By: Ian Logue/
November 24, 2002

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FOXBORO, MA -- The Patriots offense went on auto-pilot for nearly 27 minutes before their defense stepped up and shut down the Minnesota Vikings offense in the final quarter of play for a 24-17 victory on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The win improved them to 6-5 with just five games left in the 2002 season.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tossed three touchdown passes to give his team a 21-0 lead with 8:02 left in the second quarter, but the Vikings offense went to the no huddle at that point and somehow managed to find a way to put up 17 unanswered points before New England had a chance to put the game out of reach.

Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri added a 34-yard field goal for New England's final points of the game with 11:13 left in the game, and the Patriots found themselves up by just seven after watching their 21-point lead evaporate.

But in the end mistakes killed the Vikings. A blocked and missed field goal, along with three turnovers, one of which ended up resulting in a Patriots touchdown were just too much for Minnesota to overcome.

To make matters worse for the Vikings New England's defense stepped up on Minnesota's final three possessions and held them scoreless, and on the final four plays of the game they forced four straight incompletions by Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, the last of which was a failed fourth-and-10 play which allowed New England to take over on downs.

Then for the first time since Rohan Davey knelt down to run out the clock back in a 44-7 week two rout of the Jets, Tom Brady was able to kneel to seal the Patriots sixth victory of the season.

Brady finished the game 21-of-34 for 239-yards and was sacked twice while Culpepper finished 24-of-49 for 272-yards and threw two touchdowns, and also rushed for 59-yards.

Minnesota opened the game by driving to the New England 25-yard line on 10-plays to set up a 43-yard field goal attempt by Gary Anderson, but Richard Seymour was able to get his hand up to block the kick, keeping the Vikings scoreless.

New England then capitalized by driving 67-yards on 12-plays, the last of which was a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Christian Fauria to take a 7-0 lead with 3:24 left in the first quarter.

On the Patriots next possession the offense picked up where they left off, driving 56-yards on 8-plays, with Brady again finding Fauria from 1-yard out to increase the lead to 14-0 just 2:30 into the second quarter.

New England then forced a Vikings fumble on the ensuing possession and had the ball at Minnesota's 29-yard line. Seven plays later Brady hit Troy Brown for another touchdown, this time from 5-yards out and it appeared that the Patriots had the game firmly in hand and could have been on their way to a blowout.

But on their last possession of the half they faced 4th-and-10 at the Vikings 31-yard line and went for it instead of trying to attempt a field goal. Minnesota sacked Brady for an 8-yard loss, and then proceeded to take the ball 61-yards on 5 plays with Culpepper finding D'Wayne Bates from 6-yards out to pull the Vikings within two touchdowns with :23 left in the first half.

Later in the third quarter the Vikings got another touchdown pass from Culpepper after a New England punt gave Minnesota excellent field position at the Patriots 44-yard line. They then drove 44-yards on 7-plays, the last of which ended with a touchdown reception by Kelly Campbell to pull within seven at 21-14 with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

Minnesota's final points came on their next possession after the Vikings started with the ball at their own 24-yard line and drove to New England 20-yard line where Gary Anderson knocked through a 38-yard field goal.

The Patriots will now prepare to head to Detroit to take on the Lions for a Thanksgiving day game at 12:30pm ET on Thursday.