NFL playoffs: State defensive backs seal Giants’ win

In the fourth game of this season’s NFL playoffs, Minnesota became the first higher-seeded team to lose as the No. 6 New York Giants downed the No. 3 Vikings 31-24 in a Super Wild-Card Weekend contest on Sunday.

New York safety Xavier McKinney, a former Alabama standout, tackled Minnesota tight end TJ Hockenson short of the line to gain on a fourth-down pass with 1:44 remaining to end the Vikings’ final possession. On the previous play, Giants cornerback Cor’Dale Flott, a former Saraland High School star, had broken up a pass to Vikings wide receiver KJ Osborn.

Hockenson had 10 receptions for 129 yards on Sunday.

“I knew it was fourth down, and I knew we had to make a play,” McKinney said. “I knew we had (Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson) doubled, and I knew I had one job and that was to get a stop, and I did. We came out victorious.”

New York’s defense protected the touchdown lead after running back Saquon Barkley’s second scoring run broke a 24-24 tie with 7:47 left to play.

Until Barkley’s 2-yard touchdown carry, all the yards in the Giants’ 12-play, 75-yard drive had come on passes and runs by quarterback Daniels Jones and two Minnesota penalties.

Jones completed 24-of-35 passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and ran for 78 yards on 17 carries. Jones became the first player in NFL postseason history with at least 300 passing yards, two TD passes and 70 rushing yards in a game.

“He played good,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “Winning football.”

Eight players from Alabama high schools and colleges got on the field during the New York-Minnesota game:

· Giants inside linebacker Landon Collins (Alabama) made one tackle.

· Giants offensive tackle Korey Cunningham (Montevallo) is on the practice squad and not eligible to play.

· Giants cornerback Cor’Dale Flott (Saraland) broke up one pass.

· Xavier McKinney (Alabama) started at safety for the Giants. McKinney led New York with eight tackles and broke up one pass in his second game back after missing seven weeks with broken fingers.

· Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (Spain Park) dressed but did not play in the game.

· Evan Neal (Alabama) started at right offensive tackle for the Giants.

· Giants cornerback Aaron Robinson (Alabama) is on injured reserve and not eligible to play.

· Darius Slayton (Auburn) started at wide receiver for the Giants. Slayton caught four passes for 88 yards and had a 3-yard run. Slayton had New York’s longest play from scrimmage with a 47-yard reception to get the Giants’ second scoring drive started in the first quarter.

· Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (Alabama) caught a 3-yard touchdown pass with 7:46 left in the third quarter as Minnesota started its rally from a 24-14 deficit.

· Za’Darius Smith (Greenville) started at outside linebacker for the Vikings. Smith made three tackles and recorded one tackle for loss.

· Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama) started at defensive end for the Vikings. Tomlinson made four tackles and recorded one tackle for loss.

· Giants defensive lineman Nick Williams (Minor, Samford) is on injured reserve and not eligible to play.

Slayton had the opportunity to put the game away, but he dropped a third-down pass with 3:03 remaining.

“I said, ‘Put your head up. You’ve made a lot of good plays for us,’” Daboll said of his sideline conversation with Slayton. “That could have gone a ways – at least a first down.

“He’s such a good teammate. He’s done everything he could do for us the entire year, and, you know, you make a physical mistake, that’s going to happen in football. And he made one in a critical time, and there’s no one that felt worse than him, so we need him. He’s one of our best players on offense. I have a lot of confidence in him, and I just told him to get his chin up. We need him when we go back out there. Let’s get ready to go.”

Minnesota won the NFC North with a 13-4 record, which included a 27-24 victory on Dec. 24 against the Giants, who went 9-7-1 and qualified for the postseason as the NFC’s No. 2 wild-card team.

The Giants will play the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round next weekend. The San Francisco 49ers will play the winner of Monday night’s Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game.

As the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Eagles received a first-round bye. In NFC East games this season, New York lost to Philadelphia 48-22 on Dec. 11 and 22-16 on Jan. 8.

Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. catches a touchdown pass during an NFL playoff game against the New York Giants on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney breaks up a pass

New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney breaks up a pass to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson during an NFL playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.(AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

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