PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Tom Brady's numbers don't always look great, but you'd have a hard time finding a quarterback who's better under pressure or takes advantage of opportunities more than he does. Brady led a big scoring drive following Brett Favre's only interception and led a long, time-consuming scoring drive in the fourth quarter that iced the game after Minnesota closed to within a field goal.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to get it done, rushing for 112 yards on 17 carries. This was huge considering the Vikings were moving the ball fairly well offensively up until Favre got knocked out in the fourth quarter. Green-Ellis has become a reliable back on all downs, which has helped the Patriots overcome the loss of Kevin Faulk.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Patriots are still giving up way too many yards. Favre has been mistake-prone all season, but New England only coaxed him into one interception, and the Patriots allowed the Vikings to move the ball easily until they came up with some big red-zone stops.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The grade would've been lower were it not for a big goal-line stop at the end of the first half. Adrian Peterson ran the ball well for Minnesota, but the Patriots stuffed him shy of the end zone on fourth down in the closing seconds of the second quarter, which turned out to be a big momentum-changer. Still, the overall effort needs to be better.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Zoltan Mesko had a couple of nice punts, but special teams didn't play much of a factor on either side of the ball. The Patriots only fielded one punt and never returned a kickoff longer than 18 yards. Also, Stephen Gostkowski did not attempt a field goal.
COACHING: B -- The Patriots switched up some of their blocking assignments in the second half and utilized tight end Alge Crumpler at the line of scrimmage, which helped free up Green-Ellis for some important carries. The play-calling on the game-clinching drive was also superb, as the Patriots displayed a perfect balance of rushing and passing plays.
Adrian Petersen breaks througth the Patriots defense. (AP Photo)
VIKINGS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Brett Favre rebounded from a dreadful second half in Green Bay to put together a respectable performance against the Patriots. Playing despite a stress fracture in his left ankle and a fracture in his left heel, Favre completed 22 of 32 passes for 259 yards with an interception that came on a ball thrown slightly behind Percy Harvin. Favre was driven from the game in the fourth quarter when he was hit in the chin by the helmet of New England nose tackle Myron Pryor and suffered a cut that required eight stitches. Tarvaris Jackson entered and threw the Vikings' only touchdown pass of the day, a 1-yarder to fullback Naufahu Tahi. Harvin was the Vikings' most dangerous receiver, catching six passes for 104 yards. That was thanks in large part to all of the attention that was paid to Randy Moss, who was traded by the Patriots to the Vikings last month. The Patriots bracketed Moss in their coverage and he caught one pass for eight yards and was targeted only twice.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Adrian Peterson continued to be solid and hold onto the football, gaining 92 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. Peterson averaged 3.7 yards per carry but he worked hard on several occasions to move the pile and also caught five passes for 50 yards. Peterson has yet to be charged with a fumble this season after having issues with fumbles in recent years. Jackson had one scramble for 33 yards after he entered the game, but other than that Peterson accounted for all of the Vikings' yards on the ground. Rookie Toby Gerhart had two rushes but did not gain a yard on them.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- Tom Brady completed 16 of 27 passes for 240 yards and a 65-yard touchdown to Brandon Tate in the third quarter that came at the expense of right cornerback Asher Allen. On the play, Brady bought himself time long enough that he was able to get Allen to break in on a pump fake. That enabled him to find Tate, who then made a move around safety Madieu Williams at the Vikings' 25-yard line on his way to the end zone. Veteran Antoine Winfield was solid but the Vikings really miss Cedric Griffin, who is out for the year because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The Vikings also continue to struggle to get consistent pressure and haven't had a sack in the past three games. This from a team that led the NFL in sacks last season. The Vikings had only three quarterback hits on Brady.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Vikings gave up nine yards rushing on nine carries by the Patriots in the first two quarters, making it look as if the run defense was in for another good day. But that was before the second half. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for four yards on four attempts in the first 30 minutes and then went for 108 yards on 13 rushes in the final 30 minutes. He also scored on runs of 13 and two yards as the Vikings had too many breakdowns and players did not stay in their gaps. The Vikings have been ranked first or second in the NFL in run defense the past four seasons but that looks as if it's about to change given the success some teams are having this season on the ground. Green-Ellis is the first running back this season to gain 100 yards against Minnesota.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Ryan Longwell made his only field-goal attempt, a 24-yarder, and this unit had another very solid effort. Punter Chris Kluwe averaged 47.3 yards gross and 41.3 net in another excellent outing. Greg Camarillo returned one punt for seven yards and Harvin had two kickoff returns for an average of 15.5 yards. The Vikings did a good job of holding Tate to only 14.5 yards on four kickoff returns for New England. Tate has two returns for touchdowns this season.
COACHING: D -- Brad Childress had a few more questionable decisions in a season that is starting to become marked by them. Late in the first half, the Vikings had fourth-and-goal at the Patriots 1-yard line with the score tied at 7. Instead of taking the points on the road and going into the locker room with the lead, Childress went for it and when right tackle Phil Loadholt was blown up on the play it meant Adrian Peterson was stopped short. Perhaps most baffling about that play was that Moss was on the sideline instead of on the field presenting the Patriots' defense with a matchup issue. Childress also surprised many when he challenged a second-quarter catch by Tate on a ball that literally went through the hands of safety Madieu Williams. The ball clearly was caught by Tate and there was no reason to challenge and lose the timeout. It doesn't help Childress' cause either that he spent much of last week considering whether he should start Jackson at quarterback but ended up having to start Favre because it was clear he couldn't end the quarterback's consecutive games streak.