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3 things we learned about the Vikings on Sunday

MINNEAPOLIS - For the first time in nearly a month, the Minnesota Vikings' defense was at full strength. It showed against the New York Giants on Sunday as the Vikings rolled to a dominating 49-17 win at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota (10-5) clinche...

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Dec 27, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) rushes against the New York Giants in the third quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 49-17. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - For the first time in nearly a month, the Minnesota Vikings' defense was at full strength.

It showed against the New York Giants on Sunday as the Vikings rolled to a dominating 49-17 win at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota (10-5) clinched a playoff spot and also set up a game that will decide the NFC North title in Week 17. The Vikings will travel to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers next Sunday night.

The playoff berth is Minnesota's first under second-year coach Mike Zimmer and first since 2012. The Vikings haven't won a division title since they captured back-to-back NFC North championships in 2008 and 2009.

"If you would have told me back in July that we'd have a chance on the last game of the year to play for a division title, I would have been excited about it," Zimmer said. "We've played well on the road this year, but we haven't beaten Green Bay. That's something we've gotta get done."

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The Vikings' defense, with defensive tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith all back from injuries, intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning three times, returned one of those for a touchdown and brought another inside the Giants' 5-yard line to set up another score.

Minnesota also sacked Manning four times.

"When you create turnovers and put pressure on the quarterback, good things typically happen," Zimmer said. "I thought we got (Manning) to make some bad throws, and we took advantage of it."

Manning and the Giants' offense repeatedly put their defense in perilous positions in the first half. New York had one first down through the first 20 minutes of the game and fell behind 10-0 on a touchdown grab by tight end Kyle Rudolph on Minnesota's first drive of the second quarter.

After a Josh Brown field goal got the Giants within seven points, New York's defense got a quick stop and put the offense in position to potentially tie the game.

However, three plays later, Manning threw his second interception of the half, and Smith raced 35 yards down the left sideline for the score.

The Giants were never in the game after that.

What we learned about the Vikings:

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1. The Vikings will play for the NFC North championship next weekend at Lambeau Field, and the two teams are headed in different directions. Minnesota will enter off the heels of two dominating victories, while Green Bay was handed an embarrassing 38-8 loss in Arizona on Sunday. However, the Vikings haven't won at Lambeau since Brett Favre's first season in purple, and the defending division champs rolled over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium last month.

2. A healthy defense could be a recipe for success for Minnesota come the postseason. The Vikings got defensive tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith back from injury, and they helped spearhead a defensive effort that picked off Eli Manning three times, returned one for a touchdown and took another inside the Giants' 5-yard line.

3. The Vikings are headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2012 regardless of what happens at Lambeau Field next Sunday night. Coach Mike Zimmer said of the upcoming showdown, "We've played well on the road this year, but we haven't beaten Green Bay. That's something we've gotta get done."

Etc.

--DT Linval Joseph was active after missing the previous four games with a foot injury. He missed one series in the first half with a toe injury but returned to the game and finished with two tackles.

--LB Anthony Barr was active after missing two games with knee and groin injuries. Barr finished with one tackle.

--S Harrison Smith was active after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Smith had five tackles and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. It was the fourth pick-six of his career, which set a franchise record.

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By Dan Myers, The Sports Xchange

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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