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Vikings Embrace Underdog Status Against 'GOAT' Brady

EAGAN, Minn. — It was way back in the 2011 when Linval Joseph was part of a team that defeated Tom Brady in New England, a difficult task considering the Patriots quarterback is 112-19 in his career at Gillette Stadium.

Joseph was on the Giants when they earned a 24-20 win the Patriots in Week 9. But not to be outdone, New York later secured a second win over Brady that season, one that was much more significant.

New England was the top seed in the AFC and had rolled to a 13-3 record, while the Giants has rallied to just barely make the playoffs and win the NFC East with a 9-7 mark.

But when the teams met in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Joseph and his teammates bested Brady again with a 21-17 win.

"Man, that was so long ago," Joseph recalled with a smile on Thursday afternoon. "I mean, Tom Brady and the Patriots … they're a good team. Any team that plays them is the underdog, I think.

"That year, we had beat them twice already … in the preseason and the regular season," Joseph added. "We were the underdogs because of our record and the success they had. We went in there and won the game and did our job."

Brady's stats and legendary pedigree speak for themselves.

The 41-year-old has an NFL-record five Super Bowl rings, and has been named the Super Bowl MVP on four separate occasions. He ranks fourth all-time with 69,190 career passing yards and 507 passing touchdowns. He needs one more score to tie Hall of Famer Brett Favre for third.

The Vikings have made it clear this week that they have plenty of respect for the future Hall of Famer.

"He's the GOAT. He's the GOAT," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who referenced Brady with the acronym used for Greatest of All-Time. "You've got to give respect where respect's due, and he's the GOAT. Five Super Bowl rings; they're in the playoffs every year.

"He's a large part of the team's winning," Griffen added. "We have to go out there and play our best game to beat one of the best."

Vikings safety Harrison Smith was chatting with reporters this week and started to compare Brady to other elite quarterbacks the Vikings have seen this year.

But the All-Pro safety stopped and corrected himself.

"I don't want to say a quarterback like Brady," Smith said, "because there's only one."

There may only be one Brady, but there is also a way to beat him, something Joseph can attest to.

In that regular-season meeting against the Giants in 2011, Brady completed 28 of 49 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. But he also threw a pair of interceptions and was sacked twice as he recorded a quarterback rating of 75.4, his lowest of the 2011 season.

And in the Super Bowl win, Brady threw for 276 yards and two scores with an interception. He was sacked twice again but posted a quarterback rating of 91.1 in the losing effort.

Is it too cliché to say that making Brady uncomfortable is the key ingredient for success?

"I don't want to say that … we just have to go out there and do our job," Joseph said. "Do our job to the fullest and get some pressure on Brady and we should be fine."

Added Vikings safety Jayron Kearse: "It's like how you beat every quarterback in the league. If you get to him and rattle him in the pocket, you can have some success. That's usually how it goes. If a quarterback can sit in the pocket and throw the ball, typically he's going to have a good day that day. You get to every quarterback the same way … by rattling him and getting pressure in the pocket."

The Vikings might have the personnel to do just that as players and coaches have talked all week that getting pressures, but not necessarily sacks, on Brady could help steer the Vikings to a win.

According to Pro Football Focus, Brady has a grade of 90.7 when facing four defensive rushers at a time. But his PFF grade drops to 68.1 when a defense sends five or more players at him.

No matter what Minnesota chooses to do on defense this week, the Vikings will be looked at as underdogs.

That's a label that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer actually embraces.

"I think we play better when we're underdogs. I hope. I don't know," Zimmer said. "The thing I respect about their team the most, and I told our team this yesterday – they don't care what they did last week.

"They just focus on this week. And then they go from there. And that's how they continue to win," Zimmer added. "We have to get that mentality where, whatever we did last week, whether we won by 50 or lost by 50, it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is this week. That's what they do, and I think they do a great job of it.

Joseph agreed with Zimmer's sentiment, adding that "anybody plays better when their backs are against the wall."

But the Vikings defensive tackle has been there before, and has helped deliver wins for a team that was expected to lose to perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time.

"It will take an all-around game," Joseph said. "We have to do our job, offense has to do their job, special teams have to do their job.

"Whoever makes the less mistakes will win the game," Joseph added. "But it's going to come down to the fourth quarter."