FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — James White says it was pretty simple for his Patriots.
“We just needed a sense of urgency,” White said after the Patriots exploded out of a 10-10 tie and disposed of the Vikings 24-10 at drizzly Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
The Vikings had just finished a comeback from 10 points down to tie the game the game on a Dan Bailey field goal with 2:20 left in the third quarter before New England took control.
Realizing Minnesota was playing with a battered secondary, Tom Brady finally went to work — and finally got Josh Gordon involved. Invisible to that point in the game, Gordon started the go-ahead drive with a 24-yard catch and ended it with another 24-yarder.
Fullback James Develin’s second touchdown of the game – the fourth of his career, third in the last three weeks – made it 24-10 and put the game away.
The win guaranteed the Patriots (9-3) their 18th straight winning season, the record for the post-Super Bowl era and second-most all-time. It also kept them very much alive in the hunt for the AFC’s top seed in the postseason as they head into back-to-back games at Miami and Pittsburgh.
Tom Brady, making his 300th career start (counting postseason) threw for 311 yards — 24 of 32 (one pick) to nine different receivers — and crawled over the 1,000-yard career rushing mark in the eighth win in the last nine games. It also came in Bill Belichick’s 300th regular-season game as the New England coach, 223 of them wins.
“Just a really good team defensive effort,” Belichick said, praising the people around him for his longevity.
The coach got directly involved in the game in the second half, getting into a bit of a shouting match with ace Minnesota receiver Adam Thielen, with Belichick spotted on television yelling, “Shut the bleep up.”
After the game, Belichick, asked about Brady’s 1,000 rushing yards, quipped, “Yeah, that’s really important to us.”
Said Brady, who got the milestone on a third-down scramble for a first down: “Obviously I’m not a scrambler but I hope I can make some offensive plays.”
Thielen, the league’s leading receiver coming in, was a focus of the Pats defense all day, finishing with five catches for just 28 yards (and the Minnesota touchdown).
Jason McCourty did much of the work on him, but J.C. Jackson also played well, in his first NFL start.
“Great win. Just a hard-fought game,” said Brady.
Develin, one of the few fullbacks left in an NFL focusing on speed, scored on runs of 1 and 2 yards.
“It was awesome, but I really gotta give all the props to the offensive line,” said Develin, out of Brown University. “All I do is get the ball and follow those guys and fall forward, you know? They did a really awesome job all game, honestly. They were paving open holes all game and those guys are a bunch of dogs. I’m blessed to work with them.”
“It’s awesome,” said White, who did his usual damage with seven catches for 92 yards and six runs for 26.
Gordon finished with three catches for 58 yards, while Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman also had three grabs.
“I just had to be patient,” Gordon said, adding his nine games with his new team “felt like home a long time ago. The atmosphere is very welcoming.”
After the Vikings went three and out on the game’s opening possession, the Patriots marched right down the field for a 7-0 lead.
Brady’s first pass was incomplete, but he then hit Edelman for 13 yards, Chris Hogan for 18, Cordarelle Patterson for 15 and Burkhead for 15.
Edelman’s end-around gained 15 more to the 1 and Develin scored.
The Vikings then got the ball down as far as the Pats’ 30, but Bailey missed a 38-yard field goal attempt, going wide left.
The Patriots used 14 plays to close to the Minny 1 but an incomplete pass to Edelman left Gostkowski to kick a 20-yard field goal with 5:45 left in the first half.
A swap of possessions gave the Vikings the ball and Cousins hit Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph for 24 and 23 yards to the New England 27.
A 10-yarder to Diggs set up the touchdown, as Thielen beat the McCourty twins to the back corner of the end zone for the score with 15 seconds left in the half.
Later, Belichick absolved Jason McCourty of blame on the play, saying the defense as a whole just made a poor play.
Cousins was 32 of 44 for 201 yards, a TD and two interceptions.