Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Patriots 24, Vikings 10: 10 quick thoughts from statement win

Ryan Hannable
December 02, 2018 - 7:23 pm

FOXBORO — That was a big-time win.

While beating the Jets on the road coming off a brutal loss last week was nice, the Patriots' 24-10 win over the Vikings Sunday afternoon was a statement victory that showed it can go toe-to-toe with the premier teams in the league. Minnesota entered the game 6-4-1, coming off one of its best wins of the year last week, while battling for the NFC North title.

With the game tied at 10 late in the third quarter, the Patriots scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to blow the game open. The first came on a Josh Gordon touchdown catch, and the other a James Develin touchdown run, his second of the game.

Here are 10 quick thoughts on the contest.

1. Tom Brady finished the game 24-for-32 passing with 311 yards and a touchdown along with an interception. We're still waiting for a vintage Brady performance, but this was certainly good enough to get the win. Brady also went over 1,000 yards rushing for his career with a third-down run in the opening quarter.

2. For the first time all season, the Patriots were full strength on offense and it showed. Brady completed passes to nine different players and seven players had carries. Also, with Rex Burkhead active for the first time since Week 3, the Patriots were able to showcase their two running back sets, mostly on third down. It's to be expected the offense gets even better the next several weeks with more time working with everybody active.

3. While Gronkowski can still help the offense, it’s clear he isn’t the same player as he’s been in the past and opponents are taking notice. Once again Gronkowski did not get any special attention and was single-covered on many of his routes. He seems to lack the explosiveness he had in the past and he now needs a bit of a head start to generate any separation. He also committed three penalties.

4. Apparently good things happen when Gordon gets the ball. After not being targeted for the entire first half and start of the third, with the game tied at 10, Brady went to Gordon twice with the second going for a 24-yard touchdown. It was a bit surprising Gordon wasn't involved in the first half with all the injuries in the Vikings' secondary. Gordon later would draw a pass interference call on the following drive that led to the touchdown that put the Patriots up by 14 points.

5. Defensively, the Patriots were not afraid to go after Kirk Cousins and it exposed the Vikings’ poor offensive line. It seemed whenever the defense was able to pressure Cousins he struggled, but when he was able to stand in the pocket and see the field he was able to have much more success. Trey Flowers and Adam Butler each had sacks.

6. Safety Obi Melifonwu had more of a role on defense than last week against the Jets. On third downs he was matched up 1-on-1 with tight end Kyle Rudolph. This is part of the expected plan with him, as given his athleticism and size he has the ability to cover tight ends and give Patrick Chung a break. Melifonwu did a decent job and showed the ability to compete to the whistle.

7. The other Patriots safeties, notably Devin McCourty, did a nice job covering running backs out of the backfield. This could be something to watch over the next several weeks. New England's linebackers have had issues covering running backs, so maybe the defense changes a bit and allows for the safeties to handle that. McCourty, Chung and Duron Harmon are all very good tacklers.

8. Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and Bill Belichick appeared to have words near the Patriots sideline during the challenge of the spot on a third-and-1 play in the fourth quarter. It seemed like Belichick told him to "shut the [expletive] up." Chris Hogan and Matthew Slater then mock cheered when he dropped a pass a few plays later, so clearly something happened that the Patriots didn't like.

9. The Patriots did a great job on third down. They held the Vikings to just 3-for-12, while going 7-for-14 themselves. That was noteworthy because Minnesota entered the game No. 1 in the league, allowing first downs just 27.6 percent of the time.

10. Flying under the radar this season has been the play of punter Ryan Allen. The free agent to-be has had a very solid year, including really strong performances in back-to-back week. His directional punting has been outstanding and has been able to flip field position on multiple occasions. 

This was Brady's 86th career 300-yard passing game, which is the third-most all-time.

Related: Rob Gronkowski reportedly still dealing with 'rigors of The Patriot Way'