Patriots using an old school approach in a new age NFL
It’s all part of the script.
The New England Patriots may have slogged their way through a good portion Sunday’s 24-10 humdrum win over the dazed and confused Minnesota Vikings on Sunday but they weren’t going to come out on the short end.
You knew that, right? It was just a matter of how they were going to win.Minnesota came out sluggish, and even when the Vikings tied it at 10 late in the third quarter, it took just two Tom Brady to Josh Gordon passes to wake everyone up at Gillette Stadium. It was over.
The Vikes had a lot to play for in this one, too. A win would have put them a half a game behind Da Bears for first place in the NFC North, and team owner Zygi Wilf and his entourage was glued to the press box TV to watch Chicago’s temporary comeback vs. the Giants. Instead they’re 6-5-1 and fighting for a playoff spot.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was intent on going for the big play even when it wasn’t there, befuddled by the different looks the Patriots were giving him, including just one down lineman. And when he needed the big play, he went short. Just a performance for a team that has been hot and cold all season, and Cousins (201 yards passing, two interceptions, one TD) was fairly cold.
Clearly, this was not a game for students of the new school NFL. Explosive just wasn’t in anyone’s vocabularly – well almost anyone’s.
Gordon to the rescue. Invisible in the first half, he had three receptions in the second, including a touchdown on New England’s go-ahead drive on the final play of the fourth quarter. For a few moments, the new NFL was back.
Why did it take so long?
“They did a good job of mixing up their coverages,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the Vikings. “They did a good job of taking away our outside receivers – for a while. Then it changed.”
What say you, Tom Brady?
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It’s just sometimes it just goes to different guys, and sometimes more Julian (Edelman), Josh, a lot of guys to get the ball to, so it’s just whoever’s open usually gets it. I’m trying to find the most open guy…
“I’m not sure, but we’ve got to take advantage of all parts of the field. I think that’s going to be a key for us.”
Gordon got open right when it was needed. He remains a mystery to some, hard t analyze, but the talent is irrefutable. He’s been saying and doing all the right things, and while everyone waits for this eight catch breakout game, he’s just going to make big plays when he can in an offense that has suddenly become more of an even-tempo unit in today’s high tempo game.
“I didn’t really question the game plan,” Gordon said after Sunday’s win. “I just went along with it. It seemed to work in our favor, and the coaches, my trust is in the coaches. I think they trust me. So, it worked out for us.”
While the defensive players in the Patriots locker room were noisy and celebrating, the offensive players were polite, happy, but not jumping for joy – except for fullback James Develin, part of the old school script with two TDs. You can tell the rest of the offensive skill position players want those days of 30 and 40-point games to return. For example, Rob Gronkowski only had three catches for 26 yards. Different game.
“I think we left a lot out there,” Edelman said.
Cordarrelle Patterson explained the mindset: Patience.
“Their defense, (the Vikings) don’t give up big plays,” he said. “So we just said, ‘Don’t get frustrated.'”
So the Patriots waited. They have Gordon to make a big catch here and there. Plus others. Old school? New school? Nah. In December at Gillette, it seems the Patriots just take the opponent to school any way they can.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,firstname.lastname@example.org, or@Telegraph_TomK