By: Denny Hackett
As is the case seemingly every week, the Patriots were in a dog fight with the Minnesota Vikings before breaking away in the fourth quarter and winning 24-10.
Tom Brady’s performance on Sunday once again added to his hall of fame resume. With his one touchdown pass, Brady tied Peyton Manning in all-time touchdown passes in both the playoffs and the regular season with 579. He also matched Brett Favre’s regular season touchdown count at 508. Brady then broke the 1,000 yards rushing mark for his career with a 5-yard scramble during the first quarter.
It was also a historic game for Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick as he earned his 250th win as a head coach with the victory over the Vikings.
Again, the Patriots’ rushing attack helped pave the way for the team to get the win. Rookie running back Sony Michel led the way with 73 yards on the ground but did not make it into the endzone. Instead it was fullback James Devlin who surprisingly had both of the team’s rushing touchdowns on the day. Rex Burkhead took the field for the Patriots for the first time since he injured his neck against the Detroit Lions back in Week 3 and played in a limited role against the Vikings.
For most of the game, Josh Gordon was quiet and Brady barely even looked his way. Until the third quarter. On the Patriots’ third quarter scoring drive, Gordon caught two 24-yard passes, one of which was a touchdown.
The Patriots did what they do best on defense by taking away the opposing team’s best weapon, in this case wide receiver Adam Thielen, and making the Vikings find other ways to move down the field. For only the third time this season Thielen was held under 100 receiving yards with just 28, his second lowest total of the season. Thielen’s production proved to be too difficult to make up for and played a huge role in the Vikings’ loss.
While the stat sheet does not show it, the Patriots’ pass-rushers had a great game containing Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. While they were only able to sack Cousins twice, he was under pressure all game long. Towards the end of the game, the Patriots’ defenseive line seemed to be getting after Cousins on almost every play, including the hit that led to Duron Harmon’s interception late in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots still need to find consistency when it comes to the defensive front, however. While they played well today, they need to find a way to string a few games together where they are consistently hitting the quarterback. Last week the pass rush had a minimal impact against the Jets. Other than that, the Patriots defense that has looked abysmal at points this season is starting show some encouraging signs of improvement if they can work on their consistency.
The Patriots make one of their toughest road trips of the season next week as they head down to Miami to take on the Dolphins. While the Patriots seem better than the Fins on paper, do not be surprised if this game is a dogfight that the Pats end up losing. Almost every year the Patriots play one of the worst games of the season against the Dolphins on the road.