Monday night provided yet another example of the genius of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. New England has an emerging star at running back in rookie Laurence Maroney, a solid offensive line and has been struggling at receiver since losing both Deion Branch and David Givens from last year's team. The Vikings, meanwhile, feature two of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the game in Pat Williams and Kevin Williams and a decent secondary playing the keep-everything-in-front-of-you Cover 2.
So I sat down Monday night to watch strength vs. strength, figuring the Pats would try to establish the run and force Minnesota to bring its safeties up, which would open up some passing lanes.
Belichick decided to negate the strength of the Vikings defense by spreading the field and throwing the ball all over the yard. New England had a 3-to-1 ratio of passes to rushes and rolled up 430 yards of offense. Minnesota had no answer. They did sack Tom Brady three times, and they did pick off one pass, but for all intents and purposes, the Patriots had their way with the Vikings.
Minnesota free safety Darren Sharper called the Patriots' approach "frighteningly simple. They spread us out all over the place and (Brady) picked us apart. And they did it all night long."
Frighteningly simple. I had a similar thought as the third quarter was winding down. The Patriots were making it look too easy. Rather than looking for a weakness to exploit or hoping to overcome the Vikings' strength, Belichick took that strength out of the equation entirely. Is there any other NFL coach with the creativity and guts to do that?