Stevan Ridley led the New England ground game in Sunday’s win. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
After a shocking loss to the Dolphins in Miami in the season-opener, the Patriots bounced back nicely Sunday against the Vikings, coming away with a 30-7 win.
Tom Brady finished 15-for-22 for 149 yards and one touchdown. Julian Edelman had six catches for 81 yards and one touchdown and Shane Vereen added six rushes for 40 yards. On the ground, Stevan Ridley had 25 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown.
In addition, Chandler Jones had a pair of sacks, and a blocked field goal and return for touchdown (58 yards) just before the end of the first half.
On the other side of the ball, Matt Cassel was 19-for-35 for 202 yards with one touchdown and four picks. he was sacked six times. In addition, Matt Asiata 13 for 36 yards, and five catches for 48 yards.
Here are 10 things we learned about the Patriots on Sunday:
It was a much better week for Tom Brady and the offense, particularly down the stretch.
The Patriots were a team of two halves in the opener last week against the Dolphins, with an impressive start and a lousy finish. But on Sunday against the Vikings, New England was able to put together an impressive 60 minute performance, dominating in all areas. That included the work of the quarterback, who was in command throughout, getting more than enough time to throw (we’ll get into more of the reasons why shortly) and making impressive hookups with Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
Chandler Jones had a really impressive bounceback game.
It wasn’t just the blocked field goal and touchdown on the return shorty before the end of the first half. The defensive end was able to get good pressure throughout the afternoon on Cassel, helping cave in the pocket and making life difficult for the Minnesota passing game for much of the day. Jones had two sacks (Dont’a Hightower added two, while Rob Ninkovich and Kyle Arrington added one each) and was able to display the sort of consistency the Patriots are craving from his spot going forward.
Bill Belichick still has Norv Turner‘s number.
The Patriots coach and Turner go back almost 20 years, but one thing that’s been pretty constant over the seasons is the fact that more often than not, Belichick knows how to beat a Turner-led offense. Belichick improved his personal mark against Turner to 11-2 (that’s since he took over the Patriots prior to the 2000 season). The last time Turner got the better if Belichick was October 2008 when Turner was the head coach of the Chargers and Cassel was quarterbacking New England. (Overall, it’s a three-game winning streak for Belichick.)
Darrelle Revis helped shut things down.
The cornerback had his first pick in a New England uniform, coming away with a second-quarter ball on a Cassel attempt for Greg Jennings. (For what it’s worth, Revis apparently told the TV broadcast crew on Saturday night that he was going to be with Jennings all day. We’ll need to take a closer look at the all-22 film when it is released, but that appeared to be the case.) An extremely unscientific look at his afternoon revealed three passes in his direction, with one interception and no completions. Over the course of his career, when Revis comes away with an interception, his teams are 19-3.
Julian Edelman is in perfect sync with Tom Brady.
The undersized slot receiver again put up big numbers as the lead option in New England’s passing game. On the Patriots second scoring drive of the afternoon, he accounted for 59 of a possible 61 yards, hooking up with Brady on a sweet 44-yard connection and adding a 9-yard catch to make it 17-7 midway through the second quarter. (He added a nifty 34-yard punt return in the second half.) Since the start of the preseason, no receiver has displayed a better connection with the quarterback — including the preseason, he’s caught 22 of the 25 passes thrown in his direction.
For the Patriots, it’s go big or go home.
New England utilized several six-man offensive lines over the course of the game, and in conjunction with plenty of two-back sets, allowed the Patriots to move the chains on the ground for the first time all year. Ridley ran with authority between tackles, topping the 100-yard mark for the first time on the season.
They did a nice job effectively taking Cordarrelle Patterson out of the game.
Patterson entered the game as one of the most effective multidimensional threats in the game (he had 128 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the regular-season opener against the Rams), but was shut down by the Patriots. In the early going, New England clearly had the focus on Patterson, and it showed when Cassel was able to successfully execute some nice play-fakes on the first drive on the way to an early touchdown. But Patterson never got going, and ended with four catches for 56 yards. A good display of team defense for the Patriots against one of the more dangerous offensive threats in the league.
The Patriots can take advantage of opportunities.
In contrast to last week — where the Patriots could only get 10 points out of three first half turnovers — New England did a much better job against the Vikings. They picked off Cassel four times, and turned it into 17 points on the afternoon. It started with a momentum swing of an interception from Devin McCourty in the first quarter, and was followed by the first pick of Darrelle Revis’ career when he got his own Cassel pass. A third pick from Logan Ryan was cashed in a few plays later when Gostkowski banged home his second 47-yard field goal of the day. Rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley added his first career interception midway through the fourth quarter on a tipped ball to finish the day.
Special teams had a much better day.
Stephen Gostkowski kept it out of range of Patterson for most of the afternoon on kickoffs (and added three field goals), while Julian Edelman had a 34-yard punt return in the second half. In addition, Matthew Slater did a masterful job leading the punt coverage team and Jones had a blocked field goal attempt and touchdown at the end of the second quarter which helped bury the Vikings. In sharp contrast to last week, it was a good afternoon for the New England special teamers.
Penalties are a problem.
In the first two games, the Patriots have 24 penalties, not counting calls that were declined or offset. (They didn’t hit the 22-penalty mark until after four full games last season.) New England is on pace for 176 penalties, a remarkable total considering it was hit with 69 penalties all last year, the second-fewest total in the league. Left tackle Nate Solder took three penalties on a single two-play sequence in the second half.