Patriots run past Favre, Vikings
FOXBOROUGH -- At the start of October there were a lot of questions about what type of team the Patriots were going to be. At the end of the month, they're a team that is in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
How's that for a Halloween treat?
The Patriots find themselves in their familiar perch atop the AFC East after dispatching the Minnesota Vikings, 28-18, today at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots' fifth straight win coupled with the New York Jets' loss to the Green Bay Packers puts New England all alone in first place with a 6-1 record.
Today the Patriots dressed up as their 1985 predecessors -- the team donned throwback uniforms -- and undressed former teammate Randy Moss, aging icon Brett Favre, and the Vikings.
Moss, traded to the Vikings on Oct. 6 for a third-round pick, didn't get a warm reception or much else from his former team until after the game. Moss hugged former teammates Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady, raised his hands to the remainder of the happy crowd, and high-fived the End Zone Militia as he left the field.
During the game Moss was booed the only time he touched the ball (with 12:03 left in the third quarter) and was manhandled most of the day by his former teammates, who double-teamed him with safety help. The one time the Patriots left the prodigal pass catcher one-on-one he drew a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Brandon Meriweather that helped set up the Vikings' second touchdown.
After a week of will-he-or-won't-he speculation, Favre shook off fractures in his heel bone and ankle to extend his consecutive games streak to 292 games. But he didn't last the whole game. Trailing 21-13, Favre was knocked out of the game on a hit by Myron Pryor with 7:31 left. Tavaris Jackson came in for Favre (22 of 32 for 259 yards and an interception) and threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Naufahu Tahi. A 2-point conversion pass to Percy Harvin pulled the Vikings within three with 7:26 to go.
But BenJarvus Green-Ellis (17 rushes for 112 yards) helicoptered in for a 2-yard touchdown -- and his first career multi-touchdown game -- with 1:56 to go, and that signaled the end for coach Brad Childress and the Vikings.
The Patriots proved they didn't need Moss to go deep. They went up top to go on top for the first time in the game via a 65-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Brandon Tate with 7:59 left in the third quarter. Brady (16 of 27 for 240 yards and a score) did his best Favre impersonation, turning his back to the line of scrimmage to keep the play alive and then unleashing a deep pass to a streaking Tate, who got his first career touchdown reception.
Earlier, Favre committed his 15th turnover of the year and 11th interception as he was picked off by Devin McCourty on a ball he threw behind and off Harvin at the Patriots' 26. McCourty returned the ball to the Minnesota 37, and four plays later Green-Ellis waltzed in for a 13-yard score as the Patriots went up 21-10 with 2:25 left in the third quarter.
The game was tied, 7-7, at the half thanks to a goal-line stand by the Patriots defense. After a 10-yard pass to Toby Gerhart on third and goal, the Vikings elected to go for six instead of taking the field goal. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Patriots stuffed Adrian Peterson (25 carries for 92 yards) to keep the Vikings off the board with 1:02 left in the half.
The Vikings literally jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a goal line play three seconds into the second quarter, when Peterson scored a disputed 1-yard touchdown. Peterson tried to leap over the top and was met in mid-air by Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. It was tough to tell where Peterson actually broke the plane. The Patriots replay-challenged the ruling but it stood up.
The Patriots tricked the Vikings to tie the game. On third and 2 from the 3, New England lined up in the shotgun with running back Danny Woodhead next to Brady. They direct snapped the ball to Woodhead, who weaved into the end zone. The score was set-up by a fortuitous 32-yard completion to Tate (three catches for 101 yards), who made a juggling grab after Vikings safety Madieu Williams blew an apparent interception.
That's the story of the Patriots' season: right place, right time.