Why did the Patriots win?
Seems to be a developing theme with this team, from what I’m gathering: play tough red-zone defense, don’t make any mistakes, and then pounce on any miscues by the opponent. Statistically, the Patriots were dominated in the first half as the Vikings easily moved the ball with Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin the main workhorses. But it was tied 7-7 at halftime. Vikings got a field goal to open the second half, and then the Patriots went on a 14-0 run as they capitalized on a busted coverage in the secondary (Brandon Tate 65-yard touchdown), and an interception by Brett Favre (BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown). In the fourth quarter, the Patriots grinded it out with two drives that combined for 21 plays and 130 yards.
CB Devin McCourty (blow to head) left for one play and returned.
WR Deion Branch (left hamstring) played as if he was on one leg. He said he was fine after the game, but he wasn’t close to 100 percent.
Three things to feel good about
1. Young guys making key plays: From Devin McCourty (strip/INT), WR Danny Woodhead (TD, team-leading five receptions), P Zoltan Mesko (42.0 net, some in tough situations), Green-Ellis (112 yards, 2 TDs), LB Jerod Mayo (14 tackles) to WR Brandon Tate (three catches, 101 yards, TD), the Patriots got a ton of key contributions from their young bucks. That’s going to have to continue on a team this young.
2. Finishing up strong: Patriots were 2-of-6 on third downs for three quarters, but 4-of-5 in the fourth quarter.
3. Keeping Brady clean: For the first time since the season-opener against the Bengals, the Patriots’ offensive line kept Tom Brady from being sacked. The line had given up 10 in the previous three games. Looked like Vikings LDE Ray Edwards was going to get one early on with two quick pressures, but an adjustment was made and he was barely heard from. Ditto Jared Allen and the Williams Boys. Much props to Matt Light, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal and Sebastian Vollmer.
Three things to worry about
1. Where the explosion is going to come from: The Patriots lucked out that Brady can throw using eyes in the back of his head (and Asher Allen peeked into the backfield) on Tate’s 65-yard TD. Because outside of that, there weren’t too many big plays as the Patriots’ offense continues to plod along in the post-Moss era. Wes Welker probably won’t be 100 percent less than a year after knee surgery, and now Branch is very gimpy. Until those guys are healthy, somebody is going to need to make some big plays or else it’s going to be harder and harder for the Patriots to score points. It’s not easy to put together scoring drives of eight-or-more plays on a regular basis.
2. Tackling: Before Vikings coach Brad Childress decided to take Adrian Peterson out of the game for stretches, he was gashing the Patriots at a pretty good clip. It wasn’t because the Patriots weren’t in the right spot, it’s because they just weren’t doing a very good job of tackling on first contact. They were much improved in the second half.
3. Return game lacking: The Patriots got nothing out of their return units as Welker had two fair catches, Wooodhead had one punt return for 4 yards, and Tate averaged 14.5 on four kickoff returns. Don’t need to excel every game, but it would have been nice to get decent field position once out of those guys.
At Cleveland Browns (2-5), 1 p.m. Sunday
Sunday’s result: Browns are coming off a bye week. They are coming off a stunning 30-17 victory over the Saints in New Orleans on Oct. 24.
What they’re up to: Well, there’s a bit of a QB controversy going on. Starter Jake Delhomme and backup Seneca Wallace should be healthy after ankle injuries, but rookie QB Colt McCoy is now the fan favorite after two decent outings against the Steelers and Saints. Browns ranked 29th in total offense and 23rd in total defense heading into this week. And there’s also something about that Eric Mangini guy coaching against Bill Belichick. But I’m new around here so I’m not sure what it is. ;)