ReFo: Patriots @ Vikings, Week 2

The Vikings' fast start was short lived as the Patriots' defense took this game over. Kiernan Hogan looks at the performances of note.

| 3 years ago

ReFo: Patriots @ Vikings, Week 2

2014-REFO-WK02-NE@MINThe New England Patriots traveled to Minnesota this week for a rare matchup against the Vikings. After an impressive opening touchdown drive by the Vikings, that saw them repeatedly take advantage of Patriots undrafted rookie linebacker Deontae Skinner in coverage, New England’s defense took over.

Special teams were clearly a major focus for the Patriots this week, as they seemed determined not to allow Cordarrelle Patterson to impact the game as a kick returner. Stephen Gostkowski caused touchbacks on 4 of 7 kicks, and used squib kicks to keep the ball away from Patterson entirely when he did not have the wind at his back.

Here are some of the key performers from this week:

New England Patriots – Performances of Note

Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, +8.9

Breakdown: After a tough outing last week in Miami, Jones rebounded with the best game of his young career. Many felt that Jones was playing out of position at 3-4 DE last week, and Jones’ dominant performance at 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE this week would seem to validate that argument. The Syracuse product was equally effective against the run and the pass, totaling 7 pressures and 5 run stops.

Signature Play: Jones’ best play of the game came on special teams, when he beat Matt Kalil to block a field goal, and then recovered the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown.

Jordan Devey, RG, -2.8

Breakdown: Devey emerged as a surprise starter during the preseason, playing nearly every snap at right guard. He struggled mightily during the exhibition games, so it should not be surprising that he continues to have difficulty. Devey allowed just 1 pressure (+0.6 pass blocking grade) after surrendering 6 last week, but his run blocking took a major step back.

Signature Stat: -3.6 run blocking grade illustrates how easily Devey was pushed around in the run game this week.

Dont’a Hightower, LB, +2.1

Breakdown: Hightower had a solid, balanced game, earning positive grades as a pass rusher, run defender and in coverage. His overall grade would have been far more impressive if not for his -1.9 penalty grade, caused in part by an unnecessary roughness penalty after Dominique Easley’s interception.

Signature Stat: Five of Hightower’s six tackles resulted in run stops.

Minnesota Vikings – Performances of Note

Matt Cassell, QB, -7.0

Breakdown: The Patriots pressured Cassell on 19 of his 44 dropbacks, despite blitzing only 10 times. On those 19 dropbacks under pressure, Cassell was 3-11 for 22 yards with 3 interceptions, and sacked 6 times.

Signature Stat: Cassell was 0-9 with 3 interceptions on passes thrown more than 9 yards.

Xavier Rhodes, CB, -5.5

Breakdown: Rhodes had trouble keeping up with Julian Edelman, allowing 3 of 4 passes to be completed for 54 yards when covering him. The former Seminole was also flagged 3 times for defensive holding and pass interference.

Signature Play: Rhodes got completely turned around on a back shoulder pass to Edelman on a 3rd and 14 in the first quarter, and Edelman took it 44 yards for a big first down.

Matt Kalil, LT, -5.0

Breakdown: Kalil was victimized by Chandler Jones all afternoon. Even when he lined up on the right side of the field goal unit, he could not hide from Jones and was responsible for the aforementioned blocked field goal.

Signature Stat: Kalil allowed 6 total pressures, including 2 sacks, earning a -5.1 pass blocking grade for the day.

PFF Game Ball

Jones was dominant enough on defense alone to earn the game ball, but the blocked field goal and touchdown certainly did not hurt his case.


  • SeattleSteve

    No Excuses this week!
    We’re gonna beat the patriots – bad!

    (30-7 happens) – lol.

  • Max

    Just curious here; does Jones’ stellar day get him onto a Page of Fame?

    • rogue

      Probably not. There have been higher graded games. See JJ Watt.

  • Chris

    Can anyone explain the Patriots defense to me? I thought they were a 4-3 team but it appears they use some sort of hybrid?

    • Brandon A

      They dabbled with a 3-4 all throughout preseason and week 1, to poor results. They’re personnel now are well suited to a 4-3, but I think Belichick didn’t want to pigeonhole his defense and tried to utilize 3-4 looks, but it forced one of the top front-7 players off the field in favor of a fringe roster player (Joe Vellano), and forced others into positions they should not be playing.

      • Barb UMihai Mar

        They play 3-4 this year, but they change things up every other play based for the most part on 3-4 concepts. They go into 4-2-5 in pass rushing situations obviously.
        It didn’t force anybody out the field. That’s why Jones was used as a 3-4 DE with Hightower as an 3-4 OLB.
        They did have a slight lack of DL depth, because they have to limit the snaps of Siliga, Jones and Easley who were injuried/not practicing right before the season.

    • Chris Smith

      The Patriots configure their defense based on their opponent. Each week will be different. But I think they setup like a 3-4 when Wilfork is on the line and rotate to a 4-3 when the smaller D-linemen are out. It’s tough to tell when watching the TV broadcasts, because you maybe have 3 seconds of screen time showing the line setup before the snap.

      Chandler Jones and (his backup?) Rob Ninkovich are listed as Defensive Ends, but they both move from hand on the ground DE to stand up OLB depending on the play. I’m sure the PFF guys have the stats somewhere. (This is the main reason I miss Dr. Z at SI, he was really good about analyzing the play of the linemen.)