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Monday, September 15, 2014

Patriots Get Back On Track With 30-7 Win At Minnesota

In case you haven't noticed, the Patriots don't lose many games (particularly in the regular season) so naturally when they do lose, we all collectively overreact like you read about. New England (1-1) went to TCF Bank Stadium this afternoon and blew out Minnesota (1-1) 30-7 in a contest that didn't feel nearly that competitive. It marked the seventh instance in a row where the Pats bounced back from a loss with a win the following week.

This also served as a perfect reminder not to read too much into early results, especially after Week 1. The Pats had lost 33-20 at Miami while Minnesota rolled 34-6 at St. Louis. You simply can't (or at least you shouldn't make any grand statements about teams after only a few games) but this served notice of what each team's reasonable expectations are for this season.

Of course, not having Adrian Peterson certainly might have been the biggest factor in this one and he wasn't even in the stadium. Without the NFL's best running back, the Vikings had to rely on Matt Cassel (19 of 36 for 202 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, sacked 6 times) and you can tell by his numbers how that worked out for them.

The most intriguing part of the beatdown for the Patriots is that their offense didn't even do that much, meaning that they could execute at a much higher level than that. This felt like a throwback to the good old days that we always talk about (2001-2005) where New England got contributions from all three phases of the team and a host of different players.

Stevan Ridley (25 carries, 101 yards, TD) was the Patriots' top offensive weapon along with the ever versatile Julian Edelman (6 catches, 81 yards, TD; 4 punt returns, 66 yards) who has become Wes Welker without the Adderall problem. The weird part about this game was that Minnesota took the opening drive 80 yards in just seven plays capped off by Cassel hitting fullback Matt Asiata (AP's replacement) for an easy 25-yard touchdown.

It was all downhill from there though for Minnesota as the Pats reeled off 30 straight points to end it. Devin McCourty's interception return for the Vikings' 1-yard line set up Ridley for a 1-yard plunge. Stephen Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal on New England's next possession gave them a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter that they would never relinquish.

Tom Brady (15 of 22 for 149 yards) really didn't have to do anything besides a pretty 9-yard touchdown pass to Edelman in the corner of the end zone which gave the Pats a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter. Unquestionably, the turning point of the game and a play that we'll be seeing for years was Chandler Jones' (6 tackles, 2 sacks) blocked field goal then 58-yard return for a TD with eight seconds left in the first half. The Vikings were about to cut it to seven points, instead they headed to the locker room at halftime completely demoralized.

Darrelle Revis had his first interception as a Patriot, likewise for rookie Dominique Easley. Logan Ryan notched the other interception for New England who won the turnover margin 4-0. If you passed out in the second half or left to do something else, you didn't miss anything besides two more Gostkowski field goals (47. 27). I wondered if Cassel would be pulled in favor of rookie Teddy Bridgewater but I guess head coach Mike Zimmer didn't want to sacrifice Teddy like that.

New England finally gets their 2014 home opener-next Sunday (1, CBS) vs. Oakland (0-2), who is still one of the worst teams in the NFL so I pity the poor suckers that pay for tickets to that stinker. The best you can hope for is good tailgating weather since I don't expect the Raiders to be very competitive. Then again, it's the NFL so it'll probably go to overtime.

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