On a foggy Sunday afternoon in Foxboro, Massachusetts, the New England Patriots sent a message to the rest of the NFL.
‘Winter is Coming.’
For fans of the critically and socially acclaimed HBO drama, Game of Thrones, “Winter Is Coming” is the motto of House Stark, one of the Great Houses of Westeros. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Starks, being the lords of the North, strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter. The season means colder weather, greater adversity and the need for added strength.
For these New England ‘lords of the North,’ December began in commanding fashion. They found victory on the strength of their defense, and on the back of a fullback.
James Develin (said ‘fullback’) had a career-high two touchdown runs, and Tom Brady completed 24 of 32 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown as New England beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10.
While the Pats had their share of offensive highlights, they truly thrived on the defensive side of the football. Their front seven pressured Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins and exploited the struggles of the Vikings offensive line. Trey Flowers and Adam Butler each had sacks, thus keeping Cousins uncomfortable for much of the game. He finished 32 of 44 for 201 yards and touchdown. However, he also had two late interceptions, via a Pats secondary that continues to improve each week.
On the offensive side, the Patriots put in a stellar effort, despite some sputters. They converted 7-for-14 on third down, against a Vikings defense that prides itself on being stingy in allowing third-down yardage. Minnesota entered the game ranked first in the league in that area, only allowing first downs 27.6 percent of the time. The Vikings also entered the game allowing the third-fewest rushing yards in the league (93.6 per game). However, the Patriots enjoyed some ground success as well, rushing for 160 yards.
In what had been a close game for the better part of three quarters, the Patriots established control late in the third quarter. With the score tied at 10, New England needed just four plays for Brady to cap a 75-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon. The score put the Patriots back in front 17-10.
Following a Vikings punt, the Patriots were quick to add seven more. This time they needed only six plays to set up a 2-yard TD run by Develin that made it 24-10.
Minnesota did have one last gasp, after Brady threw his first interception in five games to Eric Kendricks. However, Cousins’ pass into the end was tipped by J.C. Jackson and intercepted by Duron Harmon. At that point, victory became a mere formality.
With the win, the Patriots improve to 9-3 on the season. They have won eight of nine since starting the season 1-2 and are 2-0 since their bye-week.
Winter is coming…and it appears that the Patriots are ready.
- With a 5-yard scramble in the first quarter. Tom Brady reached 1000 yards rushing in his career. At 41, he is the oldest player to reach 1,000 career rushing yards since 1970.
•Brady also completed his 579th touchdown pass (including playoffs,) which tied him with Peyton Manning for the most all time. He has 508 regular-season TD passes, which ties him with Brett Favre on the career list. Manning is first with 539 and Drew Brees has 518.
- Brady improved to 5-0 against the Minnesota Vikings on his career. They are one of five teams (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Tampa Bay) against whom he has a perfect regular-season record.
- With Sunday’s win, the Patriots have clinched their 18th straight winning season. It is the second-longest streak in NFL history. The record is held by the Cowboys at 20 seasons from 1966-85.
- Bill Belichick earned his 250th victory, including playoffs, as head coach of the New England Patriots
*Statistics via Associated Press
The Patriots will take their talents, as well as their AFC East-leading 9-3 record to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins next Sunday, December 9 at 1:00 pm.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC