Vikings: 3 keys to defeating the Patriots

In this Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File
In this Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn.

December 02, 2018 08:40 AM

The Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) travel to Foxboro, Mass. to take on the New England Patriots (8-3) Sunday. Kickoff is slated for 3:25 p.m.

Here are three keys to picking up a huge victory on the road.

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Minimize Gronk's Big Plays

It hasn't been a normal All-Pro season for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. He's missed three games due to injuries, only has one 100-yard game and has only scored two touchdowns all season. 

Despite the lack of production this season, Gronk's not a guy defenses can take lightly.

"He's a tough matchup," Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said on Thursday. "He's a big guy, a big catch radius down the field, so we'll have our work cut out for us as far as leveraging him down the field and then going up and being able to compete for the ball."

The Vikings defense is giving up 60 yards receiving to tight ends per week, however, they haven't allowed a touchdown to a tight end since week seven against the Jets.

No Special Teams Mistakes

The Vikings escaped disaster last week when kicker Dan Bailey missed two field goals and the Vikings were still able to beat Green Bay, 24-17. But on the road, against a team that makes regular visits to the Super Bowl, two missed field goals would be much more costly.

The Vikings kick coverage also needs to be at their best. Patriots returner and former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson is still one of the best return men in the NFL. Patterson has a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown this season and ranks second in the league with 30.9 yards per kick return.

"We know what type of player he is," Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer said. "We know what type of attitude and effort and enthusiasm and energy he brings to the locker room. He is the best in the business at what he does as a kickoff returner. We are excited about the challenge and opportunity. We think we have a good plan, we just have to go out and execute and tackle better than we did a week ago and then we go from there."

Make Use of All Weapons on Offense 

The Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL at taking away their opponents' top threat. Against the Vikings, that likely means they'll focus on wide receiver Adam Thielen, who has nine 100-yard receiving games this season. 

That means guys like tight end Kyle Rudolph could have a chance to shine. Rudolph is coming off one of his best games of the season, recording 7 catches for 63 yards against the Packers.

"We love spreading the ball around and would love to get Rudy more involved than he has been," Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said on Thursday. "He did a great job of getting open the other night, just so happened that Kirk [Cousins] was a little bit higher in progressions at times. We found him, so it was great."

Look for wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Laquon Treadwell to get more targets, as well, with the Patriots focusing on Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

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