- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the worst defenses in the NFL had its best day in a long time.
The Vikings’ only points came on a Marcus Sherels 86-yard punt-return touchdown late in the first quarter.
"It was outstanding," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of his defense. "It was an outstanding effort."
Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 2,097 yards last season en route to winning the NFL MVP award, was limited to 28 yards on 13 carries. Josh Freeman, making his Minnesota debut, completed 20 of 53 passes. The Vikings accumulated just 206 total yards.
Multiple Giants admitted they were surprised Peterson didn't get more opportunities. But when he did get the ball, he only averaged 2.2 yards per carry. The Giants' focus entering this game was squarely on shutting down No. 28.
"It was definitely tough sledding," Peterson said. "Those guys were bringing some stunts, doing a lot of movement up front. Nothing we haven't seen before, but it kind of put us in an uncomfortable position."
Everywhere Peterson went, he seemed to be surrounded.
"I said to the defense before we went out, I said, 'How 'bout this? No solo tackles. Assists -- which means there’s so many guys around the ball, that you can’t determine who was there first,'" said middle linebacker Jon Beason. "And we did that. No one had any big numbers, but collectively we got around, we swarmed everybody."
Nineteen different Giants were credited with at least one tackle. Beason, acquired via trade from the Carolina Panthers earlier this month and making just his second start for the Giants, led the way with nine.
"He’s been a godsend, honestly," defensive end Justin Tuck said of Beason. "That guy -- just his passion for the game, and his knowledge. There’s so many times out there on the football field, he sees things before they happen, he’s putting guys in the right spots, and very vocal."
Tuck also had a big game, with two tackles for loss, including a 14-yard sack of Freeman in the third quarter that knocked the Vikings out of field-goal range. Tuck, who had a half-sack in the season opener against the Cowboys, hadn't had one since, and got to trot out his trademark bow after taking Freeman to the turf.
"I almost forgot to do it, honestly," Tuck said. "It’s been a long time coming. But hopefully you’ll see a whole lot more of that around here."
That was the Giants' only sack of the game, but they did record 13 quarterback hits, including three from Tuck and a team-high four from reserve tackle Shaun Rogers. And in the secondary, safety Antrel Rolle made a big play as well, with an acrobatic tip and interception of a Freeman pass on the Vikings' first drive of the second half.
"I was definitely ecstatic," Rolle said of his emotions walking off the field. "I think we played a good game. Defensively I think we went out there and we did what we thought we could do, which is go out there and be dominant."
The Giants' defense was indeed dominant, but let's not get carried away. Yes, the unit did a wonderful job against the best running back in the league. But Freeman played poorly enough earlier this season that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him after Week 4. And he was making his first start with a new team, with very little in the way of preparation.
Tuck and Rolle, among others, made big plays. But Freeman also missed open receivers. In fact, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Freeman had 16 overthrows -- the most overthrows by a quarterback in a game in the eight years the group has charted overthrows.
The Giants defense isn't suddenly a juggernaut again. But its members can feel good about themselves heading into Sunday's game in Philadelphia.
"Hopefully tonight is something we can build on," Tuck said. "It’s still a long way to climb out this hole, but this is a good start."