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9 takeaways from the Patriots 24-10 victory over the Vikings

Instant analysis from week 13’s game.

Minnesota Vikings v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

The New England Patriots pulled away from the Minnesota Vikings late in the game and managed to win 24-10. Here are our takeaways from the game.

The Patriots played a simplified offense

For much of the first half, the New England Patriots didn’t test the Minnesota Vikings defense. Josh Gordon didn’t get a target and most of Brady’s passes came within five yards of the line of scrimmage. The Patriots handed the ball off to Sony Michel or Rex Burkhead or threw it to James White or Julian Edelman.

Nothing fancy for the offense and they only managed to score 10 points in the first half after stalling on the goal line.

Gordon got involved in the second half with 3 catches on 3 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown, but there wasn’t anything unique in his engagement; he just ran his typical routes.

It felt like the Patriots were intentionally using a limited playbook. I wonder why.

Tom Brady hit a couple key milestones

  • Brady finished the day with 5 rushing yards, bringing his career total to exactly 1,000 yards. He even managed to kneel down at the end without losing any yards.
  • Brady also threw for a touchdown, tying Brett Favre for the third-most in NFL regular season history and tying Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history (regular season and postseason).

James Develin was key to the offense- and should get more snaps by the goal line

Develin had 4 carries for 5 yards and 2 touchdowns. He added a reception for 9 yards. He added two extra first downs. What can’t Develin do?

Honestly, the Patriots have struggled in goal-to-go scenarios because they haven’t had a stout short-yardage rusher. Sony Michel is explosive, but he seems to get shut down in traffic. Meanwhile, Develin has three rushing touchdowns in the past three games. Why not give him the ball more frequently by the goal line?

Is everything okay with Rob Gronkowski?

Gronkowski had 3 receptions for 26 yards on 4 targets, but he was also penalized three times and cost the offense 25 yards. That’s a net of +1 yard for the tight end, who struggled to fight for important extra yardage and was unable to generate much separation. His positive blocking ability was reduced by his two offensive holding penalties.

Gronkowski has obviously been limited this entire season and he’s no longer the receiving threat he once was. But he’s no longer listed on the injury report and still not looking great.

He’s surpassed 60 yards in just three games this year, tied with his 2010 rookie season for the fewest in his career. He managed four games of 60+ yards in his injury-shortened 2013 and 2016 seasons.

Are the Patriots just saving him for the postseason?

The Patriots defense was willing to give up rushing yards

New England tipped off their defensive strategy when they made Danny Shelton a healthy scratch, leaving just Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown as the only active run-stuffing defensive tackles: let the Vikings run the ball.

Minnesota’s offense flows through the hands of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, so the Patriots dedicated their defensive resources to stopping them. So while Dalvin Cook gained 84 rushing yards on 9 carries (9.3 YPC), Cousins was limited to a mere 201 passing yards on the day. Mission accomplished by the Patriots.

Heck of a day by the Patriots secondary

The Patriots cornerback duo of Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty limited Thielen and Diggs to a combined 10 receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown on 15 targets, a huge win for New England. Those 77 yards represent the least-productive day by the Vikings receiving duo all year (other than week 9 when Diggs didn’t play).

The rest of the Patriots secondary had a great day, too, with J.C. Jackson doing an exceptional job of covering Aldrick Robinson (9 targets for 5 receptions and 37 yards). Jackson helped tip a pass to Duron Harmon to record an interception.

The safeties did a great job, too, with Devin McCourty helping his brother erase Thielen from the game and Patrick Chung limiting Kyle Rudolph to 3 catches for 38 yards.

There’s a reason why Dalvin Cook led the Vikings with 8 receptions (for a laughable 22 yards). The Patriots secondary locked down the Vikings receivers.

Obi Melifonwu is covering tight ends

Melifonwu came on the field in the dime defense and was asked to cover tight ends, blitz the quarterback around the edge, and play a pseudo-linebacker role for the defense. It’ll be curious to see how that develops over the rest of the year.

I also think he broke up the pass by the sideline. That’s just me.

Weak day by the Patriots special teams

*Other than Ryan Allen. Allen had a great day, pinning the Vikings in the red zone on three of his four punts and flipping the field from deep in Patriots territory on the fourth.

Stephen Gostkowski missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. The Vikings returned kickoffs to the 34- and 29-yard lines. Brandon King was flagged for a penalty that wiped out a huge punt return by Julian Edelman.

This facet of the Patriots needs to improve before the end of the regular season.

Patriots keep pace atop the AFC

The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs both won, while the Pittsburgh Steelers play on Sunday Night, so the Patriots-Vikings game was the difference between the second seed and the fourth seed. The Patriots hold the tiebreaker with both the Texans and Chiefs, so New England has to do everything it can to keep pace with the other top teams.

The Patriots have three divisional games left on the schedule, but the big challenge is obviously the week 15 showdown with the Steelers. The Chiefs still have games against the Chargers and Seahawks, while the Steelers have to play the Chargers, Patriots, and Saints.

The Texans have the easiest schedule, with games against the Colts, Jets, Eagles, and Jaguars. The Patriots can’t afford to drop any games in the final quarter of the season- and if they win out, there’s a good chance they’ll be the top seed in the conference.

Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show: Patriots 24, Vikings 10

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Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 2, 2018