The Patriots had a dominant performance today, as they beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 to improve to 9-3 on the season. The game was relatively tight until the middle of the third quarter when the Pats took the lead and never looked back. Both sides of the ball performed well which enabled the Patriots to dictate the pace of the game. Continuing to play like this will be essential for the team as they enter the last 4 games of the season.
Here are some takeaways from this Week 13 contest.
1. Tom Brady and the passing game challenged the Minnesota secondary early and often
Tom Brady had an efficient performance against a ferocious defense, as he threw for over 300 yards and 1 touchdown (along with a late interception). The offensive line was able to counter Minnesota’s pass rush, as Brady was constantly held upright, and was not sacked. James White (7 catches for 92 yards) and Josh Gordon (3 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown) led the way for the passing game, with Rob Gronkowski (3 catches for 26 yards) and Julian Edelman (3 catches for 25 yards) having a relatively quiet game. Cordarrelle Patterson played his former team for the first time, and he had a remarkable catch down the field, as he corralled the ball before it hit the ground. The passing attack had its way with Minnesota’s secondary, as they were able to connect on both deep passes and passes across the middle of the field.
This was an encouraging performance for the passing game, as Brady and his arsenal of weapons were able to overcome a well-coached unit in Minnesota.
2. The committee of running backs had a fine performance
The Patriots welcomed back Rex Burkhead following a 10-week absence, and he helped in relieving pressure off of James White and Sony Michel. Burkhead may not have had the most efficient performance (7 rushes for 20 yards), but he definitely had fresh legs, which allowed Michel and White to get some much-needed rest. Michel had 17 carries for 63 yards, as he was frequently able to find space to get around Minnesota’s talented defensive linemen, while White chipped in with 6 carries for 26 yards. Fullback James Develin had 2 touchdowns on the ground, as he punched it in twice from the one-yard line.
As the weather continues to get colder, it will be essential for the committee of running backs to gain some traction in order for the Pats to control games.
3. Defense wins championships!
I’ve been pretty hard on the Patriots defense this season, as I’ve felt that they have not held up their end of the bargain, which has put the offense in tough spots. However, today was remarkable for them, as they utterly stifled the potent Vikings offense. Kirk Cousins was constantly rattled, as the Pats were able to get after him consistently, which helped result in 2 interceptions. Cousins rarely had the time to look down the field, which forced him to look for short completions instead. As a result, Cousins had over 30 completions, but only barely scraped past 200 yards. Stephon Gilmore and the McCourty twins were sensational today as they neutralized both Adam Thielen (5 catches for 28 yards and a touchdown) and Stefon Diggs (5 catches for 49 yards), and forced Cousins to look for his less-reliable targets.
The one aspect with which the Pats struggled was stopping the run, as they couldn’t stop Dalvin Cook who ran for 84 yards off of 9 carries. As pundits remarked, Minnesota’s play-calling was suspect, as they went drives without running the ball, which was strange because Cook was clearly having success when he got the ball.
The Patriots may have benefited from spotty play-calling, but there’s no denying that they dominated Minnesota’s offense, which is heartening as they begin to play more talented teams in the playoffs.
Passing: Tom Brady – 24/32 for 311 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
Rushing: Sony Michel – 17 carries for 63 yards
Receiving: James White – 7 catches for 92 yards
Defensive: Devin McCourty – 8 tackles
Passing: Kirk Cousins – 32/44 for 201 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions
Rushing: Dalvin Cook – 9 carries for 84 yards
Receiving: Stefon Diggs – 5 catches for 49 yards
Defensive: Eric Kendricks – 16 tackles and 1 interception
1. Brady has a record-setting day!:Tom Brady achieved a remarkable feat, as he finally crossed 1000 career rushing yards in 19 seasons as a starter. He also tied the all-time passing touchdowns record (including postseason) with 579. Brady also moved to 3rd all-time on the passing touchdowns list (regular season) as he tied Brett Favre with 508.
Check out this humorous video produced by the Checkdown!
It took Tom Brady only 18 seasons and 12 games to reach 1,000 rushing yards.
2. Bill Belichick had an amusing encounter with Adam Thielen:Bill Belichick and Adam Thielen had an interesting chat during today’s game, when Belichick opted to challenge a play in the fourth quarter. It’s clear that Belichick told Thielen to do something that’s not very kind…
What’s next?: The Pats head down to Miami to face the Dolphins (6-6) in a rematch of a dominant Week 3 victory for New England. The Pats have historically struggled in Miami during the Brady/Belichick era, so it will be interesting to see how they perform next week.
Tomorrow, the Patriots welcome the Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) to Gillette Stadium in what promises to be a clash between two of the NFL’s elite talents. The Pats enter this contest with a 8-3 record and the AFC’s #2 seed, and a win on Sunday will keep them ahead of the Texans and Steelers in the playoff race.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 13 matchup.
1. The offense is facing an aggressive defense
Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense were quite efficient during last week’s victory against the Jets, as they were able to rebound from an early deficit and dictate the pace of the game due to Sony Michel’s strong performance on the ground. The offensive line was also able to protect #12, allowing him to find targets such as Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Josh Gordon throughout the game.
This week’s game presents a unique matchup for the Pats, as they face off against a Vikings team they almost met in Super Bowl LII. Minnesota has had one of the NFL’s best defenses over the last few years, with a dominant pass rush leading the way. For example, the Vikings constantly got after Aaron Rodgers last week, as they limited him to 198 yards. Unfortunately for the Pats, the Vikings have been able to get after the quarterback without bringing an additional rusher, which allows them to be better prepared in pass coverage. Games such as Week 2 at Jacksonville and Week 10 at Tennessee have demonstrated what an effective pass rush can do to the Patriots.
The Pats will need to rely on their running game, in order to take pressure off of Brady and stretch the field with play action, which will give them a good chance of winning this game.
2. The defense is also facing a tall task
The Pats defense has had a long road throughout the season, as they’ve been able to rebound from early clunkers and have solid performances against good offenses. This week will test them again, as they face off against a talented group in the Vikings. Led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, Minnesota has been able to frequently dissect opposing defenses and put themselves in good position to win games. A major part of Minnesota’s offense is the duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who are arguably the best combination of wide receivers in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Pats plan to cover Thielen and Diggs, as most teams have failed to neutralize the duo. My guess is that Stephon Gilmore will be shadowing Thielen, while Jason McCourty notches the assignment of covering Diggs. The Pats will need to be able to generate constant pressure and get after Cousins, to ensure that he’s not comfortable in the pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Belichick and the defensive staff have looked at Minnesota’s losses against the Rams, Saints and Bears, as all 3 games have shown what an effective pass rush can do to Cousins and the offense, as they can be forced into uncharacteristic mistakes.
Another major point of emphasis will definitely be trying to stop the rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, who can shred the defense if they’re not careful.
An effective performance against a talented Vikings offense will be huge for the Patriots as they enter the home stretch of the season.
Dwayne Allen (knee) – Out
Chad Beebe (hamstring) – Out
David Morgan (knee) – Out
Stefon Diggs (knee) – Questionable
Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) – Questionable
Mackenzie Alexander (knee) – Questionable
Brandon Zylstra (foot) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots28, Vikings24
Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 13 contests.