By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings play their first post-Mall of America Field home game Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Vikings are 0-1 all-time in their temporary home, TCF Bank Stadium, and they’re coming off a blow out victory while the Patriots suffered a crushing defeat in Week 1.
The Patriots (0-1) fell to the Miami Dolphins in the season opener in Florida. The Patriots had a 10-point lead at half time, but surrendered the final 23 points.
Patriots on Offense
The Patriots are still led by quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. After those two it is receiver and runner by committee. Brady and Gronkowski hooked up four times for 40 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. He was the most targeted receiver on Patriots.
Brady’s other top target was Kenbrell Thompkins, who caught five of the 10 ball thrown his way. He finished with 37 yards.
However, neither Gronkowski nor Thompkins was the leading receiver for the Patriots. Julian Edelman had a team-high six catches and 95 yards.
Running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen split the carries nearly evenly. Ridley finished with eight carries for 21 yards and Vereen ran the ball seven times for 36 yards and a score.
The Patriots will attack the Vikings defense in different ways than the Rams did. They will spread the field out and try to create mismatches in the secondary. The Rams were more of a power-run offense.
Patriots on Defense
The Patriots defense forced three turnovers (two fumbles and an interception). Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Alfonzo Dennard recorded two of the turnovers and linebacker Jerod Mayo had the other. Mayo also had a sack.
The defense played all right against the Dolphins. They held Ryan Tannehill to 18 completions in 32 attempts, 178 yards and a 47.9 rating. Mayo led the way with 12 tackles along with his fumble recovery and sack.
The Vikings will need to continue to find ways to get the ball to their playmakers. Cordarrelle Patterson was limited as a receiver, but changed the game as a runner. With cornerback Darrelle Revis likely covering him most of the game, Patterson’s impact will likely be in similar fashion.
Patriots Players to Watch
Quarterback Tom Brady. The Vikings have not beaten a Tom Brady-led Patriots team. In three games, he has completed 66-of-104 passes for 851 yards, eight touchdowns and one touchdown against the Vikings. He has picked apart the Vikings secondary throughout his career.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Patriots went out in the offseason and upgrade their secondary by signing the veteran cornerback. He has not been at his best in recent seasons, but he recovered a fumble and defended two passes against the Dolphins.
The Vikings dominated the St. Louis Rams in their opener on the road. The Patriots blew a big lead and played poorly in the second half. The Vikings may not face a worse quarterback situation the rest of the season. After Brady, they face Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions – a stretch of five proven, high-caliber quarterbacks. This is a very good chance for the Vikings to show just how improved they are on defense, especially in the secondary.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.