After losing two consecutive games, the New York Giants went back to the formula that gave them victories in their first 10 games.
The Giants used a conservative offense, an opportunistic defense and big plays on special teams to score a 23-15 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.
“We played it pretty close to the vest all game,” Phil Simms said. “It was a little cautious, but it turned out to be the right choice.”
The Giants (11-2) wrapped up their second consecutive NFC East title. The Vikings’ (6-7) winning streak ended at five games, and they lost their eighth consecutive game outdoors.
It was typical of several victories by the Giants earlier in the season. They struggled at times, but stayed close and didn’t take the lead for good until Ottis Anderson’s two-yard touchdown run made it 20-15 with 6:50 remaining.
Matt Bahr added an 18-yard field goal for the Giants with 33 seconds left.
“We’ve always felt that if we could stay and hang in there, that anything could happen,” said Anderson, who gained 26 yards in 15 carries and become the NFL’s eighth rusher to gain 10,000 in his career.
Giants’ Coach Bill Parcells was on the sidelines despite spending the night in a hospital with kidney stones.
The Giants’ defense forced three turnovers in the second half and set up all 13 of New York’s points in the fourth quarter. Lawrence Taylor had 2 1/2 sacks and set up Gary Reasons’ interception late in the game with a big rush on quarterback Rich Gannon.
“At halftime we knew we hadn’t played any football, and we were only down two points,” said Taylor, who had nine tackles and three assists. “We knew were just 30 minutes away from a title.”
New York struggled on offense for the third consecutive week. The Giants had one sustained drive, their other four scores being set by a punt return and big plays from the defense.
Trailing, 15-10, after three quarters, the Giants rallied.
Greg Jackson intercepted a bad pass by Gannon at the Vikings’ 37 on the first play of the fourth quarter and returned it five yards. Bahr kicked a wind-aided, 48-yard field goal four plays later to close the gap to, 15-13, with 13:40 left.
The Vikings got the ball back at their 18 and lost eight yards on three plays. Dave Meggett returned Harry Newsome’s punt 11 yards to the Vikings’ 42. Eight plays later, the Giants got the lead on Anderson’s second touchdown of the game.
The big plays in the go-ahead drive were a 16-yard pass from Simms to Stephen Baker and an 11-yard run by Rodney Hampton.
Taylor then forced the interception as the Vikings tried to rally, setting up Bahr’s last-minute field goal.
"(Taylor) was the difference in this game,” Gannon said. “He’s relentless. He’s a one-man wrecking crew, and he took over in the fourth quarter. We just couldn’t stop him. Every time I turned around, he was in my face.”
Minnesota scored early when Chris Doleman sacked Simms for a safety two plays after Newsome’s 48-yard punt rolled dead at the Giants’ two-yard-line.
Fuad Reveiz stretched the lead to 5-0 with a 21-yard field goal on the ensuing series.
Meggett’s 58-yard kickoff return led to Bahr’s 36-yard field goal, but Alfred Anderson’s one-yard scoring run gave Minnesota a 12-3 lead.
Ottis Anderson’s one-yard scoring run made it 12-10 at halftime.