Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots coaching staff probably had a long night Friday after finding out star running back Adrian Peterson would be inactive on Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings deactivated Peterson on Friday after he was indicted on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child. The Patriots likely game-planned to stop Peterson for five straight days, only to find out that Matt Asiata would take his place in the starting backfield.
Vikings coaches were scrambling Friday, as well, likely installing a new game plan around quarterback Matt Cassel, wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Patriots’ new focus should be on stopping Patterson, who can make big plays in the passing and running game, as well as on special teams.
Check out the Patriots’ three keys to victory now that the pressure is off the run defense with Peterson out.
STOPPING EXPLOSIVE PLAYS
The consensus around Foxboro this week is that Patterson is one of the most explosive players in the NFL. He can hurt you with the deep ball, in the backfield and on special teams. Three veterans — Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater — will be tasked with stopping Patterson from making big plays on Sunday.
Revis is likely to cover Patterson 1-on-1 and could keep the 6-foot-2, 220-pound receiver in check with his usual excellent coverage.
McCourty, playing back deep at free safety, will be the last line of defense for New England in keeping Patterson’s 10-yard runs from going for 20, 30, 40 or 67 yards
Patterson is one of the few kick returners in the NFL who is allowed to take a kick deep out of the end zone. Slater is the Patriots’ best special teamer and should play a big role in keeping Patterson from take a return the distance for a touchdown.
PROTECTING TOM BRADY
The Patriots surrendered four sacks last week, and the Vikings recorded five against the St. Louis Rams. That’s not good if quarterback Tom Brady wants to stay upright on Sunday.
Jordan Devey will have to play better if the Patriots plan to start the first-year pro at right guard for the second straight week. He faces the unenviable task of guarding defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
The Patriots might be best suited starting Ryan Wendell at center and Dan Connolly at right guard, but a knee injury could limit Wendell against the Vikings.
ESTABLISHING THE GROUND GAME
Wide receiver Julian Edelman gained 21 of the Patriots’ 89 rushing yards against the Dolphins last week. That’s not good.
In order to win the time of possession battle and wear out the Vikings’ defense, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, paired with the Patriots’ offensive line, need to play better this week.
If the Patriots get down early, Brady might resort to throwing 10 deep balls for the second straight week, and that’s not good for New England’s offense.
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