By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
November 20, 2002

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Despite their 3-7 record, the Minnesota Vikings are certainly a good football team. Just ask Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

New England is preparing to face those very same Vikings who will visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday after coming off of an impressive 31-21 win over Green Bay at home last weekend. Minnesota wide receiver Randy Moss remains a big threat having caught six passes for 115-yards and a touchdown on Sunday, but one bigger concern has become stopping runningback Michael Bennett, a task that opponents have had difficulty over the past three weeks.

Bennett just became the only player in NFL history to have runs of 60 or more yards three consecutive weeks. He's had runs of 85, 78 and 62 yards in the past three games. He finished last weekend with 20-carries for 130-yards, which is an astounding 6.5-yards per carry.

They've also gotten better on defense. They just moved Corey Chavous from cornerback to safety, a move that has worked out well for them. Minnesota's defense picked off Favre three times last Sunday, two of which went to middle linebacker Greg Biekert.

Then of course there's also wide receiver Randy Moss who can be explosive and make the big play deep. Moss has been "quiet" by his own standards this year, catching 62-passes for 764-yards and four touchdowns and is currently 13th in the NFL in receiving yards. However Moss still led the team with 6-receptions for 115-yards and a touchdown last weekend against the Packers.

They may be 3-7 but they are not a team that will be an easy victory. With New England back to 5-5 Sunday's game is critical to say the least. Their record may not show it, but Minnesota is a good football team, and the Patriots will need to play well if they hope to avoid dropping two in a row.

Five Keys for the Patriots

1. Stop the Run: Bennett has had four consecutive 100-yard rushing games, and is currently second in the NFC and seventh in the NFL with 853-rushing yards. His 5.6-yard average is also better than any one of his peers who are in the top 20 in yards gained.

2. Contain QB Daunte Culpepper: Culpepper may be struggling with turnovers but he's still big and athletic, and is still effective when he's had to scramble for yardage. New England's defense had a tough time when Rich Gannon ran with the ball last Sunday against Oakland, and Gannon isn't anywhere near the same size or athlete that Culpepper is.

3. Stop Randy Moss: The famous "Randy Ratio" is to blame by many NFL experts who feel it has hurt the Vikings passing attack and has also contributed to Culpepper's struggle throwing the football this season. Moss is still a big play receiver and is able to make the big catch down the field, and cornerback Ty Law will have his hands full with the 6'4" 204 pound receiver.

4. Convert on Third down: Over the past two games the Patriots were 6-of-17 (35%) and 4-of-12 (33%) on third down, and had just 11-first downs last weekend compared to Oakland who had 22. In Sunday's game they hung their defense out to dry by failing to keep them off the field as Oakland had the advantage in time of possession by more than 13:00. They'll need to improve on that this weekend.

5. Involve the Runningbacks in the Passing Game: I can truly say I never expected to say this, but it's time to start using Kevin Faulk more out of the backfield in the passing game. New England has been able to create mismatches against opposing defenses by getting Faulk in a position where he's being covered by a linebacker or defensive lineman. They've been able to get big plays down the field that way and have also been effective when they've thrown the ball to fullback Marc Edwards and featured back Antowain Smith. The numbers don't lie: Faulk is averaging 12.9-yards per reception, Edwards 7.9, and Smith 5.9. Needless to say they've all been effective when they've been used in the passing game, and hopefully offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has taken notice.


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