Ryan L. Fox
On the schedule, there’s always a group of games that you mark on the calendar as ‘key games’ to focus on. For the New England Patriots, those ‘key games’ on the schedule come in Weeks 13-15 as they faced a slew of tricky opponents: the Minnesota Vikings and home and then on the road to Miami and Pittsburgh. Up first was the home game against the Vikings, who were trying to stay alive and fight for the NFC North Divisional title.
On a cold, misty night the two teams battled it out in Gillette Stadium for 60 minutes. But when the final gun was sound, the Patriots had crossed off their first opponent of their 3-week challenge and were on to Miami.
The Patriots won the opening toss and elected to defer to the second half. The Vikings were forced to punt on their opening possession as the Patriots got the ball on their own 19.
A false start penalty backed them up to their own 14. However that did not deter QB Tom Brady as he was able to find WR Julian Edelman for a 13 yard pass and then a 18 yard pass to WR Chris Hogan to give the Patriots a 1st down on their own 45. Brady then found WR Cordarelle Patterson for a 24 yard catch and run to the Minnesota 31 followed up by a 15 yard pass to RB Rex Burkhead to the Minnesota 16. A 15 yard run by Edelman gave the Patriots 1st and goal at the Minnesota 1. Two plays later, FB James Develin bowled over for the 1 yard touchdown. Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski booted the PAT to give the Patriots the earlier 7-0 lead.
Looking to answer back, the Vikings began their next possession on their own 25. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was able to lead the offense up to the Minnesota 45. From there, RB Delvin Cook nearly outran the Patriots defense but was forced out of bounds at the New England 23, limiting him to a 32 yard run. The Patriots defense then buckled down, including sacking and pressuring Cousins as they forced the Vikings to settle for a 48 yard field goal attempt by K Dan Bailey. Bailey, however, hooked the kick wide left as it gave the Patriots excellent field position on their own 38.
The Patriots couldn’t do anything however and were forced to punt the ball to the Minnesota 10.
The Vikings ended the 1st quarter, moving the ball up to their own 22. They opened up the 2nd quarter with an incomplete pass and a punt to the Patriots 25, where Edelman brought the ball back 6 yards to the New England 31.
From there, Brady was able to lead the offense down the field, including converting 3rd and 1 on the Minnesota 20 and then a 3rd and 3 on the Minnesota to keep the drive alive. The Patriots offense was able to get down all the way to the Minnesota 2. There, on 3rd and goal, Brady’s pass to Edelman was broken up by the Vikings. They had to settle for a 20 yard field goal by Gostkowski to make it 10-0 with just 5:45 left in the half.
Seeing the game starting to get away, the Vikings brought back the ensuing kickoff back to their own 34. They were able to get to the New England 48 and it seemed like things were going their way. However a holding penalty backed them up followed up by 2 straight incompletions and a 2 yard pass on 3rd and 17 forced the Vikings to punt to the New England 17.
The Patriots were able to move the ball to their own 22 where on 2nd and 5, Brady found TE Rob Gronkowski for the first down before play was stopped for the 2 minute warning. However Vikings head coach Mike Zimmerman challenged the spot and upon further review, it was shown that Gronkowski was stopped short. Time was added back on the clock as the Patriots were stopped on 3rd down and were forced to punt after the 2 minute warning.
The Vikings got the ball back on their own 26 as Cousins found WR Stephon Diggs for a 24 yard pass to midfield and then TE Kyle Rudolph for a 23 yard pass to the New England 27. The Vikings got all the way down to the New England 5 with only 19 seconds left in the half. There, Cousins found WR Adam Thielen in the right corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Bailey booted the PAT through as the Vikings made it 10-7 with 15 seconds in the half.
Patterson was able to return the ensuing Vikings kickoff up to the New England 40. A 7 yard pass to Gronkowski made it 2nd and 3 from the New England 47. With 1 second left in the half, Brady dumped a pass off to RB James White who took it down all the way down to the Minnesota 11, where he was tackled to end the half.
The 2nd half opened up with a punt exchange between both teams as the Patriots got the ball back on their own 24. Brady overcame a false start penalty with a 29 yard pass to Patterson to the New England 48. The Patriots offense continued drive down the field, including converting a key 4th and 1 on the Minnesota 27 to keep the drive going. They got as far as the Minnesota 25 before a holding penalty backed them up to the Minnesota 35. The Patriots could only move the ball up to the Minnesota 30 as Gostkowski came on for 4th down to attempt a 48 yard field goal. However he ended up hooking it wide right.
The Vikings took over on their own 38 as Cousins led the offense down the field. They got to the New England 45 where Cousins found TE Kyle Rudolph for what appeared to be a first down. The Patriots tried to challenge the play but the play was upheld, help keeping the drive alive for the Vikings. The Vikings could only advance the ball as far as the New England 21. There, they had to settle for a 39 yard field goal by Bailey to tie the game up at 10-10.
However the tie didn’t last for long.
It took Brady just 4 plays on their next offensive possession to answer the Vikings’ field goal, including a 24 yard touchdown pass to WR Josh Gordon. Gostkowski’s PAT afterwards made it 17-10 with under 40 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
After the quarters changed and forcing the Vikings to punt, the Patriots got the ball back at midfield for their first possession in the 4th quarter. A 20 yard pass interference on the Vikings defense helped set the tone of the drive as the Patriots offense seemed to go unchallenged. They got all the way down to the Minnesota 2 where Develin again bowled his way over for the 2 yard plunge. Gostkowski’s PAT afterwards then made it 24-10 with a little under 11 minutes left in the game.
With time running down, the Vikings tried their best to hurry up. They got up to their own 38 where on 4th and short, the Patriots defense seemingly stopped Vikings RB Latavius Murray. However the refs awarded Murray forward progress and the 1st down, allowing the Vikings to keep the drive alive. They got as far as the New England 48 where on 4th and 11, Cousins pass to WR Laquon Treadwell fell way short of the first down mark thanks to a sure tackle by Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore.
With over 6 minute left in the game, the Patriots took over on their own 44. After a 3 yard run by Burkhead, the Patriots were faced with 2nd and 7 on their own 47. However Brady’s pass to Edelman was intercepted by Vikings LB Eric Kendricks at the Minnesota 45.
But the Vikings ended up giving the ball back to the Patriots as Patriots S Duron Harmon intercepted a Cousins pass to WR Aldrick Robinson in the end zone on 1st and 10 on the New England 42.
The Patriots then proceeded to grind out the clock, handing the ball off to the likes of RB Sony Michel and Develin rather than risk another interception. They got as far as the Minnesota 35 before punting the ball.
The Vikings got the ball back with 48 seconds left in the game and tried to rely on the hurry up offense. But on 2nd and short on their own 29, Cousin’s pass was intercepted by Patriots CB Johnathan Jackson. Brady took the knee in the victory formation as the Patriots ended up with the 24-10 victory.
Notable Patriot Statistical Standouts
QB Tom Brady: 24-for-32 for 311 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT for a QB Rating of 102.5., 2 carries for 5 yards
RB Sony Michel: 17 carries for 63 yards, 1 catch (on 1 target) for 7 yards
RB James White: 6 carries for 26 yards, 7 catches (on 9 targets) for 92 yards
FB James Develin: 4 carries for 5 yards and 2 TDs, 1 catch (on 1 target) for 9 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 2 carries for 35 yards, 3 catches (on 8 targets) for 25 yards, 3 punt returns for 29 yards
WR Josh Gordon: 3 catches (on 3 targets) for 58 yards and 1TD
S Patrick Chung: 13 tackles (9 solo, 4 assist)
DE Trey Flowers: 2 tackle (1 solo, 1 assist), 1.0 sacks
FS Devin McCourty: 8 tackles (6 solo, 2 assist)
CB Johnathan Jones: 1 tackles (0 solo, 1 assist), 1 Interception, 1 pass defended
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
63 – The number of wins in the month of December the Patriots have since 2001, most in the NFL
12 – The number of 100+ point seasons that K Stephen Gostkowski has had in his NFL career, putting him 4th all time (behind David Akers, Alex Hanson, and Matt Stover)
508 – The number of career touchdown passes QB Tom Brady has in regular season, tying him with Brett Farve for 3rd most all-time
579 – The number of career touchdown passes QB Tom Brady, regular and postseason combined, tying him with Peyton Manning for most all-time
1,000 – The number of rushing yards Brady has in his 19-year career in the NFL, making him the oldest player in NFL history since the 1970 merger to have 1,000+ rushing yards
266 – The number of games it took for Brady to reach that milestone
13 – The total amount of running plays the Vikings ran for the entire game (compared to 44 pass plays)
12 – The number of points scored by FB James Develin (2 touchdowns) had for the entire game, which outscored the entire Vikings team (10)
0 – The number of times Brady was sacked for the entire game
1.000 – The winning percentage of the Patriots when Brady is not sacked during a game (14-0)
100 – The number of wins by the Patriots when leading by double digits at home since 2001 (100-2 record overall)
Fox Fist Bump
This week’s Fox Fist Bump goes to the Patriots pass defense.
Last week, you could make the argument that the Patriots defense had a tomato can opponent in the Jets.
This week, there was talk about how could they slow the Vikings offense, especially the receiving combo of Thielen-Diggs. On Sunday, they delivered.
The Patriots defense stymied the Vikings passing attack. It seemed like Cousins was always under duress every time he dropped back. He was pressured, hit, and sacked, which then lead him to make costly turnovers when it counted the most.
As for Thielen and Diggs, the Patriots cornerbacks did their work as Diggs was limited to just 5 catches for 49 yards while Thielen was limited to 5 catches (on 10 targets) for 28 yards.
Great job you guys. Excelsior!
The Meatball of the Week
The meatball of the week was the referee gave Vikings RB Latavius Murray the first down in the 4th quarter. He was stopped short, forward progress and all. I hope Santa gives him a new pair of glasses for Christmas so he can see better and make the right call next time.
Play of the Game
One For the Record Books
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