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Extra Points

Patriots vs. Vikings Stock Report: Defense Steps Up After Sloppy Start

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Ann Heisenfelt/AP

I want you to step back from that ledge, my friend.

The New England Patriots' season is not over. Not by a long shot.

The team started flat once again, giving up a touchdown on its opening drive on defense and going three-and-out on its opening drive on offense, but were able to quickly turn it on and score 30 unanswered points, and the Patriots beat the Minnesota Vikings 30-7 in Week 2.

The Patriots move to 1-1 with what could only be described as the very definition of a "team win," with big plays in all three phases. With that, here's a look at some of the risers and fallers following the win.

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Stock Up:

Devin McCourty: In the days and weeks ahead, we could be talking about Devin McCourty's first-quarter interception of Matt Cassel as the play that turned the tide for the Patriots season. It was a great centerfield play by McCourty, who tracked the deep ball to the opposite hashmark and came away with the leaping grab, running it back 60 yards to the Vikings' 1-yard line and setting up a touchdown.

Chandler Jones: Speaking of momentum-changing plays, the Patriots couldn't have asked for a bigger swing than Chandler Jones' block-scoop-and-score on the Vikings' second-quarter field goal attempt with 27 seconds remaining. The third-year edge defender also logged 2.5 sacks of Cassel as an outside linebacker, where he spent most of the game after lining up as a 5-technique last week against the Miami Dolphins.

Dont'a Hightower: The Patriots mixed things up a lot on defense this week without Jamie Collins in the lineup, but Dont'a Hightower was up to the challenge regardless of where he was lining up. He continued to show his ability to get into the backfield as an outside linebacker, making a tackle-for-loss and six total tackles. He logged a sack of Cassel in the third quarter to help keep the momentum on the Patriots' side, and split a sack with Chandler Jones on the Vikings' final drive of the game. Hightower also had a pair of nice open-field tackles of Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Hightower has been a revelation as an edge defender, where he excelled at Alabama prior to being drafted by New England.

Julian Edelman: "Minitron" strikes again. For the second straight week, Edelman made a huge impact in the first half, hauling in three receptions on the Patriots' second-quarter scoring drive, including the touchdown on a corner route. Edelman finished with six catches on seven targets for 81 yards and the TD. He once again made his presence felt in the running game with a nine-yard carry on a reverse, and in the return game with four punt returns for 66 yards. There were some scary moments for Edelman, who was knocked around quite a bit on Sunday, but if he can stay healthy, he will continue to be a big part of the Patriots' offensive attack.

Stevan Ridley: After putting up just 21 yards on eight carries in Week 1, Stevan Ridley had a huge bounce-back week against the Vikings front seven. He ran the ball 25 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, running hard through arm tackles

Stephen Gostkowski: Not only did Stephen Gostkowski hit two more field goals from 40-plus yards, but he also had four touchbacks to help keep the ball out of the hands of Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson had just one kickoff return for 23 yards.


Stock Down:

Marcus Cannon: The Patriots still have some question marks in the middle of the offensive line. They ran the ball 37 times for 150 yards, but left guard Marcus Cannon struggled for a second straight week. He was called for a holding penalty in the first quarter, and was turned around as safety Harrison Smith tackled Stevan Ridley short of the first-down marker on 3rd-and-1 near the end of the second quarter. He also failed to clear the way on Tom Brady's 3rd-and-1 sneak midway through the fourth quarter. Cannon was replaced by backup guard Josh Kline in the fourth quarter.

Deontae Skinner: It may be unfair to be hard on a practice-squad player who was called up to the 53-man roster a day before the game, but Deontae Skinner left a lot to be desired. He was targeted three times on the Vikings' opening drive, giving up receptions on each. He also overpursued on some zone runs — especially troubling, considering that's been a point of emphasis this week in practice.

Danny Amendola: This one is pretty simple: one target, zero catches. Danny Amendola has fallen a far way from his status as one of Brady's favorite targets in Week 1 of the 2013 season, and now has just three catches on six targets all season. The Patriots need to spread the ball out to other weapons so that opposing defenses can't hone in on Edelman.