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Patriots at Vikings: The Patriots Are Beatable

Maybe they just had a bad day, but these don't look like your Dad's Patriots

Darth Vader and the Emperor visit the rebel base on Ice Planet Dinkytown this week.
Darth Vader and the Emperor visit the rebel base on Ice Planet Dinkytown this week.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

There's a few truths in life, truths that are simply undeniable facts.

Lutefisk is quite possibly the worst food dish ever created. Seriously, you will never convince me anything that's soaked in lye can ever be good.  And man, have you smelled it? It smells worse than a Metrodome urinal trough.

The Minnesota State Fair is the best state fair in the country. That's just indisputable. Don't even jump into the comments and go 'oh the Iowa State fair is awesome', or 'man the Utah State Fair kicks ass'. First off, you're wrong. Secondly, you're not even allowed to say the word 'ass' in Utah. Poser.

The New England Patriots are the gold standard franchise in the NFL.

While the first two will certainly ring true for Minnesotans for most likely their entire lives, the Patriots might be slipping, just a little bit. And maybe more than a little bit. That may be tough to accept, seeing as how since 2001, the year Tom Brady took over as starting quarterback and lead them to in improbable Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams, they have been to five Super Bowls, winning three, three more conference championships on top of that, and have only missed the playoffs twice. In one of those years, Brady was hurt the first game of the season, and Matt Cassel lead them to an 11-5 record...which wasn't good enough to make the post-season. In the past 11 years, they've been to the playoffs 10 times, and the one year they didn't go, they were 9-7.

But after watching a replay of their game Sunday against Miami, the franchise against which almost all others are compared to seems to be cracking around the edges.  Let's look at some takeaways from their opening season loss against the Dolphins We'll start with the offense:

The Patriots offensive line, particularly the interior line, could not handle Miami's defensive line at all.  Well, neither could the tackles, either. All five starting offensive linemen were in negative numbers according to Pro Football Focus, and the worst one was RG Jordan Devey, with a -4.2 rating. The line was also unable to open any holes for the Patriots running backs to move the ball on the ground consistently. As a team they had 89 yards rushing on 20 carries, and the leading rusher was Shane Vereen, who had 36 yards on seven carries.

For years, this team has risen and fallen of the arm of Tom Brady, though. Brady, a certain first ballot Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion, has been the premier quarterback in the NFL for over a decade, and has been able to keep the Patriots at an elite level, even with constant turnover in personnel and talent at the skill positions around him. But Brady is 37 years old, and Sunday against the Dolphins, he didn't display the uncanny accuracy he has become known for over the years.

Tom Brady looked old.

His statline is fairly typical: 29/56 for 244 yards, 1 TD, and no interceptions. But if you peel back the veneer of those numbers, Brady had some underlying numbers that were troubling. Again, to PFF for some info.

Of Brady's 29 completions, 25 were thrown no farther than 10 yards down the field.

Twenty Five.

From 10 yards or more down the field, Brady was 4/24 for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Four. Of 24.

Against the Dolphins, for passes more than ten yards downfield, Tom Brady couldn't have hit water if he fell out of a boat.

And there were some bad, bad throws. Brady threw short, he threw long, and he was as inaccurate as I can ever remember seeing him. Now, to be fair, let's give a lot of credit to the Dolphins here. Their defensive line thoroughly dominated the Patriots offensive line, and harassed and harried Brady every day. He was under siege, especially in the second half, and the Patriots, inexplicably, could not counter what the Dolphins were doing. As a consequence, Brady had to hurry a lot of his throws, but even when he had time to set up, he was still inaccurate.

And that pressure came under very little blitzing. Brady's as good as anyone at sniffing out a blitz, and finding his hot receiver and beating the blitz. The Dolphins know this, and according to PFF, only blitzed him on 16 throws.  When blitzed, he was 9/16 for 134 yards, and was sacked only one time.

Interestingly, when he wasn't blitzed, Brady was even...worse. His completion percentage was only 50%, (20/40), for 115 yards, three sacks, and his TD pass. And when he was under pressure, Brady was a paltry 7/21 for 73 yards and was sacked four times.

On defense, the Patriots were shredded on the ground by Knowshon Moreno for 134 yards on 24 carries, and one score. and a vast majority of those yards came between the tackles. Once again using PFF, Moreno had 86 of his yards between the guards. The Patriots, one of the better run defenses in recent years due in large part to Vince Wilfork, were shredded and pushed around. And although they've consistently been near the top or in the top half of the league in terms of rush defense, last year, at least in total yards given up, they slipped to 30th. And they didn't look like they had improved last week.

The more I watch that Dolphins game, and look at how the Vikings defense played on Sunday against the Rams, I come away thinking something I didn't think was possible when the schedule was announced--the Vikings can beat New England.

I'm not saying they will, because Bill Belichick is the best there is, and after starting 0-1, the Patriots almost always rebound the next week and get a win. Since he took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots have started 0-2 just one time, in 2001. He's only had a two game losing streak in just seven of his 14 seasons, which is remarkable when you think about it. So to just boldly proclaim the Vikings are going to beat New England is kind of foolish.

But I am saying that this game is going to be a good one, and it's no longer the automatic loss we thought it was some six months ago. And the Vikings can, and very well could, beat New England.