EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Peyton Hillis scored on a 1-yard run two plays after a turnover and the winless New York Giants grabbed a 17-7 lead over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
The 10-point lead was the largest of the season for the Giants and it put them within 15 minutes of getting into the win column.
The touchdown was set up when Zak DeOssie recovered a fumble by Marcu Sherels on a punt return at the Minnesota 3. Sherels had slipped on the return and the ball came loose when he hit the ground. Since he was not touched by a New York player it was a fumble.
It was the second big mistake by Minnesota. New quarterback Josh Freeman was intercepted by Antrel Rolle early in the quarter after Minnesota recovered a fumble by Rueben Randle on a punt return at the New York 31.
The Giants had taken their first halftime lead of the season when Eli Manning threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Randle in the second quarter. It was Randle's fourth TD in the last three games, and this one capped a seven-play, 82-yard march that was aided by a 23-yard pass interference call against cornerback Chris Cook.
New York, which had allowed a league-high 209 points, limited Minnesota and Freeman to 113 total yards in the half. Adrian Peterson had 26 yards rushing on 12 carries.
The Vikings had a chance to tie the game on the ensuing series but Blair Walsh was just short on a 53-yard field goal. It was the first time in 15 field goal attempts that a Giants' opponent missed the kick.
Minnesota had taken a 7-3 lead in the final minute of the first quarter on an 86-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels, the third against the Giants this season.
Until that point, the Vikings had only six plays from scrimmage in an opening quarter dominated by the Giants, but the big punt return put them ahead.
Sherels handled Steve Weatherford's 51-yard punt at the 14, sidestepped the initial defender and then was seemingly untouched running down the left sideline in front of the Giants' bench.
Trindon Holliday of Denver scored on an 81-yard return against the Giants in the second game of the season and Dexter McCluster of Kansas City tallied on an 89-yard return two weeks after that.
New York held the ball for 9:36 on its opening drive, before settling for a 35-yard field goal by Josh Brown. The 17-play, 68-yard drive came within inches of ending in a touchdown, but Manning's pass from the 16-yard line went off the fingertips of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Giants center David Baas, who was returning to the lineup after missing three games with a neck injury, hurt a knee on the play and left the field. He did not return.
New York was forced to play rookie Michael Cox and the recently signed Hillis at halfback with David Wilson (neck) and Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) out.
AP NFL website: —www.pro32.ap.org
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