Bradford threw for a touchdown and played turnover-free football on Monday night as the Vikings beat the New York Giants 24-10 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The win moves Minnesota to 4-0, where they join the Eagles and Broncos as the NFL's only remaining unbeaten teams.
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, the running back committee that's carrying the load for Minnesota with star Adrian Peterson out for the long term, each had a rushing touchdown as the Vikings never trailed for the first time this season. McKinnon led all rushers with 85 yards on 18 carries, while Bradford was 26-of-36 for 262 yards in the air.
"It doesn't matter who's playing, we expect them to perform," said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer of his makeshift lineup, having lost Peterson and starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before Week 3. "I say it all the time, because it's true about this football team, it's so important to have the right kind of guys in here -- guys that when we get down to it, they fight."
The Giants (2-2) protected quarterback Eli Manning throughout, not allowing a Vikings sack, but were generally held in check otherwise and lost their second consecutive game. Manning was 25-of-45 for 261 yards and directed one touchdown drive, but was intercepted once and now has thrown five touchdowns and 15 interceptions in eight career starts versus Minnesota.
"I didn't play well enough," Manning said. "Didn't find enough completions, didn't move the ball well enough, had an interception. They play good defense and had a good scheme. They took away some of our passing game, so you've got to give them credit."
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who has had a rough season, missed a 46-yard attempt on the opening drive of the second half, but redeemed himself later in the third quarter with a 44-yarder that gave Minnesota a 17-3 lead. They took that advantage into the fourth quarter, but the Giants' first play of the fourth was a 67-yard catch-and-run by Paul Perkins down to the Vikings 4-yard-line. Orleans Darkwa scored from a yard out three plays later, cutting the Minnesota lead to 17-10.
But the Vikings answered with a 76-yard drive of their own, capped off when McKinnon scampered into the end zone from four yards out, re-establishing a two-touchdown lead. The Giants turned the ball over on downs with 1:51 to play and Minnesota was able to run out the clock.
The Giants' defense held Bradford and company to three-and-out on Minnesota's first possession, but a special teams error gave the Vikings a second chance. Giants returner Dwayne Harris muffed the punt, and Minnesota recovered at the New York 41, which led to Asiata's 1-yard run and a 7-0 Vikings lead.
"The message is getting through, I just think we need to take care of the ball," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. "We need to catch the punt, obviously. And there was a collision that happened on the interception. The ball was outside, and they made a nice play on it."
The Minnesota defense forced a trio of New York punts, then Bradford led a nine-play, 65-yard drive in the second quarter, finishing with a 7-yard pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 14-0 advantage. Rudolph has quickly become one of Bradford's favorite targets since the quarterback came to Minnesota on Labor Day Weekend, and the quarterback said he felt immediate chemistry with Rudolph, whose wife is expected to have twins on Tuesday.
"When he has the confidence to make those throws, especially in big situations, the touchdown from (the) 7-yard line, all those big third downs, you want him to keep coming," Rudolph said, after catching five balls for 55 yards. "If you want him to keep coming, you've got to make those catches."
The Giants broke the shutout with two seconds left in the half, when Josh Brown hit a 40-yard field goal.
Minnesota's defense, averaging five sacks a game coming into the contest, was held without a first-half sack.
The Vikings host Houston on Sunday, while the Giants stay on the road in the NFC North, traveling to Green Bay.
NOTES: Vikings Hall of Fame OG Randall McDaniel was on the field for the coin toss, holding the Ryder Cup, which was won by the Americans on Sunday at Hazeltine National Golf Club outside Minneapolis. ... October has the Giants playing perhaps their most grueling stretch of the year, with three of their four games in the month on the road, two of them in prime time (Monday's game at Minnesota, then next Sunday evening at Green Bay) and a trip to London to face the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 23. ... The Giants are just the second-ever visitors to U.S. Bank Stadium, after the Vikings opened their new home by beating the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago. The 2009 season was the last time the Giants visited a first-year stadium, and they beat the Dallas Cowboys 33-31 at AT&T Stadium. ... Monday's game was the first Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. played against the Vikings. He missed last season's 49-17 win by Minnesota due to a one-game NFL suspension.