By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 31, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH -- The much heralded return of Randy Moss to Foxborough instead turned into a classic expose on two great quarterbacks headed in opposite directions.

While Myron Pryor delivered a knockout blow to the Willie Mays of the NFL, Brady managed to find a way to win against a game Minnesota Viking defense. And win he did, parlaying three second half touchdowns into a 28-18 win at Gillette Stadium on Halloween Sunday. Combined with the Jets' trick or treat shutout loss at home to Green Bay, the Patriots sit perched atop the AFC East with a one-game lead over their rivals down south at Exit 16-W.

Brady topped the 100-point passer rating mark with 16-of-27 passing for 240 yards and a touchdown. He managed a near-perfect game on offense despite the receivers again finding it hard to get open. He never got sacked and did not throw an interception. Even though the record will show that BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 112 yards, more than half those yards came in the fourth quarter against a tired Viking defense. But Green-Ellis scored two touchdowns, so a lot of game ball consideration does go to the big guy from Ole Miss.

What was most remarkable about this game was what didn't happen versus what did. Favre was knocked out of the game about halfway through the final quarter, suffering a lacerated chin from a hit by Pryor. Tarvaris Jackson came in and immediately threw a 2-yard scoring toss to Naufahu Tahi, then a two-point conversion to Percy Harvin to make it 21-18 Patriots. But the rest of the game belonged to the Patriots, as Brady was able to chew up all but two of the last eight minutes of the game and finished things with a 2-yard touchdown run by Green-Ellis.

Moss was also invisible in his Foxborough return. He was booed loudly during the opening offensive series for the Vikings, then became a complete afterthought the rest of the way. It was probably by design that Moss would not be a prime target of Favre, and the Patriots did their due diligence by keeping two bodies on him all game long. Moss caught only one pass, an eight-yard slant pass which contributed to a chip shot Ryan Longwell field goal to open the second half and to give the Vikings a temporary lead at 10-7. After that one catch, Moss did draw some attention but was absolutely no factor in the game.

Some experts were more afraid of Adrian Peterson, and with good reason. Peterson did get 25 carries, but for only 97 yards and no gain longer than 9 yards. It appeared that Brad Childress wanted to open up the passing lanes by pounding it down low with Peterson, but the Patriots never allowed Peterson to dictate the defensive strategy.

Peterson did become the main offensive cog of the Vikings, mostly out of necessity. Favre had to be babied thanks to two broken bones in his foot. Because of that, Favre was unable to do the things he usually does against the Patriots, that being making a lot of hay out of improvisation and seemingly never throwing the stupid picks he does against the rest of the league. Favre has never really ever had a bad game against the Patriots, and the one interception he did throw on Sunday was because Harvin failed to hold onto a well-thrown pass and Devin McCourty was able to snatch the ball away from Harvin and return the pick 40 yards which led to a Green-Ellis touchdown run of 13 yards.

Favre managed 22 completions out of 32 attempts for 259 yards, along the way becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to record 10,000 pass attempts. But since he threw one pick and zero touchdown passes, his rating was only 80.1. The Patriots never really shut Favre down until Pryor's hit, but Favre didn't torch the Patriots like he did as a Packer or surgically dissect the Patriots as he did as a Jet.

Childress, who called out Bill Belichick in the press in the form of a reference to SpyGate, lost the coaching battle on Sunday. He cinched it with a crucial fourth and goal call at the one-yard line, going for it and watching Peterson get stuffed for a one-yard loss by Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham at the tail end of the first half, where a mere field goal could have sent the Vikes into the locker room with the lead. Childress may have been hamstrung with an immobile Favre to have to gameplan around, but Childress could have done much more with Peterson, Harvin and perhaps Visanthe Shiancoe.

Moss, who in another strange press conference in postgame spared no expense in praising the Patriots and expressing how much he misses them, showed the Patriots next to nothing and made no one here in these parts miss him at all. It is still all about Moss's attitude versus his talent; if it were only about talent, he would never have left the Vikings in the first place. Moss remains a malcontent and a manchild who is at times impossible to figure out.

And the Patriots are undefeated since he was traded. Determining causality in this case is a nice project if you have lots of time on your hands. Or maybe not.

The Patriots, as many writers and experts have opined, have become more like what they used to be when they won their three Super Bowls. Green-Ellis is becoming more like an Antowain Smith. Branch is not what he used to be, but he's still a weapon. Welker fills the slot like Troy Brown once did. If the Patriots can somehow get the rookie tight ends to help unclog the middle, and if Brandon Tate can become a bona fide deep threat, both Welker and Green-Ellis will benefit greatly. As things stand right now, the Patriot offense has faced three straight defenses without Moss and has won all three without lighting up the scoreboard. You the reader can draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, Favre should be credited with a nice game, although he rarely spits the bit against the Patriots like he does when the Patriots need Favre to do well when they have a playoff berth on the line. Favre is the Willie Mays of the NFL because he is hanging around the league longer than he should, and to understand that comment you would have to have seen Mays in the 1973 World Series as a New York Met. The Vikings are dreaming if they think Favre will win them a Vince. He proved last year that at some point he will throw the season-killing pick. This year, the Vikes won't get that close to the big game.

The Patriots are closer to getting to Dallas in February than Minnesota is. The defense isn't really championship caliber yet. But if things keep up, the Patriots will continue to go Favre in this league.


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