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Vikings-Giants Breakdown

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Posted: Thursday January 11, 2001 10:20 PM

CNNSI.com NFL analyst Pat Kirwan breaks down the championship games and explains which team has the edge.

Matchups: Offense | Defense | Special Teams | Coaching

OFFENSE
Vikings   Giants
Daunte Culpepper has surpassed everyone’s expectations this year, with 33 touchdowns and 3,937 passing yards. He may have some trouble, though, with the swirling wind and grass of Giants Stadium. QB
 
Kerry Collins has been consistent, if not spectacular, during the Giants’ late season run. He showed a willingness to run in last week’s divisional playoff game and that little added dimension helps move the chains.
Pro Bowler Robert Smith has good size and deceptive speed. He also has soft hands coming out of the backfield. But Smith is a cut-back runner and the Giants defense plays cut-back guys fairly well. RB
 
Speed back Tiki Barber is also dangerous coming out of the backfield. Power back Ron Dayne gets into trouble when he attempts to run outside tackle. Last week when Dayne ran the ‘I’ lead plays inside to his right, he looked like a first-round pick.
Randy Moss and future Hall of Famer Cris Carter have tremendous ability to not only separate from the defenders but also catch in traffic. Carter could do most of his damage in three wide receiver sets in the slot when Emmanuel McDaniel lines up on him. Even though the Vikings are a wideout-oriented team, TEs Johnny McWilliams and John Davis are reliable receivers. As blockers, they do a good job of sustaining their spots while Smith finds his running lane. If the Giants try and use a lot of “Cover 2” to jam the wide receivers, the tight ends could come alive down the middle. WR / TE
 
Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard make big plays and do a good job of separating while running underneath routes. Both have soft hands, and can get deep for Collins to attempt to stretch the field. The Giants like to use the sure-handed Pete Mitchell when they want to incorporate their TE into their passing attack. When using their tandem of running backs, look for Howard Cross to use his size (6’5”, 270) to block at the point of attack.
The Vikings’ line has done a good job of protecting QB Culpepper all season. Right tackle Korey Stringer has the biggest challenge of the day with Michael Strahan rushing over him. Last week Strahan destroyed Jon Runyan, an excellent tackle. LINE
 
Ron Stone leads an aggressive front line. They play well as a group and they give QB Collins time to run the offense. On running plays they seal at the point of attack extremely well. The Giants will run the ball mostly to their right side and I expect them to win more than they lose on those play calls.

DEFENSE
Vikings   Giants
Rookie Chris Hovan and veteran John Randle lead an ever-improving defensive front four. The big question here is, are these guys big enough to stop the running game? LINE
 
As a unit, this group is tough to move. The quick development of DT/DE Cornelius Griffin has changed the complexion of an already talented front. Now they can hurt you with four-man pressure and they’re mobile enough to contain Culpepper.
Dwayne Rudd, Kailee Wong and Ed McDaniel form a quick but somewhat smallish linebacker corps. Rudd is the most athletic of the three, and against the Saints, he had 10 tackles. LB
 
The Giants have an extremely quick linebacking corps with strong tackling skills. Their speed allows them to swarm to the ball.
The Vikings’ defensive scheme has not given this group an opportunity to make interceptions. CB Robert Tate and SS Robert Griffith close quickly and are sure tacklers. Little known CB Wasswa Serwanga has a big job covering Ike Hilliard. I’m not so sure he can handle it. DB
 
This very athletic group is big enough to cover any receiver in the league, but they lack some of the deep speed needed to stay with receivers like Moss and Carter. The ‘big if’ all season has been CB Dave Thomas. He played extremely well against the Eagles; unfortunately, the Vikings receivers are a lot better.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Vikings   Giants
During the regular season, veteran kicker Gary Anderson connected on 22 of 23 field goal attempts and punter Mitch Berger averaged 39.7 yards per attempt. Kick returner Troy Walters has returned 30 kicks for 692 yards this season. This game will be played outside in the cold and wind, so throw the regular-season numbers away.
 
Veteran kicker Brad Daluiso has been successful on 19 of 25 field-goal attempts this season. Speedy KR Ron Dixon returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against the Eagles. Punter Brad Maynard is averaging over 40 yards per punt.

COACHING
Vikings   Giants
Dennis Green took a major gamble prior to the beginning of the season by naming the untested Culpepper as his starting quarterback. This move has paid big dividends. Green also has the Vikings believing that they can win the Super Bowl.

Ever since Jim Fassel made his infamous playoff guarantee, his Giants have played like a team possessed. Fassel recognizes the talent on his roster, and has the Giants playing a style that fits this talent. A month ago this category was a competitive edge for the Vikings. No more.


 
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