Vikings-Patriots Game Plan

The coaching matchup is an interesting one Monday night, as Brad Childress' background is on offense while Bill Belichick is known for his confusing defenses. Conversely, the Patriots' running game is their strength while the Vikings' run defense is first in the league. Get those insights, plus the matchups that matter and injuries of concern.


Going against New England's Bill Belichick should provide Brad Childress with one of his best coaching match-ups to date.

Childress' coaching strength lies in his knowledge of offense, but so far it has been the defense that is most responsible for the Vikings' 4-2 record.

That unit has accounted for three touchdowns in the past two games against Detroit and Seattle and will be looking to continue that aggressive pattern against a Patriots team that is 5-1 this season.

Success for the Vikings starts with the NFL's top-ranked run defense and that unit should get a good test against a Patriots running game that is sixth in the league. So far, teams have had little luck against Vikings mammoth tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.

Offensively, the Vikings came to life in a 31-13 victory over Seattle last Sunday. That unit accounted for three touchdowns, including a franchise-record 95-yard touchdown run by Chester Taylor.

The Vikings have committed to the run throughout the season and it appears to be paying off. Minnesota generated 175 yards on the ground last week and has tied Oakland with the 10th-ranked rushing attack in the NFL at 116.0 yards per game. Part of the reason for the success is an offensive line that includes two new guards (Artis Hicks and Steve Hutchinson) and a center returning from a year's absence due to injury (Matt Birk) is beginning to jell together.

The Patriots, though, are ranked sixth in rushing defense and 20th against the pass, meaning Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson likely will need to be effective through the air with a receiving corps that won't include Marcus Robinson.

The Vikings also will have to make the necessary adjustments to face New England's 3-4 defensive scheme.


New England won't be able to just line up and run the football on the Vikings because their defense is too tough up front led by mammoth defensive tackle Pat Williams. Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot are both good corners but teams have had success throwing the ball on Minnesota this year.

Like they did last week, the Patriots should continue to spread the ball around to a bunch of different receivers. The Vikings give up a lot of completions in the short middle part of the field, so expect Kevin Faulk and the tight ends to have success finding open spots in the zone. Troy Brown will also be able to do damage as a slot receiver and has a chance to break Stanley Morgan's franchise record for receptions on Monday night. The Vikings give up yards through the air but try to prevent the big play; so being patient with short passes should pay off for Brady and the Patriots offense.


  • Vikings MLB Napoleon Harris has been one of the defense's more pleasant surprises this season and he will need to continue to produce against a run game that feature Corey Dillon and rookie Laurence Maroney. The Patriots' duo provides a one-two punch that should keep Harris busy as he tries to slow the powerful Dillon and the speedy Maroney.

  • Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie would seem to be catching a break with Patriots right end Richard Seymour injured, but backup Jarvis Green has had a productive season and leads New England with a career-high 4.5 sacks in six games. Green's previous high for sacks in his five-year career came in 2002 and 2005 when he had 2.5.

  • One shortcoming of the Tampa-2 can be a soft underneath, which gives tight ends such as the Patriots' Ben Watson a chance to succeed. Watson caught five passes for 60 yards last Sunday against the Bills and could provide a challenge for the Vikings' linebacking corps of Napoleon Harris, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber.

  • Patriots DL vs. Vikings OL — The most important battle in this game will be the left side of the Vikings offensive line with tackle Bryant McKinnie and guard Steve Hutchinson locking horns with Richard Seymour (if he plays) and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. It would be a huge advantage for the Vikings if Seymour were out because McKinnie and Hutchinson are arguably the two best players at their respected positions in the NFL, as is Seymour. It would be a bad time for New England to be without its best defensive player.

  • Patriots C Dan Koppen vs. Vikings DT Pat Williams — Williams is a mountain of a man who is largely responsible for the Vikings ranking first in the NFL against the run. The large defensive tackle commands double-teams on virtually every play. Look for Koppen — along with guards Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal — to try and prevent Williams from clogging up the middle. If they can't, it's going to be difficult for Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon to find running lanes in this game.


    The Vikings' greatest concern will be the expected absence of receiver Marcus Robinson because of a lower-back injury. Robinson leads the team with three touchdown catches and presents matchup problems because of his height. Receivers Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson are coming off concussions suffered against Seattle but should be ready to go.

    DE Richard Seymour injured his elbow against Buffalo and while the team has won games in the past without him, it will have an uphill battle facing a Vikings offensive line that's one of the NFL's best. When Seymour is in the lineup, opposing offenses have to game plan specifically to deal with him because he's so dominant. Jarvis Green is a solid player but he's nowhere near the force Seymour is. The Pro Bowler's presence also has a domino effect because he's so versatile. Seymour plays both inside and outside, giving the defense flexibility. If Seymour is unable to go, Belichick won't be able to rotate players along the defensive front as frequently he usually does to keep players fresh. Plus, going up against Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson is a tall order any week but it will be an even tougher test if the Patriots defense is without Seymour. The All-Pro is listed as questionable for Monday night's game.

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