By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
November 21, 2002

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ARCHIVED STORY WRITTEN 09/00
FINAL SCORE:
Minnesota: 21 Patriots: 13

FOXBORO, MA -- Now they can say they could have been 3-0.

For the third straight week the New England Patriots had a chance to either tie or win the game on their final possession, and for the third straight game they've come up short. Down 21-13 with 2:06 remaining in the game Bledsoe instrumented a drive that took them all the way from their own 36 down to Minnesota's 14 yard line, but on 4th and 7 the Vikings came after him with all they had, and very quickly down went Bledsoe along with any hope of tying the score.

Tedy Bruschi and the rest of the defense gave up 21 points in the first half but made adjustments and blanked the Vikings in the second half to give New England a chance to get back into the game. Unfortunately for head coach Bill Belichick his team couldn't find a way to win, and after the game an obviously frustrated Belichick talked about his disappointment with his team's latest defeat.

"That was a game were things kind of swung back and forth," said Belichick after the game. "The first half and the second half were quite contrasting for us. In the end it came down to a theme that we've seen before where we couldn't capitalize on our opportunities in all three phases of the game. It's disappointing because there were times where I thought that we were on the brink of showing some improvement and being able to do that, but we couldn't quite get over the hump."

What made matters worse for the Patriots were the amount of penalties they committed. They were called for 9 penalties for 69 yards, including two by cornerback Ty Law for pass interference and holding which helped keep two Vikings drives going. Belichick said after the game that the Vikings are a team that you can't afford to make mistakes against, and that his team has to be much more consistent and start playing better football.

"We had too many penalties today and that will always hurt you against a good team like the Vikings," said Belichick. "It's just unfortunate that we weren't able to play more consistently and play a better football game for 60 minutes instead of just playing in spurts all the way through."

"Eventually that's what we're going to have to learn how to do. I don't really have a time frame for how long it's going to take, but it's going to get done and hopefully it will be next week."

For the third straight week the Patriots got solid performances from quarterback Drew Bledsoe (21-of-35 for 190 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD) and runningback Kevin Faulk (13-carries for 80-yards rushing) on Sunday. For other players they were not so lucky. It was obvious before the game that Belichick was trying to send a message to third-year receiver Tony Simmons and rookie runningback J.R. Redmond who were both not dressed for Sunday's game. Simmons ran a third down pass short of the down marker last week against the Jets and Belichick may have been sat him to let him know he's got a lot of work to do. Meanwhile after missing training camp and being very ineffective during his time on the field Redmond was also inactive for Sunday's game and seventh-round pick Patrick Pass had been added to the active roster this week from the practice squad and saw action in the contest.

Defensively New England had difficulty from the start of the game. The Vikings moved the ball 73 yards on their opening drive on 17 plays, and held the ball for nearly nine minutes before runningback Robert Smith gave them a 7-0 lead. The drive was very methodical and the Patriots defense got their first real taste of what quarterback Daunte Culpepper could do as he rushed for 33 yards during that possession en route to the Vikings' first score.

But New England took only 1:51 to answer with a touchdown of their own following a 31-yard pass interference penalty on Chris Dishman on a pass to Terry Glenn which helped set up a two yard rushing touchdown by Kevin Faulk, knotting the score at 7-7.

The Vikings would increase their lead on the ensuing possession, holding the ball for over nine minutes while moving the ball 80 yards on 16 plays before Johnny McWilliams caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Culpepper to help the Vikings regain the lead 14-7 with 9:53 remaining in the first half.

The Patriots punted away the football on their next possession, and unfortunately for them it ended up being a 26yd shank by the normally reliable Lee Johnson who also fumbled two holds, one on a field goal, and one on an extra point Sunday afternoon. The poor punt gave the Vikings good field position with 1st and 10 at their own 47-yard line. They then went on to take the ball 53 yards on 5 plays, which was highlighted by a 39-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Hatchette who caused Patriots cornerback Kato Serwanga to fall down in coverage and Hatchette simply walked into the endzone. With 5:18 remaining in the half the Vikings had what began to seem like a commanding 21-7 lead.

But New England came right back with another drive of their own marching from their own 40 to the Vikings 26-yard line where they were stopped by Minnesota's defense. Adam Vinatieri came out to attempt a 44-yard field goal to cut the lead to 11, but a bad hold by Lee Johnson caused Vinatieri to miss his second-straight field goal and the Vikings took the ball over with 1:50 remaining in the half.

The Patriots would get an opportunity to put one last drive before the first half ended, but after using all of their time-outs earlier they didn't have enough to stop the clock and they headed into the locker room at halftime down 21-7.

Late in the third quarter the Vikings appeared to be on their way to another touchdown when Minnesota runningback Robert Smith had the ball punched out by New England safety Lawyer Milloy and New England recovered, ending the drive. But on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive Drew Bledsoe attempted to hit Terry Glenn up the right sideline, and Viking cornerback Chris Dishman took the ball right back for the Vikings, stepping in front of Glenn and intercepting the football.

But New England's defense got the ball right back three plays later when Culpepper attempted to prevent a sack and threw the ball as he was going down to Lawyer Milloy, who picked off the football and gave New England great field position at the Minnesota 21 yard line and it appeared that the Patriots were on their way to cutting into the lead. But the drive would stall and on 4th down head coach Bill Belichick opted to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal. Bledsoe dropped back on the play and was sacked, ending the drive and turning the football over on downs to the Vikings.

The Patriots defense came in and forced a 3-and-out from the Vikings, and New England finally cut into the lead after a 15-yard pass to Chris Calloway helped set up an 8-yard touchdown pass to Terry Glenn. Adam Vinatieri would be unable to kick the extra point after Johnson mishandled the snap and the Patriots found themselves down only 8 with 11:11 left in the game.

New England would get one final attempt to tie the game with 2:06 remaining, and they came very close to pulling it off. After starting at their own 36 yard line quarterback Drew Bledsoe led them all the way down to the Viking's 14-yard line on 6 plays following completions of 15 and 23 yards to runningback Kevin Faulk. But on a 4th-and-7 play Minnesota sent everyone after Bledsoe and he was immediately sacked, sealing the win for the Vikings. At that point with only :54 seconds left in the game all they had to do was simply kneel down and run out the clock.

Throughout the game the Patriots had a very difficult time stopping the Vikings on third down (Minnesota converted 10-of-17), and Belichick said after the game that his team's difficulty stopping them on third down was simply a combination of things.

"In the first half it was a combination of things," said Belichick. "It was the quarterback scrambling, it was Cris Carter running some option routes, [Matthew] Hatchette got us a couple times too."

"It's just not as effective as it needs to be. I can't single out one area but overall it's got to be more consistent as a unit. That really hurt us in the first half because we had a lot of opportunities to get off the field on third down. We just stayed out there to long."

Despite their 0-3 start Belichick says that while he's disappointed, he still hasn't lost faith in his football team.

"I haven't lost any confidence in this football team," said Belichick. "I'm just disappointed in our record and I'm disappointed in our ability as a team starting with myself all the way down not to be able to make enough plays to win these close games. We've got to work harder and find a way to do it.

"I haven't lost confidence in anybody I think that we still have a good football team. We need to show a little bit more and I think then we'll have some better results to show for it. But right now we just haven't shown enough to win a game and until we do that then the record is still the record I can't deny it."

The Patriots will head to Miami next Sunday to take on the Dolphins.

FAN PLAYER OF THE GAME

After the game fans headed to our MESSAGEBOARD and posted their thoughts as to who deserved the award for "Player of the Game". Kevin Faulk seemed to be the one who's name came up most often.

efeene - "Kevin Faulk... great day rushing.. key receptions.. good returning... he did it all today.."

I_M_PATMAN - "Kevin Faulk.....He did everything for the offense today just like he has everygame so far. We don't need another runningback...WE NEED A LINE."

Hoeinizer - "Teddy Bruschi - Contained Culpepper in the second half and was our leader in the Defense."

krugman - "Has to be Faulk,played very well.Honourable mention to Bledsoe,he put them in position to win a few times IMO, some supporting players let him down.The PATS remain a respectable team with an 0-3 record."

GFVike - "Faulk. He provide some great clutch catches and looked like a certain other Faulk coming out of the backfield. The Vikes were content to let Faulk try to win the game and shut down Bledsoe, and talented players take advantage. Faulk did that today."

"Honorable mentions: Bruschi came on strong in the 2nd half, Milloy had a potentially game-turning INT, and Law held Carter to under 100 yards. Smith/Langham shut down Moss as well. Props to the defense for keeping the Pats in the game after it looked like the Vikes were going to run away with it. Gutsy work."

BorderWarrior - "I'm a Viking fan, but I'm assuming you want the Patriot player of the game. Losing the game hurts fans enough, so I'm not going to rub it in by listing Viking players.

I have two Patriot players that I feel deserve the award:

Kevin Faulk. He was aggresive and worked his butt off. That's all you can really ask of a player.

Drew Bledsoe. What a game. The guy is an excellent quarterback. If he'd had time to throw and another steady receiver or tight end it may have been a different story. Too many dropped passes on critical downs. And you can't blame that on Bledsoe. He didn't wilt under the pressure the Vikings put on him, and I certainly think he deserves more credit than he will probably get for keeping things going. It's gotta be hard to drop back and concentrate knowing the defensive linemen are dropping back with you. I was really impressed with his poise. I can only hope the Patriot offensive line gels soon. It would be a shame to see someone like Bledsoe get hurt. Let me qualify that. It would be a shame to see anyone get hurt, but someone of the quality of Bledsoe would be a huge loss to the Patriots. And that would be most unfortunate."

TO ADD YOUR THOUGHTS CLICK HERE


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