridgewater, the battered front seven — including Jason Pierre-Paul, who continues to miss sure tackles — failed to stop Minnesota when it mattered.
4. This will be the first of two consecutive weeks in the Sunday night slot as the Vikings‘ Week 17 matchup with the Packers has been flexed out of its 1 p.m. ET slot to Sunday Night Football. The winner of the game will take the NFC North title and earn a postseason game at home as the No. 3 seed. With the Packers coming off their worst loss of the season — a 38-8 drubbing to the Cardinals — and the Vikings gathering no moss in the midst of a two-game win streak, anything goes at Lambeau next weekend. If anything, the Vikings will have played in one more cold-weather game than the rival Pack — temperatures crept toward single-digits at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday night.
5. Let’s give some love to kickers! Blair Walsh was nearly perfect in freezing conditions in Minnesota, knocking in four of five extra points — no longer a sure thing — and five field goals, including two 50-plus yarders. Kick you heart out, Blair — you haven’t gone unnoticed.