The Patriots took advantage of three Vikings turnovers to build a 21-0 first half lead and held on for the 24-17 victory at a windy Gillette Stadium. New England improved to 6-5 on the season while the Vikings fall to 3-8.
Minnesota started the game with an impressive drive from its own 24-yard line down to the Patriots 10. But following an intentional grounding call on Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper that pushed the offense back 17 yards, the team was forced to settle for a Gary Anderson 43-yard field goal attempt. Richard Seymour blocked the Minnesota kick and New England took over with potentially prosperous field position at its own 33-yard line.
Tom Brady and company proceeded to march on a 12-play, 67-yard scoring drive that culminated in a Brady to tight end Christian Fauria 9-yard score. The drive showed a good balance of five rushes and seven passes, as well as a beneficial replay-overturn of an Antowain Smith fumble that had been recovered by the Vikings.
Following a lifeless drive by Minnesota, the first quarter ended with the Patriots holding the 7-0 lead.
New England put together another balanced drive early in the second quarter that included four rushes and four passes and culminated yet again with a Brady to Fauria score, this time a 1-yarder, for a Patriots 14-0 lead. The biggest play on the 8-play, 56-yard drive was a Brady to Deion Branch catch-and-run- for a 20-yard gain to the Minnesota 5-yard line.
The Patriots got the ball back just two plays later when Culpepper was sacked at his own 26-yard line and fumbled. Patriots safety Victor Green recovered at the Vikings 29, and New England looked to score for a third time just over two minutes into the second quarter.
This time New England took a slightly more conservative attack as Smith rushed on five of the seven plays on the drive, but the results were essentially the same. Brady found wide receiver Troy Brown open in the middle of the end zone and the Patriots pushed out to a 21-0 lead with 8:02 left in the first half.
Despite two Vikings turnovers, one on a second Culpepper fumble and the other a fumble by running back Michael Bennett, the Patriots could put very little offense together in the middle of the second quarter. In fact, after taking possession on the Minnesota 31-yard line following the Bennett fumble, New England turned the ball over on downs when Brady was sacked on a fourth-and-10 attempt with just over a minute to go in the half.
The Vikings used a no-huddle offense to march down the field and crack the scoreboard on a Culpepper to D'Wayne Bates 6-yard score. Following the five-play, 61-yard drive and Patriots kneel-down, the teams went to the locker rooms with New England holding a 21-7 advantage.
Brady was an impressive 14-of-18 in the first half for 129 yards and three short touchdowns.
After little significant action early in the third quarter, the Vikings took over at the Patriots 44-yard line following a short, 23-yard Ken Walter punt. Minnesota took advantage of the good field position and moved the 44 yards in just 7 plays to climb back into the game at 21-14 on a Culpepper to Kelly Campbell 7-yard score. Campbell, wearing the unusual wide receiver number of 16, keyed the Vikings on the drive catching three balls for 23 yards, including the score.
Another short Patriots possession that saw just a single first down led to another Walter punt that gave the ball back to the Vikings at their own 24. Two big plays, a 21-yard run by Bennett and a 17-yard run by Culpepper, soon had the Vikings knocking on the door again with the ball at the New England 24-yard line. But two incomplete passes and a costly false start penalty forced the Vikings into another field goal attempt. Anderson was good on this 38-yard attempt and his team pulled within four at 21-17.
This time though, the Patriots were quick to answer thanks to back-to-back big plays by the running backs in the passing game. Brady hit Smith for 26 yards and then fullback Marc Edwards for 27 yards and the Patriots were quickly in the red zone at the Vikings 19. But the drive stalled there and New England settled for an Adam Vinatieri 34-yard field goal, 24-17.
The kick completed the scoring at 11:09 in the fourth quarter, but the game seemed to be anything but over at the time. As much as the Patriots were moving the ball in the first half, the Vikings did the same in the second. Minnesota drove to the Patriots 23 later in the fourth quarter, but came away empty-handed as a 41-yard field goal attempt by Anderson sailed wide left.
The New England offense was unable to move the ball at all in the fourth quarter to run out the clock, but Patriots defenders came up with the stops, including twice on Minnesota fourth down attempts, to push the team to victory.
It was neither easy nor pretty, but the Patriots came away with the 24-17 victory to help keep pace in the AFC East. New England must recover quickly though, and prepare for a game on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit that is now just three days away.
Roman Phifer led the Patriots with 10 tackles and two forced fumbles. … Seymour, Tedy Bruschi and rookie Jarvis Green all had sacks for New England. … The inactives for the Patriots were Rohan Davey, J.R. Redmond, Tebucky Jones, Greg Randall, Tom Ashworth, Cam Cleeland and Bernard Holsey. … Randy Moss led the Vikings with 8 catches for 92 yards. Culpepper finished completing 24-of-49 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns