- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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Looking closer at the television copy of the Patriots' 28-18 win over the Vikings while focusing on the second quarter:
1. On the first play after Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoff out of bounds in the second quarter, the Vikings lined up in a two-receiver, two-tight end set. Patriots safety James Sanders initially played TE Visanthe Shiancoe about 10 yards off the line before Shiancoe went in motion, and Sanders countered by following him and lining up only about 5 yards off the line. It may have been a case of the Patriots picking up a tendency with the Vikings’ tight end motion and running play frequency, and Sanders recalling this tip. On the play, he was in position to tackle RB Toby Gerhart in the hole, but DE Brandon Deaderick came off his block on LT Bryant McKinnie to stop Gerhart for no gain.
2. On the next play, the Vikings were able to advance past midfield on a screen pass to WR Percy Harvin for a 15-yard gain. On the play, three Patriots were blocked out on the outside – CBs Kyle Arrington and Jonathan Wilhite, as well as LB Jerod Mayo – leaving LB Gary Guyton as the backside protection as Harvin slipped under those blocks and towards midfield. However, Guyton overpursued to the outside, allowing Harvin to turn the corner inside. As Guyton tried to change direction and pursue Harvin, he was decked by Vikings RG Anthony Herrera. It took back side defenders – safety Brandon Meriweather and LCB Devin McCourty – to take Harvin down.
3. The Vikings' next drive saw Harvin again help the Minnesota offense reach Patriots territory, this time on a 19-yard crossing pattern. Harvin, who was lined up in the right slot, broke towards the middle of the field, while Sanders, who was in coverage, released Harvin, pointing him out to Mayo, who was in a middle zone. However, Mayo also had to cover RB Adrian Peterson, who received the fake handoff before releasing into the left flat. Mayo was split by the two possible receivers, giving Harvin a large hole in the defense for QB Brett Favre to find him.
4. In addition to using Meriweather as a shaded safety over Vikings WR Randy Moss, the Patriots also tried to jam Moss at the line, using OLB Tully Banta-Cain for the task on a first-and-10 late in the second quarter. With Arrington about 10 yards behind him, Banta-Cain was ready to jam Moss before noticing a handoff in the backfield. It turned out to only be a play action, allowing Moss to avoid the jam and slip behind Mayo’s inside zone. However, the play was a designed rollout to the far side, with Favre finding Shiancoe for a 9-yard gain.
5. Patriots ILB Brandon Spikes continues to show an awareness not seen from many rookies. On a first-and-10 run by Peterson late in the second quarter, Spikes was caught up inside on a block by C John Sullivan, but was able to follow Peterson as he slipped behind the line towards the left tackle-guard gap. Spikes then broke off his block and side-stepped to the outside, meeting Peterson in the hole. With the help of NT Vince Wilfork, he pushed Peterson back for a 1-yard loss.
6. The Patriots fourth-and-goal stop of Peterson from their own 1-yard line was made possible by both DE Ron Brace and OLB Rob Ninkovich allowing no ground to be lost at the point of attack against RT Phil Loadholt and extra tackle Ryan Cook. Even with a blocking fullback and a pulling guard to that side, Peterson could not get around the wall created by these two defenders and the linebackers who quickly filled in on the seams.