It was quite a game Sunday afternoon, and a strong second half  by the New England Patriots helped them pull away from the Minnesota Vikings 28-18 to improve to 6-1 on the season.

So what did we learn from watching the game yesterday?

The first thing we learned is just like last week, they beat a pretty good football team. On offense, Brett Favre actually played very well.  He finished 22-of-32 for 259 yards before Myron Pryor knocked him out in the 4th quarter. Percy Harvin had a big day with 6 receptions for 104 yards, and exploited the middle of the the Pats defense. Adrian Peterson showed why he is probably the best running back in the game, running for 92 yards on 25 carries.  

On defense, the Vikings surprisingly struggled to stop the Patriots running game in the second half. The Patriots ran for a total of 122 yards, most of which came in the final two quarters of play. In the passing game, the Vikings were decent, but at times the Patriots were able to take advantage of their secondary and ended up making enough plays to get it done. 

So how did the Vikings lose this game? I think one really bad coaching decision was a huge factor. The Vikings had a chance to kick a field goal and go into the half ahead, and then get the second half kick-off. Instead, Brad Childress decided to go for the touchdown on 4th down at the 1 yard line.  Instead, the Patriots stopped the Vikings, and went into the half tied 7-7. 

The momentum switched, and was with the Patriots going into the half. The Vikings also could not stop BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  He finished with just 4-yards in the first half, but exploded for 108-yards and two touchdowns in the second.  Thanks to his second half effort, he helped the Patriots control the ball, and the game.

This was another game when a Patriots opponent was effected by coaching and situational football. In the end, the Patriots forced their will on the Vikings, and won the game.

On the Patriots, let’s start with the offense. The passing game seemed to really struggle the majority of this match-up. Tom Brady was efficient with 240 yards passing and 1 touchdown pass. He made key passes to Brandon Tate and Danny Woodhead when the Patriots needed a big play. In the running game, BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a monster game. He ran for 112 yards on 17 attempts and 2 touchdowns.  He was a huge contributor to this victory.

On defense, I keep being reminded of the “bend don’t break” defense of the 2001 Super Bowl team. This version gives up yards, but makes stops when it is needed. The stop on the 1 yard line in the first half was huge. The Pats double covered Randy Moss and shut him down. They made the other players beat them. At times the defense was not pretty, but it got the job done when it counted. What I am noticing, which I think is making a huge difference, is that the Patriots are substituting so many players on defense. By having more defenders rotating in and out, I feel it has done a good job of keeping this unit fresh throughout the game.  This group continues to improve, and I look forward to seeing what the defense looks like after Thanksgiving.

This victory by the Patriots I feel was really about a team playing exceptional situational football, and taking advantage of Vikings mistakes. A game can be won or lost on 5 or 6 key plays in a game.  Luckily for the Patriots, they were the ones who ended up making all of these play Sunday.  

As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game.  Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Vikings “.

1. The Patriots need to stop Adrian Peterson. There is no question that Peterson is one of the best backs in the league. He definitely showed what he’s capable of on Sunday, rushing for 92 yards on 25 carries.  However, after a fast start where he gained 68-first half yards, New England held him to just 24 yards rushing in the second half.   They also made big the big play against him, stopping him on that crucial 4th down play. Peterson got his yards early, but the Patriots stopped him from taking over the game.  

 2. The Patriots need to contain Percey Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe. I thought going into the game that the Patriots would shut down Randy Moss, and they did an excellent job on him. I was worried about the other receivers in this game. Harvin and Shiancoe both had good games. In future games the Patriots are going to need do a much better job against the intermediate routes where these two players shined on Sunday. The Pats certainly failed here, but it didn’t end up costing them.

3. The Patriots defense needs to be efficient on third down defense. The Patriots were a little better in third down defense. The Vikings converted 36% of the time. Third down stops is a work in progress, but against the Vikings they showed improvement.

4. The Patriots need to win the turnover battle. Their was only 1 turnover in this game, but it was huge. The interception by Devin McCourty really changed momentum. The Vikings were headed for points, and after the interception, the Patriots punched it in – and the rookie’s second career pick was one of the biggest moments in the game.

 5. The offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. The offensive line stepped up, and did a great job against the Vikings. They kept Brady clean, and allowed him extra time to find the open receiver. Matt Light I thought did an exceptional job on Jared Allen. Overall, this line definitely did their job on Sunday, and it was the first time Brady wasn’t sacked in a game since earlier this season.

So what did we learn from this game? The Vikings are too talented to be 2-5,  but coaching and excelling in situational football are what this team lacks. The Patriots struggled at times on offense, and on defense they still gave up a good amount of yardage.  However, they played much smarter and more physical than Minnesota, which helped them come away with a win.

What are your reactions to the game?  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 28-18 win over Minnesota.