Patriots gain zero advantage from alleged cheating in win over Vikings

Published: 12/2/2018 10:00:55 PM
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Despite squandering an allegedly fake injury, which yielded them zero advantage and actually cost them their final challenge, the New England Patriots nonetheless escaped with a 24-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
 
Since losing to lowly Tennessee in Week 10, the Patriots have struggled through consecutive wins against the Jets and Vikings by a combined score of 51-23, holding no more than a 3-point lead at halftime of either game. Perhaps the worst 9-3 football team in recent memory, New England remains one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs, perhaps the greatest 10-2 team in recent memory, for the top seed in the AFC.
 
The Patriots hold the tiebreaker over Kansas City for reasons that remain unclear.
 
Perhaps due to their recent slide, the Patriots desperately ignited a controversy of great magnitude and no consequence with 9 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the game. With New England leading by two touchdowns, the Vikings attempted a fourth-down conversion from their own 38-yard line and gained the yard they needed on a Latavius Murray run. However, the play looked close and perhaps worthy of a challenge.
 
That’s when crafty veteran safety Patrick Chung allegedly faked an injury, thereby buying Patriots head coach Bill Belichick a few extra looks at the replay. Vikings receiver Adam Thielen seemed furious. According to amateur lipreaders who use the Internet, Thielen shouted, “That’s bull----!” at an official in reference to Chung’s supposed injury. In response to Thielen, Belichick shouted back with a phrase the Internet interpreted as “STFU!”
 
And then the officials, with no mechanism to question the legitimacy of Chung’s injury, were forced to review the play. Even though Murray clearly failed to reach the red line on the screen, the refs decided that he did, and the Vikings’ drive continued as if none of this nonsense ever happened. Seven plays later, they failed to convert on fourth and 11 at the New England 48-yard line.
 
Still, if Chung was playing hurt, it was totally unfair for the Patriots to get absolutely nothing the way that they did. Minnesota, on the other hand, overturned a Patriots first down late in the first half, which helped set up the Vikings only touchdown. And they did it the right way: By observing replays through the entirety of the 2-minute warning, then challenging and having 28 seconds added back to the clock when they were right, just so everyone at home could sit through another 2-minute warning one play later. Because that is how football should be litigated.
 
In a game where Tom Brady threw for only one touchdown and had an interception, and the Patriots had to resort to touchdowns from James Develin, their fullback, which is a dead position, and Josh Gordon didn’t even catch a game-changing touchdown pass until late in the third quarter, the Patriots had to rely on a strong performance from their defense. Seeing the defense bail out the offense for a second straight week was certainly a concern, as the Patriots had previously won games in spite of their defense, which was a huge concern. And typically, it is the teams that are only capable of winning one way that wind up winning Super Bowls.
 
But there the defense was, producing two turnovers, shutting down the Vikings’ attempts to go ahead in the third quarter, and holding Thielen (who averaged 103.5 yards per game) heading into this week), to just 28 yards and keeping Minnesota 14 points below its season average.
 
While many had feared the defense was bad, there is no reason to wonder if the Patriots are multidimensional. It’s a problem that linebacker Kyle Van Noy said has long been in the making.
 
“I think we’ve always been a good defense,” Van Noy said. “It’s just (about) putting it together. Putting it together. Awesome.”
 
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.


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