Man­ning has strug­gled vs. Min­nesota

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Dave Camp­bell

As a rookie with the New York Giants in 2004, a few weeks be­fore tak­ing over for good as the start­ing quar­ter­back, Eli Man­ning was on the side­line while Kurt Warner helped lead a mid­sea­son vic­tory at Min­nesota.

Most of the matchups with the Vik­ings since then haven’t gone so smoothly.

In seven ca­reer starts against them, Man­ning has a 2-5 record with a rough 54.8 passer rat­ing. He’s thrown for only five touch­downs, and five of the 14 in­ter­cep­tions by the Vik­ings have been taken to the end zone.

Talk­ing about hav­ing a guy’s num­ber.

“I don’t think any­body has my phone num­ber on the Vik­ings,”

Man­ning said this week, us­ing some wry hu­mor to try to de­flect the sub­ject of his strug­gles.

Hold on, he said, string­ing along the joke in his ses­sion with re­porters as if it were a hard fake hand­off be­fore drop­ping back to throw a play-ac­tion pass.

For­mer Giants de­fen­sive tackle Lin­val Joseph, who’s cur­rently thriv­ing in his role with Min­nesota, might have the dig­its. Quar­ter­backs in the NFL form an un­of­fi­cial fra­ter­nity, so per­haps Vik­ings starter Sam Bradford knows how to reach Man­ning.

“I can’t think of any­body else’s off hand,” Man­ning said. “I’ll look at my phone and get back to you on that one, though.”

Vik­ings coach Mike Zim­mer and his ag­gres­sive, ver­sa­tile de­fense had Man­ning on his heels all night dur­ing a 49-17 vic­tory in the cold last De­cem­ber af­ter the Giants were elim­i­nated from play­off con­tention.

This year, the Vik­ings (3-0) lead the league with a plus-8 turnover mar­gin. The Giants (2-1) are tied for the sec­ond-worst at mi­nus-6.

The Vik­ings were greatly aided last sea­son by the ab­sence of wide re­ceiver Odell Beck­ham Jr., who served a sus­pen­sion for his on-field an­tics the week be­fore. Beck­ham’s be­hav­ior has been a hot topic again this year , and coach Ben McA­doo chided him about the dis­trac­tion, but his per­for­mance hasn’t left much to be de­sired. He hasn’t scored a touch­down yet, but he has 280 yards on 19 re­cep­tions.

Zim­mer ex­pressed con­cern be­yond Beck­ham. Rookie Ster­ling Shep­ard and the resur­gent Vic­tor Cruz have given Man­ning a dan­ger­ous down­field trio.

“It puts a lot of stress on you, be­cause you’ve got to cover the field,” the coach said. “It’s not like you can cheat very much.”

Here are some other key an­gles to know about the game:

KEEP­ING QUIET

Beck­ham, in­clud­ing last week against Wash­ing­ton, has had two wellpub­li­cized edgy matchups with the equally in­tense cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man. Don’t ex­pect any of Min­nesota’s de­fen­sive backs to en­gage in any sim­i­lar trash talk­ing, though.

“We try to do things a cer­tain way here. We try to play smart foot­ball, do things right,” Zim­mer said. “Ob­vi­ously, we try to win the game the best way we can, but we’re not into that other stuff.”

RUN­NING ROOM?

The Vik­ings, who’ve turned to Jer­ick McKin­non and Matt Asi­ata with Adrian Peter­son likely fin­ished for the sea­son, are last in the NFL in yards rush­ing. The Giants have given up the fifth-fewest yards on the ground.

“If we can find some­thing to kind of spark the run game and get it go­ing,” Bradford said, “I think it can only help us.”

WHO’S CAR­RY­ING THE BALL?

Giants start­ing run­ning back Rashad Jen­nings in­jured his left thumb in the sec­ond game and sat out last week, when backup Shane Vereen tore a tri­ceps mus­cle in his place and was lost for the sea­son. While Jen­nings is on track to re­turn this week, the Giants also might have to turn to Orleans Darkwa, Bobby Rainey or rookie Paul Perkins. Only Darkwa has car­ries this year, hav­ing run 10 times for 53 yards and a touch­down in the last game against Wash­ing­ton.

SEC­ONDARY STRUG­GLE

Start­ing free safety Dar­ian Thomp­son, who missed last week’s game with a foot in­jury, was still wear­ing a boot on Wed­nes­day. The rookie didn’t prac­tice on Thurs­day. Nat Berhe, who started in his place against Wash­ing­ton, was placed in the con­cus­sion pro­to­col af­ter re­port­ing to the Giants on Tues­day with a headache. He was held out of prac­tice on Thurs­day, too. That left nickel cor­ner­back Leon Hall mix­ing in with An­drew Adams, who made his NFL de­but last Sun­day, next to strong safety Lan­don Collins.

The cor­ner­backs also are hurt­ing with Do­minique Rodgers-Cro­mar­tie (groin) and his backup Eli Ap­ple (ham­string) both forced out of the last game. Nei­ther of them par­tic­i­pated in prac­tice on Thurs­day, ei­ther.

“When we have a change in the de­fense, I def­i­nitely step up,” Collins said. “I don’t just stay set­tled be­cause we need play­mak­ers.”

MON­DAY NIGHT MUS­INGS

This will be the first Mon­day night home game for the Vik­ings since Oct. 5, 2009, against Green Bay. They’ve faced the Giants five times on Mon­day night, most re­cently on the road on Oct. 21, 2013. For the Giants, this will be the 17th road game in their last 21 ap­pear­ances on Mon­day night.

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