First, Tom Brady embarrassed the Vikings on the field, and then Minnesota's defenders had to answer questions about him in the locker room after the game. Brady's masterful Metrodome performance leads off a series of more than 40 game-day notes that help tell the magnitude of the Patriots 31-7 blowout.
The one thing the Vikings probably didn't want to have to talk about following their game with the Patriots was their respect for Tom Brady
. But following a monster performance Monday, all they could do was ooze respect.
"Tonight, we didn't have an answer for him," safety Darren Sharper
said. "You can see why he's the top quarterback in the league. Everyone wants to compare him to Peyton Manning
. I think with the talent both of them have around them, (Brady) is the best in the league."
Coming in with a plan to force the Patriots offense through the air, Brady consistently torched the Vikings – dropping to pass 46 times while New England ran just 15 times. It was a plan they ran with great success – even surprising cornerback Antoine Winfield
by continuing to pass after the Vikings had sat Brad Johnson
down for the remainder of the game.
"They did everything right tonight," Winfield said. "He found opened receivers. He moved around in the pocket and we didn't get off the field on third downs. They did a great job. But it's a long season and this is just one game. Luckily it wasn't a playoff game. The season isn't over. We'll bounce back."
But part of that bounce back will be a newfound first-hand respect for Brady and the Patriots.
"I thought they did a good job taking advantage of what we had (on the field)," defensive end Kenechi Udeze
said. "They did a good job managing the game. Hats off to them."
Coming into the game, Brady was averaging 204.5 yards a game passing. He topped that average by a whopping 167 yards – finishing the game completing 29 of 43 passes for 372 yards with four TDs and one interception.
The Patriots dominated just about every statistical category, out-gaining the Vikings 430-238, despite both teams running 61 plays. Both teams were 36 percent on third-down conversions – New England converting four of 11 chances and the Vikings converting just five of 14 opportunities.
The Vikings defense did little to stop the pass, but will likely retain their No. 1 ranking vs. the run – having allowed the Patriots just 85 yards rushing. The total would have been more impressive, but fullback Heath Evans broke off a 35-yard run to lead the Patriots. For the game, Laurence Maroney rushed eight times for 34 yards and Corey Dillon rushed just three times for 5 yards.
Like the Patriots, the Vikings ran 15 times, but gained just 45 yards, led by Chester Taylor – who had just 22 yards on 10 carries.
Despite Monday's loss, the Vikings have still outscored their opponents 59-16 in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
One of the few bright spots Monday came on special teams, averaging 49.8 yards on five punts, with a high of 61 yards.
With the victory, the Patriots are now 4-0 on the road this season and have won their six games away from Foxboro.
Brooks Bollinger's official start to his Vikings career wasn't pretty. On his first three snaps, he was sacked three times – losing 20 yards in the process.
Despite being well ahead in the fourth quarter and the Vikings pulling Brad Johnson, the Patriots not only kept their starters in, but had Brady throwing passes on almost every down and even went for a first down on fourth down at the Vikings 39-yard line in the fourth quarter.
By the end of the third quarter, Brady already had 358 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Chester Taylor suffered a shoulder stinger in the third quarter and was reported as questionable to return. He did return to the game.
The Vikings were none too happy in the third quarter after driving into Patriots territory. Jermaine Wiggins appeared to not only catch a first-down pass, but took three steps and tucked the ball to his body before Ellis Hobbs ripped the ball loose and it rolled out of bounds. Most replays seemed to clearly show the ball in possession, but the call on the field stood, despite a challenge from Minnesota head coach Brad Childress. The Vikings went for it on fourth down and Johnson's pass was knocked down.
Later in the quarter, the refs drew the ire of the fans by calling an illegal contact penalty on Darren Sharper on a pass that sailed almost 10 yards out of bounds with barely touching the receiver. Three plays later, the Patriots scored a touchdown to go up 31-7.
With their touchdown in the third quarter, the Patriots became the first team this year to score more than 20 points against the Vikings.
Mewelde Moore's 71-yard punt return was the second-longest in team history on Monday night, behind only a 90-yarder by Nate Burleson vs. the Colts in 2004. It also tied for eighth longest in franchise history.
Moore's return touchdown was the second his career. The other? An identical 71-yard return for a score vs. the Giants Nov. 13, 2005.
Immediately following Moore's score, Laurence Maroney returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to the Vikings 20. The Patriots came out with no running backs and five receivers – taking just three plays to finish the deal.
Troy Williamson once again didn't make good on a bomb attempt early in the third quarter. Although he was being jostled deep downfield, Johnson dropped a nice spiral to him, which missed his hands and hit off his shoulder.
Prior to Monday night, the Vikings' biggest deficit of the season was 14 points vs. Detroit – a game they would come back to win.
At the half, both teams had possession of the ball for exactly 15 minutes.
In the first half, the Patriots had seven plays of 15 yards or more, including plays of 45, 40 and 34 yards. The Vikings had two – one of 17 and 15 yards.
For the half, Brady had a sparkling passer rating of 111.6, while Johnson had a rating of just 43.9.
The Patriots had 285 yards in the first half – seven more than the Vikings' average for an entire game this season.
Brady finished the first half completing 17 of 25 passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Laurence Maroney was the leading rusher with four carries for 22 yards, while three Patriots had four catches – Doug Gabriel with four for 76 yards, Ben Watson with four for 71 yards and a TD, and Reche Caldwell with four for 63 yards and a touchdown.
For the Vikings, Johnson completed 12 of 17 passes for 92 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half. Chester Taylor was the leading rusher with seven carries for just 15 yards and Moore led the team with 27 receiving yards, followed by Troy Williamson with 21 yards. Williamson led the team with three receptions.
Brady's 257 first-half passing yards were the most by any quarterback this season, eclipsing by one the number of yards Donovan McNabb threw for earlier this year in the first half vs. the Giants.
In the battle of quarterbacks, in the first quarter Brady had a passer rating of 105.8, while Johnson had a rating of 31.2.
In the first quarter, the Vikings held the ball for 9:38, but were outgained 101 yards to 64. Brady was eight of 10 for 109 yards with one TD and one interception. Dillon had the only rush for an 8-yard loss and Doug Gabriel led all receivers with four catches for 76 yards. Brad Johnson completed 6 of 10 passes for 45 yards. Chester Taylor had six carries for 14 yards and Bethel Johnson led the five receivers who caught passes with two catches for 18 yards.
The Patriot's average starting drive position in the first quarter was their own 9-yard line, while the Vikings started at their own 45.
The Vikings appeared to be imposing their will with the run, giving the ball four times to Chester Taylor for 15 yards. But after getting inside the New England 10-yard, Taylor got poked in the eye and was replaced by Artose Pinner. He ran twice for 5 yards before Brad Johnson threw an ugly overthrow for an interception to kill the drive without any points.
On its first two drives of the game, the team lined up Wiggins as an outside receiver.
Sharper's first quarter interception was the 47th of his career, his 11th as a Viking and his first against the Patriots.
The Vikings didn't score on their opening drive of the game – the first time this year that happened. After getting a touchdown run from Chester Taylor on the opening drive of the seasons-opener vs. Washington, the team had scored on opening drives the previous five games with Ryan Longwell field goals.
Brad Johnson was wearing a glove on his left (non-throwing) hand Monday.
Brady was masterful on the first drive of the game, completing all six passes he threw for 94 yards. On the drive, the Patriots opted to ignore the run – running just once in seven plays. On the one run they had, Dillon lost 8 yards on a sweep.
Kevin Williams limped off the field during the first drive of the game with a sprained ankle. He returned on the next drive.
The captains for Monday's game were Wiggins, Kevin Williams and Heath Farwell.
Despite loud crowd noise, Brady came out in the shotgun on all but one of his passing attempts in the first quarter.
Monday's game marked the first home game on Monday Night Football since Nov. 19, 2001 – a 28-16 win by the Vikings.
Two Vikings began their careers with the Patriots – Wiggins and Bethel Johnson.
The Vikings conducted a pregame ceremony honoring Hall of Famer Warren Moon, who played with the Vikings from 1994-96. Moon also conducted the pregame coin toss.
The Vikings deactivated Tarvaris Jackson (third quarterback), RB Ciatrick Fason, WR Marcus Robinson, TE Jeff Dugan, offensive linemen Ryan Cook and Anthony Herrera, DT Ross Kolodziej, and safety Rashad Baker.
The Patriots de-activated three starters – right guard Stephen Neal, tight end Daniel Graham and safety Eugene Wilson.
The paid attendance was 63,819 – the 90th straight sellout at the Metrodome.