There was never any question the Vikings’ run defense was ahead of the pass defense. But what New England coach Bill Belichick did Monday night was provide teams with a blue print for how to draw up a game plan against the Vikings.
Essentially, Belichick proved it was OK to abandon the run against the Vikings. New England only ran the ball 15 times. The rest of the time the Patriots operated through the air. Tom Brady completed 29 of 43 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns. In all, Brady completed passes to 10 different receivers in the Patriots’ 31-7 victory.
The key, of course, is that Brady is a special player and the Vikings don’t figure to face a guy like him again this season. “Brady is hands down the best in the league,” Vikings safety Darren Sharper said.
Still, Sharper had some concerns about what had just happened to the defense in front of a national television audience. “We were a lot off,” he said. “You let a guy throw for [nearly] 400 yards. I know it’s Tom Brady but still. We didn’t make enough plays and he just dissected us as a defense. We’re going to be back. We know we have a good team. You don’t face Tom Brady every week. Hopefully we see these guys at the end in the big dance, if we can get there, but we have a lot of things to improve on.”
Cornerback Antoine Winfield also praised Brady. “I’ve played against him a few times and I’ve never seen him do what he did to us tonight,” Winfield said. “We just have to go back to the drawing board and get ready for San Fran next week.”
While Winfield and Sharper talked, safety Dwight Smith continued to refuse to speak with the media after losses. Asked why he only talks after victories, Smith said he’s too emotional and might say something he would later regret.
You have to give the guy credit for having a reason for remaining silent.
– Will Hunter is on the Vikings’ roster mainly because of his ability to contribute on special teams. Thus, Hunter provided good perspective on the third-quarter sequence that saw Mewelde Moore return a punt 71 yards for a touchdown and then was followed by Laurence Maroney’s 77-yard kickoff return that set up a Patriots touchdown.
“We have to make a play, simple as that,” Hunter said. “We have to go out there and have some pride in what we do. We had a big return and we changed momentum we felt like. … Me personally, I take the blame for that [Maroney] return as a special teams guy. I think we put the dagger in ourselves on that play. We’re better than that.”
Hunter credited the Patriots with having a good strategy on the Maroney return. “It was a good call on their part,” Hunter said. “It’s like they set up a wall and a wedge. It was something we haven’t seen before but that shouldn’t stop you from being a football player and making a football play. They just had the right call at the right time.”
Asked about Moore’s return, Hunter said: “He found at least two holes that I can think of just from seeing it from my perspective. He found a couple.”
Moore, by the way, continues to see playing time on offense in third-down passing situations. This leaves him in a blocking or receiving role. Moore caught four passes of 91 yards on Monday and also carried twice for 9 yards. Both of those carries came in the final quarter with the game out of reach.