RE: Inside Slant
- ***** First, I have to note that the Belichick quote from the article below
may be the best I've seen all season ... Or longer, for that matter!
" QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think I'm probable. Day-to-day." -- Bill Belichick when
asked how he was feeling this week." That is absolutely hilarious!
***** Of more game importance, I read a pre-game analysis that makes sense
to me; and is a very exciting prospect. It said that the fast track in the
dome could mean some big plays from our quick guys, like Maroney, Faulk, and
Jackson. I think they left Watson out of that list, because he's another guy
that could have a very big game in Minnesota. The analysis in the article
below notes that the Vikes tend to give up a lot of underneath stuff.
Watson, of course, is deadly with his YAC ability.
***** If the speed and quickness of those 4 players works as it can, the
Pats could put up a big number Monday night. Or, in my case, Tuesday
morning. :-) I'm thinking something like Patriots 38, Vikings 17.
From: patriots-bounces@... [mailto:patriots-bounces@...] On
Behalf Of Rich Carreiro
Sent: Saturday, October 28, 2006 10:36 PM
Subject: Inside Slant
The Patriots travel to Minnesota this Monday night to take on the surging
Vikings. After losing to the Bills, Minnesota has rattled off two wins in a
row, including an impressive 31-13 victory at Seattle last week. The
Patriots are on a roll of their own, winning their last three contests by a
combined score of 86 to 29.
The good news for New England is slowly but surely, its passing game is
beginning to take flight. Last Sunday in Buffalo, Tom Brady threw for 195
yards and two touchdowns, while connecting with seven different receivers.
After six games, it appears Brady has more confidence in his new receivers,
something he didn't have early in the season.
"That just shows the trust that he has in us," Reche Caldwell said after
catching five passes in Buffalo. "That he can throw a ball up and we'll make
a play and if not, we'll knock it down where they won't pick the ball off.
He told Gabriel the touchdown pass was luck but he gave him a chance and he
made a play on it."
Brady is giving more of his receivers a chance to make plays. Caldwell and
Ben Watson each caught five passes against the Bills, while Doug Gabriel and
rookie Chad Jackson were on the opposite end of the two Brady touchdown
passes. Overall, Brady connected on a season-high 66 percent of his passes.
"With Tom, you know that if you are open, he's going to throw you the ball,"
Caldwell said. "He's going to hit the open receiver."
The Patriots still rank 22nd in the NFL in passing offense but Bill
Belichick said he's beginning to see some improvement from Brady and his
"I think we're executing some things better in the passing game than we did
a few weeks ago," Belichick said. "There is still a lot of room for growth
but I think we're headed in the right direction. We've made progress."
That progress needs to continue this week against a Vikings defense ranked
18th in the NFL when it comes to defending the pass. Minnesota gives up a
lot of underneath stuff trying to prevent the big play, so the short passing
game the Patriots unveiled in Buffalo should serve them well again this
week. Especially against a Vikings defense that gives up only 70 yards per
game on the ground. Since the Patriots won't be able to just run the
football on the Vikings front led by defensive tackles Pat and Kevin
Williams, look for Brady to spread the ball around to different receivers on
short routes over the middle.
"You need good distribution on a pass pattern," Belichick said. "You want
the receivers spaced properly, depending on what type of coverage they're in
and what the pattern is and how the pattern is designed. You want things
spaced so the quarterback has a clear view of the coverage and where to go
with the ball. How the defense covers the pattern, that's not in our
control. We have to read that and get the ball to the guy that has the least
coverage on him."
Gabriel has really started to come on in recent weeks. He and Jackson give
the Patriots the big-play ability at receiver that the team lacked early in
the year. Those two -- along with the rest of the Patriots receivers -- will
need to continue their upward climb because with the Vikings, Colts, Jets
and Bears coming up, these next five weeks will define the Patriots' season.
It all starts this week in Minnesota, against one of the NFC's hottest
teams. Belichick knows the challenges that lay ahead Monday night.
"We have a real strong test this week in Minnesota," he said. "The Vikings
are a real good football team. They're very good on defense. They're good in
all three phases of the game. They can run, and they have some good skill
players. They're tough at home. We know we'll have a big challenge Monday
night in Minneapolis. It's a team we don't know very well so we'll need a
lot of work this week to get in tune and be prepared for them. At the same
time, we're excited about the opportunity."
SERIES HISTORY: The Patriots and Vikings have only faced each other nine
times, with New England holding the edge in the all-time series, 5-4. Most
of the contests have been close. Only twice in this series has a game been
decided by more than eight points, and two of the games have gone into
overtime. The last time the two teams met, the Patriots scored on their
first three possessions to take a quick 21-0 lead. Despite giving up 417
yards of total offense to the Vikings, New England hung on to prevail 24-17.
-- The Buffalo Bills run a Tampa 2 defense that keeps the safeties back to
provide corners with help over the top on passing plays. This was good
practice for the Patriots because the next two teams on their schedule --
Minnesota and Indianapolis -- play a similar style of defense.
"I would say that they are generally in the same family," Bill Belichick
said comparing the Bills style of defense to that of the Vikings and Colts.
"Maybe cousins or second or third cousins. They're certainly not identical,
but there are elements that will carry over in several of the next games."
-- As part of their planning for playing in the Metrodome, the Patriots are
practicing inside the Dana Farber Fieldhouse on Wednesday so they can
prepare for the deafening crowd noise that awaits them on Monday.
-- "I don't know how they lost to the Bears or Buffalo but I thought they
were the better team in both of those games. They won four games and the two
they've lost, I'm sure they think they should have won them."
-- Bill Belichick talking about the Vikings two close losses to the Bears
and Bills this season.
-- The Patriots have won nine consecutive games played in domes dating back
to 2001, and quarterback Tom Brady is 9-0 in domes over his career.
-- The Vikings have the NFL's top ranked rush defense, only giving up
70.8 yards per game on the ground. The Patriots rank sixth in the NFL in
rushing offense, but they know they're going to face a tough test Monday
-- "They create a lot of negative plays in the running game," Belichick
said. "One out of every five running plays against them go for negative
yardage, so it's like taking a sack every five snaps."
-- The Vikings and Patriots have not met in Minnesota since Nov. 2 1997, a
23-18 Vikings victory. That marks the Patriots fourth-longest current away
game drought. Since the last time the two teams met at Gillette Stadium in
2002, New England has played against 29 of the 31 other NFL teams. The other
two teams on the list the Patriots haven't faced \u2014 Chicago and Green
Bay \u2014 New England will face next month.
BY THE NUMBERS: 156-64 -- The margin by which the Patriots have outscored
their opponents during their current 5-game road-winning streak.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think I'm probable. Day-to-day." -- Bill Belichick when
asked how he was feeling this week.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Even though Chester Taylor is having a solid season, the Vikings still rank
near the bottom of the NFL in rushing offense. That's not good news against
a Patriots defense that doesn't give up many yards on the ground.
One thing about the Vikings is they'll stick with their running game even
when it's not producing a lot of yards. With Brad Johnson at quarterback,
Minnesota knows it can't go back and chuck the ball up 50 times, so they
stay patient with the run for as long as they can.
The best matchup in this game is going to be on the left side of the line
when Minnesota has the ball. The Vikings prefer to run left behind road
graders Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson. That's also the side where Pro
Bowler Richard Seymour roams. McKinnie and Hutchinson versus Seymour and
nose tackle Vince Wilfork will be a fierce battle all night long, assuming
Seymour is healthy enough to play this week.
Taylor is coming off a 169-yard performance against the Seahawks where he
had a franchise record 95-yard touchdown run. On the Patriots side, inside
linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau are coming of their best game of
the year, recording a combined 16 tackles against the Bills. The team that
controls the line of scrimmage when Minnesota has the football will have a
good chance of coming away victorious on Monday night.
-- RB Laurence Maroney was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Maroney totaled 100 yards on two kickoff returns against the Bills,
including a 74-yarder in the first quarter that set up a Patriots touchdown.
-- The Patriots announced the signing of rookie offensive lineman Brian
Barthelmes to their practice squad. Barthelmes was with the Patriots in
-- DL Richard Seymour (elbow) was present in the locker room Thursday,
answering questions from reporters. He said he underwent an MRI test and
felt fortunate to have avoided a more serious injury. Seymour is listed as
questionable for Monday night's game.
-- C/G Russ Hochstein and CB Antwain Spann were the lone players not present
for the media-access portion of Thursday's practice. Hochstein
(knee) is questionable, while Spann (shoulder) is listed as probable.
-- RB Kevin Faulk and OG Stephen Neal returned after missing the
media-access portion of Wednesday's workout. Faulk (ankle) and Neal
(shoulder) are both questionable for Monday.
-- TE Daniel Graham has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and
is questionable for Monday night.
-- DL Ty Warren -- who is tied for the team lead with 44 tackles -- is
questionable for Monday night with a shoulder injury.
-- CB Ellis Hobbs is still recovering from surgery he had on a broken wrist.
Although he started last week at Buffalo and recorded three solos tackles,
Hobbs is questionable for the Monday night game with the Vikings, as is S
Eugene Wilson (hamstring).
GAME PLAN: New England won't be able to just line up and run the football on
the Vikings because their defense is too tough up front led by mammoth
defensive tackle Pat Williams. Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot are both good
corners but teams have had success throwing the ball on Minnesota this year.
Like they did last week, the Patriots should continue to spread the ball
around to a bunch of different receivers. The Vikings give up a lot of
completions in the short middle part of the field, so expect Kevin Faulk and
the tight ends to have success finding open spots in the zone. Troy Brown
will also be able to do damage as a slot receiver and has a chance to break
Stanley Morgan's franchise record for receptions on Monday night. The
Vikings give up yards through the air but try to prevent the big play; so
being patient with short passes should pay off for Brady and the Patriots
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots DL vs. Vikings OL -- The most important battle
in this game will be the left side of the Vikings offensive line with tackle
Bryant McKinnie and guard Steve Hutchinson locking horns with Richard
Seymour (If he plays) and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. It would be a huge
advantage for the Vikings if Seymour were out because McKinnie and
Hutchinson are arguably the two best players at their respected positions in
the NFL, as is Seymour. It would be a bad time for New England to be without
its best defensive player.
Patriots C Dan Koppen vs. Vikings DT Pat Williams -- Williams is a mountain
of a man who is largely responsible for the Vikings ranking first in the NFL
against the run. The large defensive tackle commands double-teams on
virtually every play. Look for Koppen -- along with guards Logan Mankins and
Stephen Neal -- to try and prevent Williams from clogging up the middle. If
they can't, it's going to be difficult for Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon
to find running lanes in this game.
INJURY IMPACT: DE Richard Seymour injured his elbow against Buffalo and
while the team has won games in the past without him, it will have an uphill
battle facing a Vikings offensive line that's one of the NFL's best. When
Seymour is in the lineup, opposing offenses have to game plan specifically
to deal with him because he's so dominant. Jarvis Green is a solid player
but he's nowhere near the force Seymour is. The Pro Bowler's presence also
has a domino effect because he's so versatile. Seymour plays both inside and
outside, giving the defense flexibility. If Seymour is unable to go,
Belichick won't be able to rotate players along the defensive front as
frequently he usually does to keep players fresh. Plus, going up against
Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson is a tall order any week but it will be
an even tougher test if the Patriots defense is without Seymour. The All-Pro
is listed as questionable for Monday night's game.
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