History proves the Minnesota Vikings can win in New England

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Mike Zimmer
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Mike Zimmer /

A Minnesota Vikings win in New England against the Patriots will not be an easy task, but it won’t be an impossible one either. Since 2015, New England has only lost five home games with Tom Brady starting under center.

Yes, two “GOATS” will be roaming the New England Patriots sideline on Sunday afternoon. Their names are Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Together, they span 19 seasons, they have been part of eight Super Bowls, and they share five Vince Lombardi trophies.

Do we need to review the numbers? They’re gaudy. Actually, they’re so far beyond any other coach/quarterback pair–both presently playing and throughout NFL history– it actually looks like a mistake.

Let’s not. It’s incredibly discouraging to Minnesota Vikings fans.

Instead, let’s examine the rare occasions that Belichick and Brady have been tripped up in front of the home crowd at Foxboro, MA in the last three seasons before 2018.

Perhaps we may find some pearl of wisdom (or hope) that may help the Vikings pull off an upset victory on Sunday afternoon.

Week 13, 2015 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles

Late in the 2015 season, the 4-7 Eagles limped in Foxboro, led by head coach Chip Kelly and journeyman quarterback Sam Bradford. The Patriots were 10-1, again favored to win the AFC, but without several significant starters, including wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

How The Patriots Were Defeated:

Although Brady and the Pats jumped out to a 14-0 first half lead, on a strange and ill-advised gamble, Belichick attempted an onside kick after New England’s second touchdown. It failed and lead to a quick Philadelphia touchdown.

From there, the luck of the Gods went down Broad Street. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown by the Eagles made it 14-14. Tom Brady, in the Philadelphia red zone, threw a pick-six that went 96 yards for another Philadelphia score. Not long after, a Patriots punt was returned for another touchdown by Eagles’ return-man Darren Sproles, putting the game away at 28-14.

Of course, Brady and the irrepressible New England offense made a game of it, but still lost 35-28.

Week 10, 2016 vs. the Seattle Seahawks

In a thrilling rematch of Super Bowl XLIX, the 7-1 Patriots hosted the 5-2-1 Seahawks in New England. Both teams were healthy and looked very similar to their Super Bowl units. The game played like it.

How The Patriots Were Defeated:

Under little pass pressure from the New England defense, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was brilliant, throwing three touchdowns to ace wideout Doug Baldwin. Counterparts Tom Brady and Julian Edelman were also remarkable for the Patriots, but not as explosive, with Edelman fumbling on a crucial second half drive.

The lead changed several times, but as the Seahawks held a 31-24 fourth-quarter advantage, Brady drove his team down to the one-yard line with just seconds remaining in the game.

There the infamous Seattle “Legion of Boom” avenged their Super Bowl loss with historical irony by keeping Brady and New England from penetrating the goal line on four tries. The Seahawks won by a final score of 31-24.

Week 1, 2017 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterback Alex Smith and the Chiefs began the 2017 season at Foxboro facing the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. Kansas City featured a rookie running back named Kareem Hunt, who made all the difference in the game.

How The Patriots Were Defeated:

Even though Smith played perhaps his best professional game ever, it was Hunt (yes, that very recently cut Kareem Hunt) that beat New England at every turn. He ran 17 times for 148 yards, caught five passes for 98 more (including a 78-yard touchdown catch), and scored three times.

The Patriots’ defense was an embarrassment to the home crowd in this season opener, giving up 537 total yards to the Chiefs in a 42-27 rout.

Week 4, 2017: vs. the Carolina Panthers

With both teams at 2-1, quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers traveled to New England’s Gillette Stadium on a sunny day in October. Carolina came into the matchup featuring rookie running Christian McCaffrey and one of the NFL’s best defenses.

How The Patriots Were Defeated:

Because the Patriots’ inability to generate pressure on the Pathers’ signal-caller during the game, Newton was able to complete 22 of his 29 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns while also  rushing for 44 more yards. Carolina receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess ran roughshod over a clearly dysfunctional New England secondary, and the Panthers’ amassed 444 total yards on offense.

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Down 30-16 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Brady (of course), led the Patriots on two touchdown drives to tie the contest, but Carolina chewed down the tired New England defense with its power running game and gave kicker Graham Gano the opportunity to hit the game-winning field goal from 48 yards out with no time remaining.

The Panthers left the stadium with a 33-30 victory.

What this all means for the Vikings on Sunday

It means there’s a chance! And furthermore, at 8-3, with convincing losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans, this is not the mightiest Patriots team of the Brady/Belichick Era.

But, make no mistake, they are good. After a 1-2 start, New England rattled off six-straight wins through the teeth of their schedule, beating the Chiefs, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers.

If Minnesota does not play as well as they did as last week against Green Bay–or better–they won’t succeed on Sunday as the game’s underdog.

There is no common thread to the examined New England losses above. Actually, there isn’t a common thread to their scores of victories in the same time frame.

Why? Because Belichick and Brady are tacticians of the most innovative fabric that they rarely let other tacticians nail them down or beat them by design or execution.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

In that observation, however, is one last pearl of hope. In two of the Patriots’ three losses this season against Detroit and Tennessee, former New England assistant coaches Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel played a role in upsetting the Patriots. In Jacksonville, current Jaguars team president Tom Coughlin experienced success against Brady and Belichick during his head coaching career.

So–once upon a time, from 2008 to 2013, current Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was the defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.

During Zimmer’s last season there in 2013, his Bengals defense met the then undefeated Patriots inside Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.  They were underdogs too.

Zimmer’s squad held the legendary Brady and New England’s third-ranked offense to just six points during a 13-6 upset win by the Bengals.

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Is that a little thin? Probably, but I’m sticking with it and hoping for the best.