Strong Running Game Leads Patriots Past Vikings; Favre Hurt in Fourth

BenJarvus Green-Ellis leaped over the back of blocking guard Dan Connolly, tumbling head over heels. When he came down, the Patriots had a two-score lead with less than two minutes left in the game. Green-Ellis ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns- the first multiple-touchdown game of his career- Sunday, and the New England Patriots beat the Minnesota Vikings 28-18 at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots played catch-up against the Vikings up until midway through the third quarter, when they finally took the lead. After giving up a 24-yard field goal to the Vikings, the Patriots began their drive at the 20-yard line. Three plays and a first down later, the Patriots found themselves in a second-and-10 situation on their 34-yard line. Tom Brady dropped back to pass, but was eventually  flushed from the pocket and ran to his left. Brady stayed upright long enough for Brandon Tate to elude Vikings cornerback Asher Allen along the left sideline, at which point Brady spun around and fired a strike to the now-open Tate. Once he secured the ball, Tate cut back from the sideline and sprinted towards the center of the end zone, beating safety Madieu Williams for the 65-yard touchdown score. It was the longest passing play of the season, and it put the Patriots up 14-10 midway through the third.

The Patriots would add two more touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters on the strength of Green-Ellis’ legs. Held to just 4 rushing yards in the first half, Green-Ellis exploded in the second half, rushing for 108 yards on 13 carries, good for 8.3 yards per carry.

The first Green-Ellis rushing touchdown came after Devin McCourty grabbed a Brett Favre pass bobbled by wide receiver Percy Harvin, giving the Patriots the ball at the Minnesota 37-yard line. They scored four plays later, with Green-Ellis breaking two tackles and benefiting from a solid Alge Crumpler block to run it into the end zone from 13 yards out.

The Patriots forced a three-and-out after the ensuing kickoff, but they then punted the ball right back to the Vikings, who took over at the 20-yard line down 21-10. Favre then orchestrated a pass-only drive that got all the way to the New England 3-yard line. Facing third-and-3, Favre dropped back to pass again, when defensive tackle Myron Pryor barreled into him, driving his helmet into Favre’s chin as Favre was passing. The pass was incomplete, but the Patriots were called for illegal contact before the pass, giving the Vikings a first down at the 1-yard line. Favre, however, was slow to get up.

His chin-guard soaked in blood, Favre would make it to the sideline before being carted off. He suffered a lacerated chin that required 10 stitches. Favre finished the day 22/32 for 259 yards. Tarvaris Jackson finished the drive with a touchdown pass and two-point conversion, cutting New England’s lead to 21-18 with 7:26 left in the fourth quarter, but all this did was set up Green-Ellis for another score.

New England started their ensuing drive on the 20-yard line. Green-Ellis then picked up 23 yards on two rushes before a false start slowed the offense and forced Brady to go back to the pass. Brady, who finished the game 16/27 for 240 yards and a touchdown, was up for the task, converting on third-and-6, then again on third-and-12 from the New England 44-yard line. The second conversion came on a 16-yard pass to Danny Woodhead, who broke a tackle in the process. Woodhead, who rushed for just 13 yards but caught 5 passes for 45 more, had scored the Patriots’ first touchdown on a direct snap from 3 yards out in the second quarter, tying the game 7-7.

After Woodhead’s first down, Green-Ellis picked up another on runs of 5 and 8 yards, the latter coming thanks to another Crumpler block. Green-Ellis then ripped off a 26-yard run up the sideline, finally getting pushed out of bounds at the Minnesota 1-yard line. Three plays later, Green-Ellis made his acrobatic leap into the end zone, sealing the victory for the Patriots.

Although New England’s defense seemed to have problems with Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson in the first half, giving up 68 yards and a touchdown, in the second half they were able to shut him down. The Patriots held Peterson to just 24 second-half yards, and he finished the game with a meager 3.7 yards per carry average. The Patriots held the Vikings rushing game to just 92 yards, not counting a 33-yard Jackson rush in garbage time. The defense also hit Favre six times, sacking him once, and forcing intentional grounding penalties twice for 20 lost yards.

Although Favre was passed to Harvin for 104 yards and to Peterson for 50 more, the Patriots defense held when it had to. Facing fourth-and-goal on their 1-yard line, Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes turned back Peterson for a 2-yard loss, forcing a turnover on downs.

In his first return to Gillette since being traded, Randy Moss barely factored in the game, catching one pass for 8 yards.

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