NFL: Vikings wary of 0-1 Patriots as well they should be

The Minnesota Vikings are 1-0, lead the league in scoring defense and are the only team not to allow a touchdown. The Patriots are 0-1 and alone in last place in the AFC East for the first time since 2000.

The Minnesota Vikings are 1-0, lead the league in scoring defense and are the only team not to allow a touchdown. The Patriots are 0-1 and alone in last place in the AFC East for the first time since 2000.

Oh yeah, quarterback Tom Brady's passer rating (69.7) also is 44.1 points behind his former understudy and current Vikings starter Matt Cassel.

"That's the NFL," said fullback Jerome Felton, shaking his head Wednesday as the Vikings got ready to begin their week of practice for Sunday's home opener against the Patriots at TCF Bank Stadium. "But we know how quickly everything changes upside down."

Just to be safe, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer opened Wednesday's team meeting by reminding his players just how unusual the Patriots have been with Bill Belichick as their head coach and Brady as their quarterback.

"He said the last time they were 0-1, they went 14-1 the rest of the season," linebacker Jasper Brinkley said.


They also won the Super Bowl that year, which was 2003. And if that's not enough to guard against the potential for overconfidence (sounds odd when you're talking about playing the Patriots, eh?), the Vikings also were made aware of the fact that Belichick is 34-4 in games following a loss, having dropped back-to-back games only four times since 2003.

"That was kind of a wake-up call right there, if we really needed one," Brinkley said.

On paper at least, the matchup doesn't appear as daunting as it did a week ago.

While beating the Rams 34-6 in St. Louis on Sunday, the Vikings ran for 186 yards on 30 carries (6.2) and had a league-high five sacks. Meanwhile, in a 33-20 loss at Miami, the Patriots gave up 191 yards on 38 carries (5.0) and surrendered as many second-half sacks (four) as they had first downs.

"It's encouraging," said defensive tackle Tom Johnson. "But at the same time, it's the Patriots."

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 7-4. Patriots have won three straight since a 21-13 loss in 2000. New England is 2-2 at Minnesota and will be making its only appearance at TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings' temporary home until their new stadium is built. The last meeting in Minnesota was a 31-7 Patriots win at the Metrodome in 2006.


Minnesota Vikings - NOTES, QUOTES


--Well, here's a stat you don't see every day: Matt Cassel's passer rating (113.8) is 44.1 points higher than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's passer rating of 69.7.

Not a bad start for the guy who backed up Brady from 2005 until the 2008 opener, when Brady went down with a season-ending knee injury. Cassel helped the Patriots to an 11-5 record that year and was traded to Kansas City for a second-round draft pick after the season.

"It's been six years now and I have great, fond memories," Cassel said. "I'm forever grateful for them giving me the start. Coach (Bill) Belichick and (former Patriots general manager) Scott Pioli and those guys for drafting me, really for somebody who hadn't started a game in college and giving me an opportunity to grow, to learn and I feel very fortunate and blessed that I had that opportunity to do that. It helped me mature into the player that I am today."

Cassel called Brady a "great mentor" and often talks about how he can't get on other guys for making mental mistakes if he is making them, too. He said he learned that from Brady. He recalled a time in practice when he forgot a motion on a particular play. He still completed the pass, but when he got to the sideline, Brady "got after him pretty good" for forgetting to motion the player.

"The whole point to why he did it, he said, 'Look, you can't be a guy and seen as a leader if you're making mistakes, simple mistakes, on the field. You can't be a guy that goes up and tries to get after somebody else if you're making those mistakes,'" Cassel said. "And I thought it was a great point and I've carried that with me wherever I've gone. And just his approach. I think that his approach was tremendous and I really learned a lot from him."

--The Patriots could use a receiver. The Vikings have a budding superstar in Cordarrelle Patterson. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he's OK with having made the trade that resulted in the Vikings taking Patterson 29th overall in 2013.

The Vikings traded four picks to the Patriots to move back into the first round last year. The Vikings aren't objecting to Patterson, who became a rookie All-Pro kick returner and a guy who has now scored touchdowns in six consecutive games, including Sunday's 67-yarder that came on a toss sweep from the tailback position.

The Patriots aren't complaining either, Belichick told the Twin Cities media on Wednesday. New England took versatile linebacker Jamie Collins with Minnesota's 52nd overall pick, cornerback Logan Ryan with the 83rd and wide receiver Josh Boyce with the 102nd. They traded the 229th overall pick for running back LeGarrette Blount, who was effective in his one season there.


"We made the decision based on what we felt was best for our team," he said. "That's what we always do. We felt like at that time it would be the best thing for our team, and that's what we did."

Belichick wouldn't say whether the Vikings would have taken Patterson with the pick.

"I don't know," he said. "We didn't hold onto it, so. There were a lot of good players at that point. We feel we got one with the player we picked plus the other selections we received in moving back."

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 - Number of new defensive starters who lined up for the season opener in St. Louis. Only left end Brian Robison, free safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Chad Greenway were starters a year ago.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Played him once. My rookie year. It wasn't pretty. He put up (369) yards and beat us 36-7 in Chicago. So, yeah, the Patriots are 0-1. But they still got Tom Brady. He can make things a nightmare if you're not prepared to play." - Vikings defensive end Corey Wootton, when asked if Brady and the Patriots look vulnerable.

GAME PLAN: The Vikings are tied with Jacksonville for the league lead in sacks with five. The Patriots' offensive line is struggling, having allowed as many sacks (four) in the second half at Miami as the team had first downs. Mix in the fact the game will be played in Minnesota and, suddenly, Tom Brady looks a little less daunting. Vikings players know they're losing some of the noise factor from the Metrodome, but are still hopeful that their temporary home, TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota, will assist coach Mike Zimmer's multiple nickel blitz packages. If the pressure on Brady is there and Adrian Peterson has as much success as Miami's Knowshon Moreno had last week (134 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries), the Vikings could be 2-0 while the Patriots are 0-2.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots LB Jerod Mayo, who had a team-high 12 tackles in the season-opening loss at Miami, vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who was held in check for the most part with 75 yards on 21 carries in the win at St. Louis. Of course, this is not an individual matchup. Mayo needs help up front, especially from a player the stature of Vince Wilfork. In his first game back after missing 12 last season because of an Achilles' tendon tear, Wilfork was one of the players who wilted in the South Florida heat in the second half a week ago. That allowed Knowshon Moreno and the Dolphins to gash the Patriots defense with runs up the middle. Peterson certainly is capable of gashing defenses all by himself. But the Patriots also have to be concerned with stopping receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as a runner. He had 102 yards on just three carries, including a 67-yarder off a toss sweep that came with him lined up at tailback in the I formation.

--Patriots RT Sebastian Vollmer, who gave up two strip-sack fumbles to Miami's Cameron Wake, vs. Vikings LE Brian Robison and OLB Anthony Barr, who will be part of coach Mike Zimmer's unpredictable nickel rush packages. Heck, the way Zimmer moves his chess pieces around the board, right end Everson Griffen (4.5 sacks in his last three games) might even get a crack at Vollmer. The Patriots have to be prepared for any and all combinations. Barr, the rookie ninth overall draft pick, rushed from both end positions. Once, he rushed from left end with free safety Harrison Smith blitzing hard off his outside shoulder and knocking down Rams quarterback Shaun Hill. Robison is the team's most seasoned rusher. Like most of his teammates, he's also versatile enough to rush from the outside or inside.

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