MINNEAPOLIS — Odell Beckham Jr. and the potent New York Giants passing attack never found a rhythm on another frustrating night for the volatile wide receiver.
The Minnesota Vikings have been making a habit of sending the opponent home unhappy.
Mystifying Eli Manning yet again, holding Beckham to a career-low 23 yards on three catches and turning two turnovers into 10 points, the Vikings stayed unbeaten with a 24-10 victory Monday over the Giants.
“We feel like we’ve got one of the best units in the game,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “We’ve just got to keep working. Our coaches do a great job of putting in a great game plan, and we just go out there and cover the guys up. Everybody on this defense wants to be great.”
The Vikings (4-0) didn’t record a sack after getting 13 over the past two games, but they were so tight in coverage and sound against the run that the Giants only converted 2 of 12 third downs. Second in the NFL with 12.5 points allowed per contest, the Vikings have conquered quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Manning in consecutive games — the last two league MVP award winners and a two-time Super Bowl champion. They’re 6-2 against Manning in his career.
Coach Mike Zimmer was concerned about Beckham, Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard, as dangerous a trio of pass-catchers as there is in the NFL, so the Vikings didn’t blitz the Giants (2-2) nearly as much as they did Rodgers’ Packers or Newton’s Panthers.
“It just shows our versatility,” linebacker Anthony Barr said.
Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph for the third straight game and kept his turnover-free streak since joining the Vikings intact, and Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon each ran for a touchdown as part of a season-high 104 yards rushing for the team. Bradford was 26 of 36 for 262 yards passing, thriving with quick-release throws behind an offensive line that protected better than it had in any of the previous three games.
Starting 4-0 for the first time since 2009, the Vikings joined Philadelphia and Denver as the league’s only remaining undefeated teams.
“We’ve still got a long way to go. We’re not handing out any medals tonight,” Zimmer said. “The attitude of this team, they like to work. It’s good, and they actually tell me I’m getting soft sometimes.”
“Yeah, they do,” Zimmer said. “They tell me all the time, ‘What are you doing? How come we’re not in pads today?'”
Here are the top takeaways from the game:
RHODES CLOSED: Beckham, who has yet to score this season during the longest touchdown-less streak of his three-year career, was smothered by cornerback Xavier Rhodes . Beckham wasn’t nearly as agitated as he was the week before in his much-scrutinized matchup with Washington cornerback Josh Norman, but he picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after he and Rhodes bumped and jawed at each other out of bounds following a short catch in the second quarter.
“I’ve just got to know it’s all against me. It’s going to be that way. I have to assume that I’m always in the wrong no matter what,” Beckham said. “That’s something, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but you have to understand it. You have to be able to cope with it and just keep it moving.”
Manning expressed more concern about his star receiver’s behavior than he had before.
“He’s got to be aware,” Manning said. “They’re looking for him, and he’s got to play smart. We can’t afford to do anything.”
KICKING CONUNDRUM: Blair Walsh missed his third field goal try in four games this season for the Vikings, this one a 46-yarder that never really had a chance. He has also missed two extra points this year, and Zimmer has sounded more and more like he’s losing patience with his kicker.
“We need to make those or it’s going to bite us in the rear end,” the coach said. “Our team is playing close games. That’s how we’re built.”
Walsh did rebound to hit a 44-yarder not long after his miss, following an interception by Rhodes.
QUICK PASSES: The Vikings led the NFL with 15 sacks in the first three games, and the Giants clearly preferred a quick-pass attack to neutralize the rush. Manning wasn’t sacked, mostly preferring to dump the ball off on short routes to receivers on slants and backs in the flats. This is what the Vikings must expect now.
“You look around the league, and there’s franchise quarterbacks out there, man,” Munnerlyn said. “You don’t want to get those guys hurt. They’re the money men. So you try to protect them and get rid of the ball real fast, and we just got to cover them up.”
STRUGGLING SECONDARY: The Giants’ secondary is depleted by injuries. Trevin Wade had trouble all game starting at cornerback for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Wade was beaten by Charles Johnson for receptions of 30 and 40 yards, had a pass interference penalty on Rudolph and got away with one on an early incompletion to Adam Thielen.
RECIPE FOR TROUBLE: The Giants have a minus-8 turnover margin at the quarter mark of the season. After being penalized 11 times for 128 yards in a loss to Washington last week, they were flagged eight times for 69 yards in this game.
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