Defense Dominates as Patriots Trounce Vikings


Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Following a lackluster opening-day performance, the New England Patriots defense made a statement Sunday, sparking a 30-7 beat-down of the Minnesota Vikings. All things seemed to be clicking for Bill Belichick’s defensive unit. Vikings quarterback Matt Cassell was downright overwhelmed as the defense more than lived up to its preseason hype. Everything seemed to fall into place, rendering the Miami loss nothing more than a distant memory.

Despite a lopsided final score, the Vikings jumped out of the gate with guns blazing. Cassell orchestrated an 80-yard touchdown drive on their first offensive possession. Matt Asiata capped off the drive with a 25-yard grab from Cassell. The Patriots immediately tightened up. They yielded just 137 yards from scrimmage from that point on.

New England’s relentless pass rush and ballhawking secondary left Cassell battered and puzzled. He threw for just 202 yards. The Patriots intercepted him four times and tallied six sacks. Minnesota couldn’t establish the run either. The front seven, led by Jerod Mayo, limited Asiata and company to just 54 rushing yards.

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Devin McCourty set the tone for the defense. He roamed over and stepped in front of a Cassell deep ball on Minnesota’s second drive of the game. McCourty returned it all the way to the goal-line which led to a Stevan Ridley touchdown scamper. Darrelle Revis stepped in front of a ball heading for Greg Jennings in the second quarter. Logan Ryan added an interception in the third. Then in the fourth, rookie defensive tackle Dominique Easley, snagged the Patriots fourth and final pick of the day.

Much of the success had by the secondary can be attributed to lockdown coverage and terrific positioning, but the way New England’s front seven dominated Minnesota’s offensive line opened the eyes of many. Chandler Jones feasted on the Vikings line, recording a pair of sacks and eight tackles. Dont’a Hightower was equally effective. He was all over the field, notching two sacks and eight tackles as well. Rob Ninkovich and Kyle Arrington also had one sack each.

Jones also accounted for the defense’s most noteworthy play. Prior to the end of the first half, Jones returned a field-goal block 58 yards for a touchdown. It was as complete a defensive effort as anyone could have asked for.

The Patriots eliminated Minnesota’s top threats in Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph. The two combined for just nine catches. With Adrian Peterson out of the lineup, the game was in Cassell’s hands and he was forced to live a nightmare.

With ferocious defensive line pressure and perhaps the best secondary in football, the possibilities are endless if they move forward and build on their outstanding showing. The talent is their and the depth is second to none. Look for the Patriots defense to quickly ascend to the top of the NFL.