Patriots

Flashback Friday: When Bledsoe Threw … and Threw … and Threw … and Beat the Vikings

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Globe File Photo

Here’s how little on-field history the Patriots have with the Minnesota Vikings, their opponent this Sunday:

The franchises have met 11 times in their history — or four fewer times than Tom Brady has squared off against Peyton Manning.

Patriots-Vikings is not a rivalry, but an acquaintance renewed every few seasons. Occasionally their franchise paths will intersect with a trade.

Randy Moss became a superstar with the Vikings, came to the Patriots in 2007 after a layover with the Raiders, then was unceremoniously sent back to Minnesota early in the 2010 season. He did not last long during the second stint, barely long enough to complain about the catering.

The Vikings sent popular, freewheeling but spiral-challenged quarterback Joe Kapp to the Patriots before the 1970 season. He was Ryan Leaf-level lousy, going 1-9 in 10 starts with a 44.7 completion percentage, 3 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Chuck Foreman, a star Vikings running back of the ’70s also ended his career as a role player in New England.

Patriots fans will now pause to rightfully lament that they may have played Foreman and the Vikings in Super Bowl XI had referee Ben Dreith not called a dubious roughing the passer penalty late in the 1976 divisional round loss to the eventual champion Raiders.

That Patriots team went 11-3 and may well have been the most talented in franchise history before the Bill Belichick era.

As for times when the Patriots and Vikings actually squared off …

Their last meeting came on Halloween 2010, a 28-18 victory at Gillette in which, according to the box score, Brandon Tate caught a 65-yard touchdown pass. Funny, I don’t remember Brandon Tate ever scoring for the Patriots.

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Their last meeting in Minnesota came on October 30, 2006, a 31-7 Patriots victory at the Metrodome in which, according to the box score, Chad Jackson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. Funny, I don’t remember Chad Jackson ever scoring for the Patriots.

For the most part, the story of the Patriots-Vikings history is having little history at all.

Except for this one time, when Drew Bledsoe made history, and — this is not hyperbole — changed the course of Patriots history as well.

The date: November 13, 1994.

The site: The cement-and-aluminum holding cell known as Foxboro Stadium.

The situation: Grim. The Patriots, in year two of the Drew Bledsoe-Bill Parcells era, were failing to show any signs of hope. They entered the Minnesota game at 3-6. The previous week, Bledsoe completed just 20 of 43 passes for 166 yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions in a 13-6 loss to Bill Belichick’s Cleveland Browns. The loss to his perceived protege put Parcells’s record as the Patriots’ savior at 8-17 overall.

He was in a foul mood entering the Minnesota game, and nothing that happened in the first half changed it. The Patriots fell behind 20-0 at halftime, gaining just 89 yards. They looked like the same old early ’90s Patriots, hapless and helpless, just with a bigger name coach and a bigger-armed quarterback.

Then it all changed. Whatever was said at halftime — presumably, something along the lines of “#*$(@# it, fellas, we’re throwing and we’re not gonna stop — altered the course of that season and beyond.

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Bledsoe completed 37 of 53 passes.

He had plenty to celebrate Sunday after his 45th completion and 70th pass–both NFL records–settled into fullback Kevin Turner’s arms in the end zone 4:10 into overtime.

The 14-yard pass gave the struggling New England Patriots a 26-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, one of the NFL’s best teams. And it capped a stunning comeback from a 20-0 deficit and a first half in which the Patriots were outgained, 286 yards to 89.

“Right now, we’ve got a bunch of guys feeling pretty good,” Patriot Coach Bill Parcells said. “It was a valiant effort. We were on the ropes big time.”

Bledsoe passed for 426 yards and three touchdowns but took his historic performance in stride, just as he didn’t despair over the seven passes he had intercepted in his last two games, both losses.

“It definitely is a vindication (after) all the people wrote this one in the books as a win for the Vikings,” he said. “I’m not going to get too high after a game like this.”

The Patriots (4-6) ended a four-game losing streak and stopped the four-game winning streak of the Vikings, who still lead the NFC Central with a 7-3 record.

“This loss brings us down to earth if anybody here has been floating,” said Warren Moon, who passed for 234 yards in the first half.

But Bledsoe did much better in the second half, completing 37 of 53 passes for 354 yards, as the Patriots switched to a no-huddle offense for almost the entire half.

The Vikings, who were tied for third in the NFL with 27 sacks, didn’t get to Bledsoe once.

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He broke NFL records of 68 passes by Houston’s George Blanda on Nov. 1, 1964, and 42 completions by the New York Jets’ Richard Todd on Sept. 21, 1980.

At halftime, the Patriots were trailing, 20-3, and had gone 10 quarters without a touchdown.

Minnesota still led, 20-10, with less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Then Bledsoe passed five yards to Leroy Thompson for a touchdown with 2:21 to play. The Vikings couldn’t get a first down on their next series, and Bledsoe led the Patriots from their 39-yard line to Matt Bahr’s tying 23-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining.

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