Patriots - Vikings preview: Mike Zimmer with some success vs Tom Brady - Metro US

Patriots – Vikings preview: Mike Zimmer with some success vs Tom Brady

The thought of the Patriots beginning a season 0-2 under Bill Belichick has been something close to unimaginable in New England’s championship contending, modern era. In fact, it hasn’t happened in 13 years.

In 2001, the Pats lost to the Bengals and Jets before they blew out the Colts in Week 3 – Tom Brady’s first game as starting quarterback of the Patriots.

After witnessing the Patriots lackluster performance in Week 1 of this season, and with the knowledge that Minnesota – the Pats’ opponent this coming Sunday – looks like it is far from a pushover in 2014, an 0-2 record to start the season is now certainly conceivable.

The Patriots are just three point favorites against the Vikings heading into Sunday (1 p.m., CBS). Yes, it is a road game for New England and yes, the Vikings feature arguably the best offensive player in the league in Adrian Peterson. But the Vikings did go 5-10-1 last year, and have finished dead last in the NFC North in three of the previous four seasons. It was absolutely chalked up as a “W” for the Patriots by most when the league schedule came out in April.

Fear the Z-man
Mike Zimmer had been an assistant coach in the NFL for 20 years, but last Sunday’s 34-6 Minnesota victory in St. Louis was Zimmer’s first game as a head coach at any level.

The Vikings new head man made his name in the league as a sharp defensive mind in an era when the focus across the league shifted to the offensive side of the ball. Zimmer was defensive coach for the Cowboys from 1994 through 2006, before stops in Atlanta and Cincinnati.

As a defensive coordinator, Zimmer is 1-2 against Patriots with Tom Brady at quarterback. Brady’s numbers have been average in the three games as his quarterback rating averaged out to 78.7. His career rating is 95.5.

Zimmer got the best of Brady last season, when his Bengals defense held No. 12 to just 18 completions on 38 pass attempts for 197 yards. Brady also threw a pick in the Cincinnati rain.

Handle the pressure
One can bet that Zimmer’s game plan will be a carbon copy of Miami’s from last week. The Dolphins sacked Brady four times in Week 1 while the Vikings feasted on the two hapless quarterbacks the Rams trotted out. Minnesota’s pressure forced two interceptions, one of which was returned by Harrison Smith for an 81-yard touchdown.

It seems as though the Pats will play the same offensive line unit this Sunday that was dominated for much of the Dolphins game, as left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Marcus Cannon, center Dan Connolly, right guard Jordan Devey and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer got the brunt of the snaps with the first team in practice this week.

Rush to judgment
Peterson always has a chip on his shoulder, so one can bet he’s not happy about a wide receiver on his own team out-rushing him in Week 1, as Cordarrelle Patterson exploded for 102 yards and a touchdown.

It’s no guarantee that Peterson will take out his frustrations on the Pats defense this Sunday, however. In Week 6 last year against Carolina, Peterson rushed for only 62 yards. He responded in Week 7 by rushing for only 28 yards against the Giants and wasn’t much better in Week 8 against Green Bay as he ran for 60 yards. He was also held under 100-yards in back-to-back games against Washington and Seattle in November of last season.

Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS

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