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 well-publicized 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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