The Patriots laid down a goose egg against the Dolphins in week 1 and you can be certain that the team will be approaching the Vikings with the highest degree of focus. As Minnesota will be playing without their All Pro running back Adrian Peterson, it seems as if the Patriots should have an easier time on defense- but the Vikings are coached by Mike Zimmer who is a devious defensive coordinator.
Here's what the Patriots must do to leave with a victory:
1) Protect Brady. Simple. The Dolphins were able to pressure Tom Brady at will in the opening week while only rushing four, which means that the Vikings have the potential to do the same. Both tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer played far below their ability, while the interior line was in shambles with their rotations. If rookie Bryan Stork isn't ready to play, let's hope the coaching staff sent Jordan Devey to spend the week bunking with Dante Scarnecchia. The Patriots will not win if their offensive line puts together a similar performance.
2) No big plays. This is the Cordarrelle Patterson point. He will be the focal point of the Patriots defense and it's crucial that the Patriots don't hand out free yards to the Vikings offense. The Rams, Minnesota's week 1 opponent, missed numerous tackles that led to big play after big play. Sound tackling by the Patriots will likely halt the Vikings dangerous attack- but free safety Devin McCourty needs to continue to roam the deep end of the field to prevent a home run play.
3) Defensive fronting. Last week's decision to align Chandler Jones at 3-4 defensive end was a disaster. Let's hope that experiment is over. It's looking like the Patriots will be playing more 4-3 fronts, which is important for both the run defense and the pass rush. The team needs to settle on a line-up that puts the defense's best players on the field while also balancing the Vikings rushing attack with their receivers crossing the formation.
4) Who are the receivers? After having great success throwing the ball to Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski in the first half, the Patriots decided to not involve the former for the rest of the game and the latter on just the game's final drive. These players need to be involved throughout the entire game. The addition of Aaron Dobson should hopefully add another needed element to the offense and hopefully a productive game will give him confidence moving forward.
5) Coaching adjustments. Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Matt Patricia did not put their best foot forward against the Dolphins. How will they move from that loss and use that knowledge to benefit the team? How will they make mid-game adjustments that just didn't seem to happen in week 1? How will they set the offensive and defensive lines? How will they monitor snaps? Will they abandon the run again? Will they overlook the Vikings replacement running back? Lots of question that all come from the coaching game plan.