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UPDATE 11:58pm: GAME SET MATCH
The Patriots finished the night with a pickoff of Brooks Bollinger by Ellis Hobbs at the Patriots goal line to prevent any further scoring by the Vikings who looked like they were going to get a late score.
New England improved their record to 6-1 while the Vikings fell to 4-3. New England rode a pass-first, run-if-you-can-later philosophy all night and exploited a Vikings defense that never adjusted well to the Patriots game plan. Minnesota's rush defense is all that it was hyped up to be. Without a couple of big plays that the Patriots were able to bust open, the Vikings held the Patriots ground game in check.
On the opposite front, New England's defense completely shut down the Vaunted Vikings offensive line and ability to churn out rushing yards. With no ground game to speak of, the Vikings quickly became one-dimensional and predictable. The Patriots took their gameplan to the next level and shut out the Vikings offense.
Minnesota's only score came on a special teams play. It's not what the expectations were heading into the game, but that's why they play the game.
Check the forums for more discussion on the game: here
Patriots win 31 - 7
Next up for New England: The Indianapolis Colts Sunday night in Foxboro
Next Up for Minnesota: Vikings travel to the Bay area to play San Francisco
UPDATE 11:40pm: Officially Garbage time
With less than 4 minutes on the clock the starting quarterbacks for both teams have been sidelined. Tom Brady ends his night having amassed a 29/43 372 yards 4 TDs and 1 INT.
Brad Johnson ends his night going 20/33 for 185 and 3 INTs
Update 11:20pm: Havoc for Brooks Bollinger
3 plays 3 sacks
Bollinger had no prayer. Johnson is in the sideline just in time. Tully Banta-Cain beat the Vikings RT three times in a row to get to the QB. The first two times Banta-Cain made the sack. The third time, Banta-Cain hit Bollinger and knocked him into another Patriots defender who finished the Vikings QB off.
UPDATE 11:12pm: Brad Johnson INT again.
Johnson, under heavy pressure decides not to take the sack and flips the ball toward his dump off option. Mike Vrabel sniffed out the play and leapt in to make the pick on a diving pass.
The game is getting ugly for Vikings fans. If there was hope, this was the drive they needed to score on.
UPDATE 11:09pm: Touchdown Chad. Jackson
Everyone is getting in on the action for the Patriots. After getting the ball back on a short field from the Vikings last three-and-out. New England went to work again. The Pats began the drive with a hectic, but effective 29-yard punt return by Kevin Faulk who fielded the punt form at the New England 32 and ended up on the Vikings 39 yard line.
Brady passed to Chad Jackson for what looked like only a gain of a few yards. Instead, Jackson managed to use his hands to keep himself off the ground and launched himself into the end zone from the 2 for the score.
Patriots 31 - Vikings 7
UPDATE 10:55pm: TURNOVERS fumble
After the Vikings turned the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass on 4th and 4 the Patriots had the ball back for brief time. Minnesota argued a call that TE Jermaine Wiggins was able to make a catch and turn to fumble the ball out of bounds on 3rd and 4, but the incomplete pass stood a play that will draw ire from many fans who believe Wiggins caught the ball. Patriots DB Ellis Hobbs ripped the ball out of Wiggins' hands to force the replay. The incomplete on 4th gave the Pats the ball
The Patriots marched down the field with a lot of attitude and a chance to put the game away. After big plays by Corey Dillon (27-yard screen) and a nice catch by Ben Watson who then slammed E.J Henderson backwards a quick toss to Reche Caldwell was converted to a turnover when Caldwell was held up fighting for extra yards and a Minnesota defender 's helmet knocked the ball out.
Minnesota has a chance to get back in the game, still down by 17 points.
UPDATE 10:38pm: Game of the Big Plays
One play after the Vikings score on a 71-yard punt return, the Patriots Laurence Maroney turns in a77-yard return of his own on the kickoff. Only TE David Thomas got in Maroney's way as the rookie exploded for big yards of his own in this his homecoming of sorts. Maroney played in the Metrodome as a part of the University of Minnesota football team.
Three plays later, Tom Brady hits Troy Brown for Brady's third TD pass of the night.
Patriots 24 - Vikings 7
UPDATE 10:32pm: Score any way possible
After both teams offenses ground to a halt, it was the Vikings who were able to do something with the ball. This time it came from their special teams unit. Mwelde Moore returned a John Miller punt 71-yards for a touchdown. Only Heath Evans had a real shot at stopping Moore who stiffarmed Evans to get to the sideline and then was gone.
Touchdown Vikings on the punt return.
Patriots 17 - Vikings 7
UPDATE 10:15pm: At The Half
The Patriots thoroughly dominated the first half on both the stat sheet and the scoreboard. They controlled the ball for the majority of the first half, and dominated the statline.
Brad Johnson 12/17 92 yards and 2 INTS
Tom Brady 17/25 257yards 2 TDs and 1 INT
Chester Taylor 7 carries for 15 yards
Laurence Maroney 4 for 22 yards
Corey Dillon 2 carries for 7 yards
Doug Gabriel 4 receptions for 76 yards
Ben Watson 4 receptions for 71 yards and a TD
Reche Cladwell 4 receptions for 63 yards and a TD
Mewelde Moore 2 for 27
Troy Williamson 3 for 21
Keys to the second half:
Patriots: Continue to do what works well, see if the running game can get on track to shorten the game. Prevent the big play. Continue to pressure Brad Johnson.
Vikings: Get something going on offense. Any points may get the crowd back into the game. Continue to stop the Patriots ground game.
The Vikings get the ball first as the Patriots received the ball to begin the game.
UPDATE 9:58pm: There was a three-and-out by Minnesota. The crowd noise has dimmed a little, but one play could change that in a hurry.
After the first sack of the night in which rookie Ryan O'Callaghan got burned badly, New England managed to march down the field. After an incomplete pass on second down, the Vikings had everything they needed, but Brady managed to find Reche Caldwell on 3rd and 12 to gain 34 yards. One play later, Maroney ripped off a 20-yard gain.
Pats score on another pressure pass from Brady. Ben Watson grabs the ball and rumbles in to put the Pats up 17-0
The Patriots took over with about 4 minutes left on the clock. They chewed up almost all of the remainder of the half leaving under 30 seconds for the Vikings to try anything.
The Patriots look like they've made a bold move to sock this game away early after rolling 74 yards in 11 plays for the score.
Patriots 17 - Vikings 0
UPDATE 9:35pm: TURNOVERS? It's possible the Vikings never told Brad Johnson NOT to throw the ball to the guys in white, but he obviously didn't get the memo. After just four plays, Johnson launched a deep ball which was target to the middle of the field and the only person in the vicinity was Chad Scott. Scott made a diving catch to end the Vikings drive with back-to-back receptions.
Give credit to the Patriots defensive front who have been putting pressure on Johnson, even if they haven't sacked him yet.
The Patriots were unable to do much with the ball, although Jabar Gaffney managed to haul in his first reception in a Patriots uniform. Patriots punt for the first time of the night.
Billy Yates is having trouble getting much push on the right side of the line. Yates started in place of Stephen Neal who was out with an injury. Yates was with the team in 2005, made the Pats roster on the practice squad in 2006, then was elevated to the active roster when Russ Hochstein was sidelined with knee injury.
Maybe the next update will include another interception.
UPDATE 9:25pm: The Patriots marched 93 yards in 8 plays to the Vikings 5 where the drive stalled out on two throw aways and a short run for no yardage by Laurence Maroney.
The Patriots gave the ball to rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski who nailed the chip shot FG to put the Patriots up by 10.
Key plays on the drive: The first play to get off the 2 was a flip to Doug Gabriel who took it for 9. A long pass to TE Ben Watson gained 40 more yards and a 20-yard screen pass to Maroney put the Pats in solid position to score. The Vikings defense played well to prevent New England from getting 7 after having a first and goal on the 5.
It's still early, but you have to think that if the Vikings go tree and out then they'll probably start to lose the advantage of the home crowd early. That's exactly what New England needs at this point.
Patriots 10 - Vikings 0
UPDATE 9:14pm: Turnovers that's the key. The Vikings give the ball back to the Patriots at the goal line and come away empty. Brad Johnson overthrew his receiver, and Rodney Harrison stepped in the field the overthrow. Harrison made one move then fell to the ground as a Minnesota lineman pancaked him at the New England 2-yard line.
Harrison had an easy ball to come away with the catch. The INT was Johnson's 5th of the season.
UPDATE 9:02pm: Key number one no turnovers. So much for paying attention to the keys of the game. Tom Brady tried to escape a rush by rolling to the right. Rather than throw the ball away Brady tried to squeeze it in along the sideline to his big tight end Ben Watson, but Darren Sharper was having non of it. Sharper made an acrobatic grab for the pick.
The Vikings have the ball in New England territory on the Patriots 45 yard line. The kind opportunity that should allow the Vikings to pound the ball and get at least three out of the turnover. The pass was Brady's 4th of the season.
UPDATE 8:50pm: The Patriots wasted little time getting on the board against a very tough rush defense of the Vikings. When they couldn't run, they opted to pass, and pass a lot did Pats QB Tom Brady.
6 passes for 94 yards mixed in with one run - a loss of 8 when Corey Dillon tried to spin out of a tackle - and the Pats were on the board first.
Patriots scored on a comeback curl by Reche Caldwell in the end zone.
Patriots 7 - 0
UPDATE 8:30pm: Welcome to the Monday Night Football on ESPN at the Minnesota Metrodome. The 5-1 Patriots look to take on the 4-2 Vikings who have fared well under first-year coach Brad Childress.
The Patriots have a couple of banged up players on defense in tonight's matchup with Richard Seymour nursing a sore elbow, Ty Warren a bum shoulder and Eugene Wilson a bad hammy. Seymour and Warren will play, but Wilson stayed home.
The Patriots face a renewed rushing attack in Minnesota's Chester Taylor. Taylor is averaging nearly 100 yards per game. He has revitalized the Vikings ground game, and against a line with an injured Seymour and Warren on turf, Taylor is likely to have another big game.
Keys To the Game
Patriots Keys: Get on the clock early. Find a way to get the running game going against theVikings #1 rush defense. Avoid turnovers.
Vikings Keys: Continue to stop the run. IT's the Patriots staple so stopping is a must. Get pressure on Tom Brady. The Pats have a rookie on one side, and a practice squad player on the interior. Getting to Brady should be easier. Stop Ben Watson. Watson is a mismatch against any linebacker, and if he isn't covered he will have a big day.
Talk about the team on the Patriots