The Vikings dropped a 24-10 decision against the Patriots in New England on a rainy — and misty when it wasn’t enough to count as rain — evening.
The loss wasn’t marred by backbreaking mistakes that had cost the Vikings in previous losses this season but more of an aggregation of mistakes at inopportune moments.
The Patriots, who improved to 33-4 in December home games with Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, were able to break a tie at 10 with a quick-strike drive in the third quarter.
Here are three stats that stood out.
1. Third-and-a-lot vs. Third-and-a-little
Vikings.com’s Eric Smith did this breakdown of how frequently the Vikings were tasked with stopping third-and-3 or fewer (the Patriots converted six of eight times) and how that factored into New England’s 50-percent success rate (7-for-14) that is nearly double the allowance rate by Minnesota entering the game.
The Vikings offense, however, was just 3-for-12 on third downs.
It all came down to third-and-a-lot vs. third-and-a-little.
Minnesota’s average yardage to gain on third downs was 7.7 yards. The Vikings had just three plays when they needed 2 or fewer yards and converted two of those. Everything else was third-and-5 plus, and Minnesota was 1-for-9.
New England’s average yardage to gain on third downs was 4.5 yards, and if a third-and-12 inside the 2-minute warning is removed, the average was 3.9 yards. The Patriots faced third-and-5 or more six times and converted once.
Game Photos: Vikings-Patriots
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
2. Clamping down on dynamic duo
The two-headed attack of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs has been impressive to say the least in 2018.
In the 10 games that they both had played entering Sunday (Diggs missed one against Detroit), they had averaged 16.8 receptions and 190.6 receiving yards.
We heard throughout the week that Belichick excels at taking away a team’s top threat. Turns out, he and the Patriots were able to take away the tandem with a mixture of pressure on Kirk Cousins and a variety of coverages.
Diggs finished with 49 yards on five receptions, and Thielen had 28 yards on five receptions for a total of 77 yards and average of 7.7 per catch that was well under their combined average of 11.3 in games when they’ve suited up this season.
3. Patriots rack up rushes
The Vikings also knew the importance of the run game against the Patriots.
New England was 6-0 entering the game when rushing for more than 100, and Minnesota was 0-4 when allowing the benchmark.
The correlation remains true. The Patriots rushed 39 times for 160 yards (4.1 per attempt), and the Vikings totaled 95 yards on 13 carries (7.3).
Sony Michel did the brunt of the work for New England, rushing 17 times for 63 yards, but the Patriots excelled at sharing the load among six other players who totaled 97 yards and two touchdowns on 22 rushes. Julian Edelman had runs of 20 and 15 yards against a Vikings defense that had only allowed four runs of 15 or longer in its first 11 games of 2018.
The Vikings got behind the chains early and behind on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, limiting their runs, even though there were some impressive carries by Dalvin Cook.
Cook ripped a 32-yarder early, but the drive ended with a 48-yard missed field goal. Cook totaled 84 rushing yards, averaging a whopping 9.3 per carry, but rushed just nine times. Latavius Murray added 11 yards on four attempts.