Patriots Vikings NFL playoffs standings
Donta Hightower of the New England Patriots. Getty Images

The Patriots got things done the old-fashioned way on Sunday as they used the running game and a stout defensive effort to dump the Vikings, 24-10, at Gillette Stadium. With the win, the Pats moved to 9-3 on the season and maintained the second seed in the AFC playoff race.

New England ran the ball with seven different players in the first half, including Tom Brady who finally eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for his career. The Pats had 56 yards rushing in the first half on 16 carries - led by Sony Michel who had 19 yards on seven carries. Michel finished the day with a team-high 63 yards rushing and the team ran up a total of 160 yards on 39 carries.

After sputtering offensively for the majority of the second and third quarters, Brady found good rhythm with 2:20 left in the third. He hit Josh Gordon for 24 yards, Rob Gronkowski for 15 yards, and Gordon again for a 24-yard touchdown strike that broke a 10-10 tie. James White, who was dynamite on the afternoon in the running and passing game, also added a 12-yard rush on the key drive.

That momentum carried over to the fourth quarter as a strong 23-yard punt return by Julian Edelman and a pass interference call on Minnesota’s Holton Hill put the Patriots at the Minnesota 30-yard line. Josh McDaniels dialed up Michel for a pair of runs and a seven-yard completion before James Develin found the end zone for the second time on the day.

 

Brady finished the afternoon with 311 yards passing, completing 24 of 32 passes. He had a touchdown and a pick, to earn a solid 102.5 passer rating.

It was Brady’s first 300-plus yard game since the team’s win at Buffalo in late October.

 

December defense

In the Bill Belichick – Brady era, the Patriots most often play their best regular season football in the month of December. That’s particularly true for the defense, which turned in its best performance of the season on Sunday.

The Pats held Vikings star receiver Adam Thielen to just one catch in the first half and just five catches for 28 yards total.

New England also put considerable pressure on Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins all day, highlighted by Trey Flowers’ third down sack of Cousins to start the fourth quarter.

The defensive unit also made up for a rare Brady error as after Brady threw a wobbly interception to the Vikings’ Eric Kendricks, Duron Harmon and JC Jackson combined to pick off Cousins in the end zone.

Jonathan Jones also had an interception to close the game for the Pats.