Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his players have heard all week about how Mike Zimmer shut down the Patriots offense last season when he was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals.
In that game, the Bengals sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady four times and disrupted his timing with his receivers. Brady completed just 47.4 percent of his passes and his touchdown streak was snapped in a 13-6 Bengals win. The Patriots were 1-for-12 on third down that afternoon.
Belichick was asked his morning if he expected Zimmer to stick with same game plan Sunday.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if they Xeroxed the same game plan,” Belichick said. “They did a good job. Yeah, we’re certainly prepared for that, if they just do the same thing they did last year. It wouldn’t shock me at all, until we show we can do something about it. We didn’t do much last year.”
Zimmer, asked about the game earlier this week, said it was a different team in a different situation.
“It rained like crazy the last minute of the ball game. It’s completely different,” Zimmer said. “Obviously you look at the tape but you don’t think that everything is going to be the same.”
On Wednesday, I asked Zimmer if while trying to win the chess match with Belichick and Brady he has to be careful not to overthink things and abandon the things his Vikings defense does well.
“Well, I’m really not that smart anyway so I just kind of, we focus on our guys and what we think is the best thing to do each week,” Zimmer said. “Obviously it’s a great challenge against not only those two guys but they’ve got a lot of other good players too. We’re, so far, in the infancy stages of what we’re trying to do in this program that we want to go out and perform well each and every week. Like I’ve said before, this is the process that we’re trying to build here.”
So I guess we must wait until Sunday to see if Zimmer gave his Xerox machine a workout.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd returned to practice today.
Peterson was at Winter Park yesterday but was excused from practice for a non-injury-related issue.
Floyd, meanwhile, was back at practice and wearing a helmet while participating in individual drills in the portion of practice open to media. Floyd missed practice the previous two days with a shoulder injury suffered in the fourth quarter of the win over the Rams. Head coach Mike Zimmer said a day ago there’s a good chance both Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes will play against the Patriots.
Rhodes, who is dealing with a groin injury suffered last Sunday, practiced for a second straight day.
The only Vikings player who didn’t appear to be participating was outside linebacker Brandon Watts.
For the Vikings’ Week 2 matchup against the Patriots, we spoke to Ben Volin, Patriots beat writer for the Boston Globe, for this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Here are five questions we asked Volin about the Vikings home opener.
What happened to the Patriots offensive line in Week 1?
BV: They got pretty overwhelmed by the Dolphins defensive line, which is pretty good. That happened last year, too, actually. Part of the Logan Mankins trade was probably because what the Dolphins did to those guys last year, and we saw it again where the Patriots just couldn’t stop the strength of the guys on the inside.
They traded Mankins 2 ½ weeks ago and haven’t settled on an offensive line. They rotated a bunch of guys last week. Some was because of the heat in Miami and some was because to find the right combination. They put Jordan Devy at right guard, who played his first NFL game last week, and it didn’t go so great. Marcus Cannon at left guard wasn’t so hot and [Sebastian] Vollmer at right tackle wasn’t so hot. They all got pushed around and then [center] Ryan Wendell, who was the center last year, was a little banged up right now.
How did the Dolphins rack up 191 rushing yards against the Patriots defensive line?
BV: The Patriots moved back to a 3-4 defense this year with [Vince] Wilfork at the nose and none of those guys were getting off their blocks. They were just getting completely eliminated at the line of scrimmage and the Patriots were playing a lot of soft defenses. The Dolphins were taking advantage of the numbers game in the running game, blocking it well and [Knowshon] Moreno and Lamar Miller were running it well with huge holes. I think either they have to find ways to get the guys up front to get off their blocks and make some plays, or put an extra defender in the box this week; probably a strong safety, Patrick Chung, who does a lot of that anyway. They have to figure something out because they got run over. The second half was OK, but they didn’t get as much of a pass rush on Ryan Tannehill either.
How did cornerback Darrelle Revis look in his Patriots debut?
BV: They played him on the left side, and they’ve been doing that all camp. They played a lot of off coverage. They targeted him I think five times, two of them were catches. One of them was a touchdown, which was kind of lucky. Revis actually deflected it and it bounced off Mike Wallace’s knee and went right back up in his hands. He got burned one time on a double move really badly on Wallace but the throw was out of bounds. Revis was competitive. He did get beat a couple of times, but Mike Wallace is pretty fast. It wasn’t the best he’s ever played, but he’s not one of their problems. He was fine.
Outside of wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is quarterback Tom Brady’s third option?
BV: It’s Edelman, Gronk and Shane Vereen really. You go back and look at the game, it’s just those guys over and over. I think he was 0 for 6 targeting [Brandon] LaFell. [Danny] Amendola, once again, in the first half he’s not even looking his way. Amendola doesn’t even exist to Tom Brady. The same thing from last year, he just doesn’t trust him. …It’s really those three guys. It’s Edelman, Gronk and Vereen out the backfield. That’s who he’s looking for first and that’s who he trusts. The other guys maybe if they’re open in the progressions, he’ll look their way, but without good protection Tom is definitely going to struggle. He just doesn’t have a relationship with his receivers right now.
What must the Patriots do to avoid losing consecutive games?
BV: I think they need to run the ball more. Their run and pass was way out of whack last week. It was like 60-25 [plays]. I think they’re going to try and run more, but it comes down to the trenches. They got dominated in the trenches on both sides and that’s not a good recipe. They couldn’t slow down the Dolphins in the second half and they couldn’t block to save their lives. Protecting Brady, keeping him up right and comfortable in the pocket, establishing the run and creating more pressure with the front three or four, then I think the Patriots can pull off the road victory.