Vikings bet it all on Freeman’s arm … and lose big

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The formula seemed simple enough for Minnesota: pit MVP running back Adrian Peterson against the Giants’ 26th-ranked rushing defense. Not only did it look like a favorable matchup, but it might have been a good way to ease the pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman, making his first start for the Vikings since the Bucs released him.

But Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave chose not to follow the obvious script. He called 53 pass attempts by Freeman and only 13 runs by Peterson, who was held to a season-low 28 yards as the 1-6 Giants beat the Vikings, 23-7, on Monday night.

Not that the Giants’ defense didn’t do its part. On Peterson’s second carry, Justin Tuck dropped him for a 3-yard loss, leading to a punt. Unfortunately for the Giants, their special teams found a novel way to keep Peterson off the field. They let the Vikings gain a 7-3 lead on an 86-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels. But after the Giants regained a 10-7 edge on a 24-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Rueben Randle, the defense kept Peterson bottled up.

By halftime, Peterson had only 9 yards on eight carries. Amazingly, Freeman had 16 pass attempts in a 10-7 game in which more touches for Peterson might have made a big difference. That pass-run imbalance continued in the third quarter.

Two Vikings turnovers also limited Peterson’s opportunities, but it was clear the Vikings reached the improbable conclusion they weren’t going to run on the Giants. They did drive to the Giants’ 21, but Tuck ended that threat with a 14-yard sack. No doubt, it was the Giants’ best defensive performance of the season.