It is no coincidence that the New England Patriots own the best record in the NFL at 6-1. When that team faces adversity, it finds a way to come back. To look at the two offenses, the game had the makings of a laugher. The Vikings have Pro Bowl players everywhere on offense – Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre, Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie. The Patriots had Tom Brady, but what else? A running game of the accounting firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and second-year smurf Danny Woodhead? A wide receiver corps made up possession receivers? Two rookie tight ends? It would seem like it, but it was that group of no-names that answered the Vikings every time they had to impose the turning point of the game.
The Vikings scored a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter after a long drive that gave them life. How do the Patriots respond? They don't face a third-down situation until they're at the Vikings 3-yard line – thanks to a screen to Deion Branch that turned into a 22-yard gain and, on the next play, a blown interception by Madieu Williams turns into a 32-yard pass to Brandon Tate. After a lackluster first quarter, when faced with a deficit, the Pats responded to tie the game 7-7.
With the game still tied 7-7, the Vikings came out after halftime and ran an 11-play drive that led to a Ryan Longwell field goal and a 10-7 lead. The Patriots get the ball back and, when Brady improvised a sideline pass to rookie Ben Tate, he lost coverage from Asher Allen and ran past Williams for a 65-yard touchdown and a 14-10 New England lead.
With the third quarter winding down, neither team had committed a turnover until a strip and pick by rookie Devin McCourty gave the Patriots offense its first short field of the game. Brady did what good offenses do – stuck the knife in the Vikings and made them pay. It took just four plays, three of those being runs, to gain the needed 37 yards for a touchdown – turning what had been a 10-7 deficit with 9:33 to play in the third quarter into a 21-10 lead with 2:25 to play in the quarter.
The Vikings had one last gasp when a touchdown and two-point conversion cut the New England lead to 21-18. They still had a chance, but Brady had the ball.
Starting from his own 20 with 7:20 to play, Brady converted a pair of third-and-long situations (one third-and-6 and the other third-and-13) with passes to Wes Welker and Woodhead, and from there Green-Ellis gashed the Vikings on three carries for 39 yards to the Minnesota 1-yard line. After killing clock, Green-Ellis capped the 13-play drive with a touchdown that sealed the game 28-18 with 1:56 to play.
Every time the Vikings had a chance to take control of the game, the Patriots offense had the answer. They kept them in the game when they were behind, added to the lead once they got it and threw the dirt on the grave once they had the chance to bury the Vikings. Blame can be spread in many directions, but it was Brady and his no-name crew of regulators that won it for New England and force-fed the Vikings defense the turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Turning point: Brady answers every bell
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