Vikings Have No Answers; Giants Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ram advance scout Jack Faulkner returns today with his observations on Monday night's game between the New York Giants and visiting Minnesota Vikings tucked safely in a note pad.

From the look of things, he had better have written small.

The Giants won, 24-14, which was almost as surprising as the way they did it. In order, they had lost their pro bowl tight end before the game started, lost their starting quarterback before the end of the first series and lost their composure before the first quarter ended.

And still they won, which should tell you just how poorly the Vikings played.

Or how well the Giant defense performed.

Go figure the Vikings. They own one of the league's most prized possessions, running back Herschel Walker, and they left him planted on the sidelines during the most curious times. Walker scored the Vikings' first touchdown on a nifty eight-yard reception and then was hardly heard from again.

In all, he carried the ball only 12 times but averaged more than five yards per rush. And while Viking Coach Jerry Burns apparently didn't notice Walker standing next to him, the near sellout Giants Stadium audience of 76,041 certainly did. At one point, they mockingly serenaded Walker with chants of "Her-schellll, Her-schelll."

"What I'm doing is what I'm asked to do," Walker said. "One thing I've got to do is fit in. Nothing is designed for Herschel Walker right now."

Which raises a simple question: Why not?

Nobody seemed to know the answer to that one, including Viking quarterback Tommy Kramer, who referred all inquiries concerning the occasionally-used Walker to the coaching staff.

"Maybe (the Giants) took him out of it," Burns said. "We never thought that Herschel was going to be a one-man team, that he was going to turn us around."

That should sit well with Faulkner and the struggling Rams, who face the Vikings (5-3) Sunday at the Metrodome and a week later, play the Giants (7-1) at Anaheim Stadium.

The Vikings also field the league's most feared defense and yet, they allowed little-used substitute Jeff Hostetler (two passes in seven games) to engineer an unlikely victory after starter Phil Simms injured his ankle with less than six minutes gone in the game. Hostetler did nothing more than stay healthy, which turned out to be enough.

"Coach (Bill) Parcells told me, 'Just stay calm,' " said Hostetler. "Most of the offensive plays I ran for the first time. I just got to know them by running them."

Too bad the Vikings couldn't figure them out. In fact, Minnesota couldn't seem to do all sorts of things, including holding onto the ball or solving the Giant defensive scheme.

The Vikings committed four turnovers, three of which resulted in 21 Giant points. Alfred Anderson, Minnesota's kickoff returner and back-up running back, was the most frequent offender, though there was some question as to the number of fumbles he actually coughed up.

His first fumble came with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter. Sprinting upfield on a kickoff return, Anderson was hammered by Giant coverage man Lewis Tillman. The ball popped free and was recovered by Dwayne Jiles at the Viking nine-yard line.

Three plays later, Hostetler found wide receiver Lionel Manuel open in the end zone. Not even a blatant pass interference attempt by cornerback Carl Lee could prevent Manuel from holding onto the ball.

That made the score, 17-7, in favor of the Giants, but only for a few moments.

Once again, the Giants kicked off and once again, Anderson was hit, this time by safety Greg Jackson. Myron Guyton plopped on the ball and the Giants had possession on the Viking 19.

Or did they?

After a prolonged viewing of the various replays, officials ruled that Anderson had indeed dropped the ball before he hit the artificial turf.

Four plays later, Ottis Anderson bullied his way into the end zone from two yards out. In a scant 2 minutes 21 seconds, the Giants had turned a close game into a 24-7 lead the beginnings of a mild route.

Don't tell that to the Vikings, who insist that at least one of the fumbles was incorrectly called.

"My knee was down," Anderson said of the second lost ball. "When the rest of my body hit the turf, the ball popped out. I know it happened that way. I saw it on the replay."

Said Burns, who still can't believe what he saw on the consecutive kickoff returns: "(Anderson is) one of our most solid ballcarriers. He's a guy who's had the least number of fumbles."

Poor Anderson also figured in the Giants' first score, when Viking quarterback Tommy Kramer overthrew him deep in Minnesota territory. Giant linebacker Pepper Johnson intercepted the errant pass, slipped easily past Anderson and lumbered 39 yards for a touchdown with 10:56 left in the third quarter.

Faulkner, as did much of the near-sellout crowd, found himself reaching for the Giant and Viking depth chart early and often. At first, it appeared the Vikings would benefit most from an assortment of injuries.

For instance, tight end Mark Bavaro never played because of a strained knee. Simms departed with that ankle injury, a hype-killer if there ever was one. Perched on an electric cart behind the Giant bench, Simms spent much of the first half with team physicians examining his swollen ankle as if it were a science project.

Thanks to nose tackle Al Noga's sack, one of five by the Vikings Monday night, Simms never returned to the game, except as a sideline spectator, which wasn't exactly what the Giants had in mind. Hostetler, the only quarterback remaining on the New York roster, did what he could.

Kramer was next. He was sent to the bench two quarters later when linebacker Carl Banks sacked him, bruising Kramer's right shoulder. Wade Wilson finished the game, though it didn't help.

"In the second half of the season," said Giant safety Terry Kinard, "we are going to keep playing at this level."

So noted on Faulkner's notepad.

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