Coming off a road win against the Jets, the Patriots found themselves facing a desperate Vikings team fighting for playoff survival.
The Patriots got off to an ideal start forcing a quick 3-and-out after the Vikings received the opening kickoff. Then, Brady came out of the gates slinging it, completing passes of 13, 18, 24, and 15 yards to move the Patriots into the redzone. After an Edelman end-around got the ball to the MIN1, James Devlin capped the 8 play 86-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
The Vikings found a groove on their next possession, moving the ball to the NE23 after Dalvin Cook busted a 32 yard run off right guard. Adam Butler subsequently sacked Kirk Cousins, however, and Dan Bailey ended up shanking the ensuing 48-yard field goal. The Patriots took over in prime field position and wasted no time in achieving their goals.
No, not – scoring, the drive ended in a punt after gaining only 16 yards – I’m talking about TB12 hitting 1K rushing yards on his career!! Thanks to a 5 yard scamper on 3rd and 3, Brady at long last achieved this historic threshold and proved all his combine doubters wrong. Or something like that. Anyhow, the Vikings next drive didn’t fare much better gaining 18 yards before punting right back.
Moving into the second quarter, New England marched on a 15 play drive starring Rex Burkhead and James White. Unfortunately once inside the 10, Edelman could only get down to the MIN1, Brady’s next pass was incomplete, and the Patriots frustratingly settled for 3 points and a 10-0 lead.
The Vikings offense continued to sputter, gaining one first down on a Cook run before being forced to punt. The Patriots were unable to capitalize, however, going 3-and-out after a Gronk first reception was overturned and ruled one yard short. With the first half winding down, the Vikings finally put it all together as they went into a no-huddle attack. A pair of 24 and 23 yard passes from Cousins moved the ball from the MIN26 to the NE27. Four plays later the Vikings had 1st and goal on the NE5, when Cousins find Adam Thielen, who had an otherwise quiet game, for the touchdown with only 19 seconds remaining in the half.
The Patriots used a nifty lateral on the squib kick to get to the NE40, and one play brought the ball to the NE47 with one second left in the half. Rather than attempt a Hail Mary, Brady threw a check down to James White who raced 42 yards to the MIN11 before getting tackled. Cheeky little boost for fantasy stats, but the end result was still a 10-7 ballgame at the half.
The Patriots would receive the ball after the break, but went 3-and-out. In a day largely dominated by the defenses, however, the Vikings did the exact same thing and were forced to kick the ball right back after a 3 play drive.
The Patriots then began marching on a 12 play, 71-yard drive. Bolstered by a 29 yard pass to Cordarrelle Patterson, strong running/receiving from James White, and a 4th down conversion to Chris Hogan, the Patriots drove to the MIN25. An untimely holding penalty pushed the Patriots back, however, and Gostkowski’s resulting 48 yard field goal ended up sailing wide right. The Vikings still trailed only 10-7 in a game that didn’t feel nearly as close.
Taking advantage of the good field position, the Vikings drove 51-yards in 12 plays, as Aldrick Robinson and Dalvin Cook continued to feature. In classic bend-don’t-break fashion, however, the Patriots defense stiffened around the redzone, and the Vikings were forced to settle for a field goal and a 10-10 tie.
The Patriots quickly reasserted themselves. Brady needed only 4 plays to go 75 yards, finding Josh Gordon twice for 24 yards, the second of which went for a touchdown and a 17-10 lead. Notably, this was Brady’s 508th regular season touchdown pass, tying him with Brett Favre for 3rd all time, and his 579th touchdown pass including the postseason, tying him with Peyton Manning for most all time. GOAT train full-steam ahead!
The Vikings responded by going 3-and-out after Trey Flowers sacked Cousins on 3rd down, and Edelman hustled for a 23-yard punt return setting up the Patriots at midfield. A 20-yard DPI penalty on a pass intended for Gordon moved the ball to the MIN30. From there the Patriots methodically moved the remaining distance, and when Josh Gordon came up 2 yard short of the endzone on a slant, Develin happily punched the ball in for his second TD of the game, and a 24-10 lead.
Most of the 4th quarter remained, so the game was far from over, but the Patriots defense had no intentions of letting the Vikings back into the game. After 3 plays, Minnesota faced a 4th-and-1 on their own 38. Murray ran up the middle and was just barely given the yard, which the Patriots unsuccessfully challenged. After gaining another first down and reaching Patriots territory, however, the Vikings again stalled, and soon faced 4th-and-11 from the NE48. The Vikings would not convert this time; Cousins pass to Laquon Treadwell gained only 4 yards before Stephon Gilmore tackled him well short of the first down.
Looking for a drive to seal the game, Brady was instead uncharacteristically intercepted by Eric Kendricks on a short pass intended for Edelman. Cousins, sensing momentum for a comeback, moved the Vikings to the NE42 with two passes, and then took his shot deep… which turned out to be a big mistake. JC Jackson and Duron Harmon were all over Robinson and Harmon came up with the ball after briefly juggling it.
In a preview of the Super bowl, the Patriots then iced the game with an 11-play, 60 yard drive featuring nothing but runs. The Patriots eventually punted the ball back to the Vikings after stalling at the MIN35, but only 48 seconds remained. Cousins’ final drive last two plays before his desperation heave for Thielen was picked off by Jonathan Jones. Humorously, Brady made sure he didn’t lose a yard on the final kneel-down, to ensure TB1K stayed that way. The Patriots kept pace in the AFC improving to 9-3 with the win, while the Vikings season continued to come off the rails as they dropped to 6-5-1.