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Halftime analysis: Patriots 24, Vikings 7

09.14.14 at 2:34 pm ET
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The Patriots and Vikings have played two quarters out in the Twin Cities, and New England holds a 24-7 lead.

The Patriots turned a pair of interceptions from Matt Cassel into touchdowns and got a blocked field goal (and defensive touchdown) from Chandler Jones to help with the lead. Tom Brady is 9-for-10 for 105 yards and a touchdown, while Julian Edelman has five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Matt Cassel is 12-for-20 for 144 yards with one touchdown and two picks, and Cordarrelle Patterson added three catches for 39 yards.

Here are a few quick notes:

The Vikings got started in style with a 7-play, 80-yard drive, one that took 4:06 and ended with a really impressive pass play from Cassel to Matt Asiata. Over the course of the first drive, it was clear the defensive focus was on Patterson — New England bit hard on a couple of play fakes, allowing Cassel to hit on some impressive connections with Asiata and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

That momentum started to change a few minutes later when Devin McCourty provided a spark for the New England defense, picking off a deep ball from Cassel (on a pass play intended for Jarius Wright) and returning it to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Stevan Ridley punched it in for his first rushing touchdown of the season to tie the game at seven midway through the first quarter.

New England then followed that up with another good defensive stand, forcing the Vikes into a 3-and-out with some good play in first and second down. The Patriots couldn’t punch it into the end zone, but ended up posting three more points when Stephen Gostkowski knocked home a 48-yard field goal (after a 10-play, 40-yard drive) to make it 10-7 just before the end of the first quarter.

After Darrelle Revis picked off his first pass of the season, the Patriots turned it around with a 7-play, 61-yard drive that included 59 receiving yards from Edelman and was capped off by a 9-yard pass from Brady to Edelman to make it 17-7 midway through the second quarter.

The Patriots then put the capper on the second quarter with a blocked field goal attempt from Jones — then, the big defensive end scooped it up and ran it all the way back for a touchdown to finish the scoring just before the end of the half.

Alfonzo Dennard, Kenbrell Thompkins inactive for Patriots vs. Vikings

09.14.14 at 12:03 pm ET
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Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard

A logjam at wide receiver combined with the healthy return of Aaron Dobson has landed Kenbrell Thompkins on the inactive list for the Patriots’ Week 2 contest against the Vikings.

Also inactive for the Patriots Sunday are cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Michael Buchanan, Jamie Collins, Zach Moore, Ryan Wendell and running back James White.

Buchanan (ankle), Collins (thigh) and Wendell (knee) were all ruled out Saturday night for various injuries.

Trainers were spotted looking at Dennard’s shoulder pregame Sunday in Minnesota, and that combined with the fact that he was having trouble finishing tackles in the second half against Miami is an indication of a possible injury issue, though Dennard was not listed on the Patriots’ injury report this week.

Dennard recorded his first interception of the season last week in the first half of the season opener against the Dolphins.

Sunday’s inactives mean defensive lineman Chris Jones, wide receiver Aaron Dobson and offensive lineman Bryan Stork are in line to make their season debuts.

As for the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson is inactive after turning himself in after his arrest on child injury chargers on Friday. Quarterback Christian Ponder is also inactive, meaning rookie Teddy Bridgewater is the backup behind Matt Cassel. Also inactive are linebackers Michael Mauti and Brandon Watts, center David Yankey, wide receiver Rodney Smith and defensive end Scott Crichton.

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Fantasy Football Live Chat, 11 a.m.: Pete Davidson helps set Week 2 lineups

09.14.14 at 8:11 am ET
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Join Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com for a live Fantasy Football chat, starting at 11 a.m. Get all your questions in as Davidson offers advice as to how you should set your lineup for Week 2.

Live Blog Fantasy Football Week 2 Chat
 

Sunday NFL Notes: In wake of awful week, will league see change in leadership?

09.14.14 at 12:10 am ET
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Commissioner Roger Goodell is still in charge, but for how long? (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Commissioner Roger Goodell is still in charge of the NFL, but for how long? (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

1. In the wake of one of the worst weeks in NFL history — fallout from the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson fiascos, commissioner Roger Goodell’€™s approval rating at an all-time low, a sex scandal involving Dallas owner Jerry Jones, the news that suggests that nearly 30 percent of former NFL players will end up developing Alzheimer’€™s or dementia across their lifetime, and the league’€™s recent inaction on the Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy cases — it feels like the NFL is at a crossroads when it comes to leadership. The faith that many football fans put in the product, and any goodwill that’€™s been built up over the course of several years, is being frittered away, as more people insist that they will start to turn away from the league until it is able to get its€™ house in order. No one is suggesting that the NFL is going to go the way of the dinosaur, but whether that means new leadership, tougher stances on penalties for domestic violence or developing a more productive relationship between the players, owners and fans, it’€™s clear that something needs to be done sooner rather than later. The mocking words of Dallas owner Mark Cuban this past spring that hinted the bubble was about to burst for the NFL were more about the financial state of the league, but they could easily apply now to the relationship between the league and many of the fans, who are fed up on a number of levels and are starting to demand real change. It’€™s not known what the league can do about its own situation going forward — only that it’€™s reasonable to think that a sizable a part of the NFL’€™s leadership will look very different in 2015 if the league wants to regain some of the public trust.

2. From a procedural perspective, it’€™s important to note the NFL constitution requires a three-quarters majority of owners (24 of 32) to terminate the contract of a commissioner, and at this point, that seems highly unlikely. We examined the deep and abiding relationship between Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft here, and despite any possible misunderstandings between the two, it would seem unlikely that Kraft would change his stance on someone he has grown very cozy with over the years. From a league perspective, many of the NFL’€™s most prominent owners have already given on-the-record backing to Goodell, including Giants co-owner John Mara (who is overseeing the Mueller probe), Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who issued a statement on Saturday saying the commissioner “has always had the best interests of football at heart, both on and off the field”€ before adding the Washington organization “strongly endorses his efforts to eradicate domestic abuse and the independent investigation into the Ray Rice assault.”€ While another shoe could still drop — namely, if the league starts losing deep-pocketed sponsors — it seems like Goodell’€™s job is safe for now.

3. If you need some good news, the story of Cincinnati defensive lineman Devon Still continues to provide plenty of good vibes. Still, who was released in the final series of cuts in August, was brought back to the Cincinnati practice squad so he could continue drawing a paycheck to pay for treatments for his 4-year-old daughter Leah, who continues to battle pediatric cancer. The story got better this week, as the Bengals brought him up to the active roster — in addition, the team announced late Monday night they will donate all proceeds from sales of Still’€™s jersey to pediatric cancer treatment and research facilities at Cincinnati Children’€™s Hospital. In two days, the Bengals sold 100,000 jerseys, making it one of the fastest selling uniforms in the history of the franchise. (Saints coach Sean Payton bought 100 jerseys on his own.) You can buy your own Devon Still jersey here, and you can follow Still on Twitter here — he tweets frequently about his daughter and their struggle with the disease.

4. While it’€™s not necessarily a must-win situation for the Patriots this week, the prospect of beginning the season 0-2 is less than appealing. New England is one of three teams who started the year as division favorites who lost its opener — Indianapolis and Green Bay were the other two. No matter how good you are, an 0-2 deficit is hard to crawl out of: Since 1990, 196 teams started the year 0-2, and only 23 of those teams made the playoffs, a rate of 12 percent. (For the record, one of those teams was the 2001 Patriots, who had an 0-2 start but went on to win the Super Bowl.) As was the case for most of New England, neither the Colts (who are home against the Eagles) or Packers (who host the Jets) sound overly worried about their situation. “Unfortunately, ‘€˜almost’€™ doesn’€™t count in professional sports,”€ Luck said in the wake of a seven-point loss to open the season at Denver. The Chargers, Chiefs and Saints are three other 2013 playoff teams who lost their openers and could be 0-2 by the end of this week’s action.

5. While the 2014 season is still in its early stages, it was interesting to see five backs top the 100-yard rushing mark in Week 1, led by Knowshon Moreno’€™s 134 yards on the ground in a victory over New England. (In addition to Moreno, Dallas’€™ DeMarco Murray had 118 rushing yards, Seattle’€™s Marshawn Lynch had 110 yards, Houston’€™s Arian Foster had 103 yards and the Jets’ Chis Ivory had 102 yards.) After an offseason that saw what appeared to be a slight devaluation of the running back position (no back was taken in the first round of the draft, and arguably the best free agent deal went to Chris Johnson, who got a two-year, $8 million deal from the Jets), it represented something of an upgrade when compared to recent years. (By comparison, in Week 1 of last season, just three backs topped the 100-yard rushing mark.) It’€™s still early, but it will be interesting to see if the pendulum starts to swing in the other direction when it comes to the running back spot the rest of the season.

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Jamie Collins, Michael Buchanan, Ryan Wendell all downgraded to out against Vikings

09.13.14 at 9:20 pm ET
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Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

The Patriots announced Saturday night that linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive end Michael Buchanan and center Ryan Wendell have been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.

Collins is in his second season, and the Southern Miss product has evolved into one of the more versatile defenders on the team. However, the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder popped up on the injury report late this week with a thigh injury, and will miss the first game of his career as a professional Sunday against the Vikings. The Patriots shuffled the back end of the depth chart at linebacker on Saturday, releasing Darius Fleming and adding Deontae Skinner from the practice squad — Skinner could be in for a lot of snaps come Sunday in Minnesota.

Also in his second year, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Buchanan has struggled with an ample injury since the start of the season. The backup defensive end will miss his second game of the 2014 season as a result.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell, who will sit with a knee problem, has been the starting center for the last two years, but was pushed this summer by fellow offensive lineman Dan Connolly. With the offensive line already in a bit of a state of flux, Connolly and rookie Bryan Stork (if he’s 100 percent) will likely share pivot duties on Sunday against the Vikings. That will also likely mean Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey and Josh Kline will share work at guard.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Patriots promote LB Deontae Skinner from practice squad

09.13.14 at 5:06 pm ET
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Deontae Skinner

Deontae Skinner

The Patriots promoted linebacker Deontae Skinner from the practice squad on Saturday and waived linebacker Darius Fleming.

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Skinner was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State on May 12, 2014. He was released in August and later added to the practice squad.

As for Fleming, he was selected by the Niners in the fifth round (165th overall) of the 2012 draft out of Notre Dame. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder, missed his first two NFL season due to injury, but signed with the Patriots this past spring and made the final roster following cuts. He wasn’t active for the regular-season opener against the Dolphins.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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10 things you have to know about Patriots-Vikings

09.13.14 at 8:30 am ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots will look to win their first game of the season Sunday in Minnesota. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots will look to win their first game of the season Sunday in Minnesota. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s contest between the Patriots and Vikings:

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Quarterback Tom Brady against head coach Mike Zimmer: Brady was corralled last year when the Patriots went into Cincinnati, and in a monsoon, were shut down by the Bengals defense. (The game saw Brady’€™s consecutive games streak of touchdown passes halted at 52.) Zimmer was the architect of that Bengals defense, and was able to bother Brady to a point where the quarterback suffered one of the worst games of his career (18-for-38, 197 yards, one interception). Zimmer has now moved on to become the head coach in Minnesota, but as colleague Mike Petraglia adroitly pointed out here, Brady will likely be a lot of the same elements he saw last year against the Bengals — not a lot of blitzing, but with steady and consistent pressure from a four-man front designed to be physical with the quarterback. It will be up to Brady to get the ball out as fast as possible against a fast and physical defensive front ‘€“ don’€™t look for a lot of five-step drops.

2. The Patriots offensive line against the Minnesota defensive front: The New England offensive line really struggled in the heat of South Florida in last week’€™s opener, allowing four sacks on Brady and six hits on the quarterback. As we said in No. 1, Brady should expect to see good pressure from the Vikings defensive front. Two things to look for this week that could help out the Patriots’€™ offensive line: one, for as much as we talk about Rob Gronkowski as a pass catcher, his ability as a blocker is undersold. As he continues to work his way back to full strength — he played roughly half the snaps in the opener in steamy South Florida — his presence as an end of the line blocker will provide a boost when it comes to pass protection. And two, expect a heavier reliance on the running backs, both in blitz pickup and helping when it comes to the running game. The Patriots not only struggled with pass protection on the edge, but from this viewpoint, where Logan Mankins‘€™ skill set was really missing Sunday was on the ground. According to Football Outsiders, in 2013 the Patriots were one of the few teams to run better from two-back formations (5.0 yards per carry) than from single-back formations (4.6 yards per carry). On Sunday, fullback James Develin played 46 snaps. Look for him to be more of a presence Sunday.

3. Bill Belichick against Norv Turner: The Patriots coach and new Minnesota OC go back a long ways. In the 12 meetings since Belichick took over the Patriots prior to the start of the 2000 season, he’€™s enjoyed a 10-2 edge against Turner-coached offenses. That includes games when Turner was offensive coordinator with the Chargers, Dolphins and Browns, as well as head coach of the Raiders and Chargers. (That record moves to 10-5 if you include Belichick’€™s time as a head coach with the Browns and an assistant with the Patriots and Jets.) It’€™s important to note that four of those wins came as the result of late-game or overtime magic on the part of Tom Brady (including last year’€™s remarkable comeback against the Browns where New England posted 16 fourth-quarter points in a 27-26 victory in Foxboro), but Belichick’€™s healthy advantage certainly suggests that’€™s he’€™s consistently been able to figure out Turner’€™s offenses, regardless of the locale.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’€™ fans need to know: Tight end Kyle Rudolph isn’€™t mentioned as one of the elite-level offensive options for Minnesota, but the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder has developed into a nice security blanket for the Minnesota passing game in his three-plus years in the league. Known as a player who has displayed proficiency both as a blocker and pass catcher, he had 30 catches in eight games last year before a foot injury prematurely ended his season. (That was on the heels of a 53-catch season in 2012 that produced nine touchdowns.) A relatively dependable option in the passing game, he could benefit if the Patriots end up focusing their attentions elsewhere. While linebacker Jamie Collins is a question mark heading into Sunday’€™s game because of a thigh issue, he could see the bulk of attention on Rudolph if he’€™s good to go.

5. By the numbers: Per Pro Football Reference, the Patriots and Vikings have played 11 times and New England holds a 7-4 series lead. However, in those games, Minnesota has averaged more points per game in those 11 contests than the Patriots, 21.5-20.9.

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