PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- Tom Brady passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns, while connecting with 10 different receivers. Ben Watson, Doug Gabriel, Troy Brown and Chad Jackson all found their way into the end zone. Reche Caldwell had his best game as a Patriot, catching seven passes for 84 yards. The passing game started to come around in Buffalo and it hit its stride against the Vikings. Brady had all day in the pocket to find his receivers, who were usually wide open when he delivered them the ball. The Vikings weakness on defense is defending the pass and Brady exposed them.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- After Corey Dillon was stuffed for an 8-yard loss on their second play from scrimmage, the Patriots decided they had enough of trying to run the football and went strictly to the air. New England only ran the ball 15 times the entire night and its leading rusher was Heath Evans, who rambled for 35 yards on one carry. The Patriots did rush for an average of 5.7 yards as a team, although that stat is inflated due to Evans' long run at the end of the game. Because Minnesota has such a strong rush defense, the Patriots decided to ditch the run and throw all over the Vikings instead.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- Brad Johnson has had a long career in the NFL and this wasn't one of his better performances. The veteran threw for only 185 yards, missed some open receivers and was picked off three times. In all, the Patriots had four sacks and four interceptions. Bryant McKinnie didn't have a great night as Rosevelt Colvin, Jarvis Green and Tully Banta-Cain repeatedly beat him off the edge. The Patriots secondary held the Vikings receivers in check and once again didn't give up any big plays. That's a good sign for the Patriots with the Colts on deck.
|Tight end Benjamin Watson #84 of the New England Patriots is congratulated by wide receiver Doug Gabriel #85 after Watson's nine yard touchdown catch in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings October 30, 2006 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)|
RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- Another game and another team that couldn't run the football on the Patriots defense. Minnesota managed just 45 yards on 15 carries for a 3.0 yards per carry average. Chester Taylor ran hard but there just wasn't any room for him to break into the open field. The Vikings offensive line led by Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson was supposed to be a formidable test for the Patriots defensive front but the New England front seven dominated the line of scrimmage all night long as the Vikings got nothing on the ground.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Mewelde Moore had a huge 71-yard punt return for a touchdown but it was immediately offset when Laurence Maroney took the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to set up a Patriots score. The Vikings were threatening to make it a game but Maroney's big kickoff return put the fire out on a Minnesota comeback and shifted momentum back to the Patriots. Josh Miller had an abysmal 21.5-yard net punting average so that's a concern because Miller hasn't played well of late. Kevin Faulk chipped in with a 29-yard punt return as he continues to have a great year. Maroney's kickoff was huge because it made the Vikings touchdown irrelevant.
COACHING: A-plus -- Once again, Bill Belichick and his staff totally outcoached the opposition. The Vikings are the best in the NFL at stopping the run. No problem. The Patriots will just throw the football all night long. The Colts are coming to New England this week with the worst rush defense in the NFL. What do you think the Patriots will do to them? Belichick is the best when it comes to finding a team's weakness and exploiting it. After a slow start, Josh McDaniels is really finding his groove as a play caller. The last two weeks he's shown a lot by not forcing the running game and taking what opposing defenses are giving the Patriots. It's hard to say anything negative about Dean Pees. The Patriots defense is the only unit in the NFL that hasn't given up over 20 points this year and they seem to be getting better every week. The fact that New England can keep losing quality coaches and not miss a beat is a testament to Belichick and his unique coaching style. No one in the league comes up with a better game plan from week-to-week than he does.