The New England Patriots finished their red-hot October with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, beating them 28-18. If you told me before today’s game that BenJarvus Green-Ellis would have more rushing yards than Adrian Peterson, I would have laughed in your face. However, that is exactly what happened, with The Law Firm out-gaining Peterson 112 yards to 92 yards. Green-Ellis averaged 6.6 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns, including the game-clincher with just under 2 minutes to go in the game. The hidden story of this game though may be the play of the defense, and I’m not talking about knocking Brett Favre out of the game in the 4th quarter. Before the last TD that was set up with a roughing the passer call on the hit that forced Favre out of the game, the Pats held the Vikings to 10 points and Randy Moss was held to only one catch the entire game. Very, very impressive, especially considering where the defense was at the start of the season.
Another encouraging sign was that the Patriot offense was able to put the game away when the Vikings pulled to within 3. With the score 21-18 and 7:26 on the clock, the Pats drove 80 yards down the field, took 5:30 off the clock, and scored the game-clinching TD. It was nice to see the Pats stick to the running game as well. BJGE only had 4 rushing yards in the first half, but the Pats stuck with the run, the Minnesota defense wore down, and the Law Firm picked up the remaining 108 yards of his total. BJGE ran for 62 yards on the final drive alone. Tom Brady was 16/27 for 240 yards and a 65-yard TD pass to Brandon Tate. Danny Woodhead showed his worth again, catching 5 passes for 45 yards, including a key 16-yard pickup on 3rd-&-12 which saw Woodhead break a tackle short of the first down marker and push ahead for the first.
The defense was in Brett Favre’s face all day, hurrying passes, despite getting only 1 sack (Mike Wright). They also forced Favre into two intentional grounding penalties. Devin McCourty made an impressive INT off a bobble by Percy Harvin. The defense held Adrian Peterson to 92 rushing yards on 25 carries (3.7 average) and a TD. At times it seemed that Peterson was going to dominate the game, but the defense was able to buckle down and hold him to less than 4 YPC for the game. Harvin had a good game, nabbing passes for 104 yards, but as previously mentioned the returning Randy Moss only had one catch for 8 yards. The Patriots’ strategy for defending Moss was to hit him at the line of scrimmage and have a safety, usually Brandon Meriweather, deep over the top for coverage help. The strategy certainly paid off. Pats fans have to be encouraged with the defense’s steady improvement.
Another aspect of the defense’s play that stood out was the tackling. The defense in most instances had very solid, fundamental tackling, and quite a few times stopped Viking players from getting a first down just a yard or two short of the marker. It takes solid tackling to pull that off. Many times over the last few years, we have seen horrendous tackling from the defense, but that is certainly an area of improvement this year. One area that looked like a weakness, linebacker, has turned into a strength for the team. Jerod Mayo is all over the field, and had 14 tackles today, bringing his season total to 91. Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich are developing into solid outside linebackers and Brandon Spikes is solid next to Mayo against the run. If the secondary can continue its improvement, this could be a scary defense by the time the playoffs arrive.
Today’s win brings the Patriots to 6-1 and into first place in the AFC East, with the Jets getting shut out today against Green Bay. If the Steelers lose to the Saints tonight, the Pats will have the best record in football. I always have confidence that the Pats will do well, but I never dreamed of 6-1 and a possibility at the best record in the NFL. The Pats are riding a wave of confidence as they head into Cleveland next week.