The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.–The Patriots have thrived in the final month of the season since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s arrival.
They’re hoping their 24-10 victory over the Vikings is the start of another memorable December.
Tom Brady passed for 311 yards and a touchdown, and Bill Belichick earned his 250th victory, including playoffs, as Patriots’ coach, in yesterday’s victory.
Including his 37 regular-season and post-season wins with the Browns, Belichick has 287 wins overall.
Brady completed 24-of-32 passes and has 579 touchdown passes, including the playoffs, tying him with Peyton Manning for the most all-time.
He also has 508 regular-season TD passes, which ties him with Brett Favre on the career list.
Manning is first with 539 and Drew Brees is next with 518.
James Develin added a career-high two touchdown runs as New England finished with 471 yards.
Brady said the diversity of their attack was his biggest takeaway.
“Seven guys running, eight guys catching–that makes it hard for them to defend us,” he remarked.
“Hopefully we can keep it going.”
The Patriots (9-3) now have won eight-of-nine since starting the season 1-2.
Belichick improved to 65-13 in December while Brady is 59-11. Both marks are NFL records for the most wins during that month for a coach and player.
The Patriots also clinched their 18th-straight winning season, which is the second-longest streak in NFL history.
The record is held by the Cowboys at 20 seasons from 1966-85.
Minnesota (6-5-1) has lost two of its past three. The loss prevented the Vikings from gaining ground on the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears, who lost 30-27 in overtime to the N.Y. Giants earlier yesterday.
The Vikings entered the game allowing the third-fewest rushing yards in the league (93.6 per game). But New England was able to spread them out, rushing for 160 yards.
Kirk Cousins kept Minnesota in the game early before faltering down the stretch.
He finished 32-of-44 for 201 yards and touchdown, but had two late interceptions.
With New England leading 10-7 in the third quarter, Stephen Gostkowski missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt wide right at the 6:26 mark.
It snapped a streak of 35-straight makes in the regular season of less than 50 yards, going back to October of last season.
The Vikings tied the game on the ensuing series with Dan Bailey’s 39-yard field goal.
But the Patriots bounced back–needing just four plays for Brady to cap a 75-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon that put the Patriots back in front 17-10.
Following Minnesota’s punt, the Patriots picked up where they left off.
This time they needed only six plays to set up a two-yard TD run by Develin that made it 24-10.
Adam Thielen said it’s a wake-up call for the Vikings.
“Obviously, we’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get better,” he stressed. “I didn’t make the plays I needed to.”
Minnesota got the ball back quickly after Brady threw his first interception in five games to Eric Kendricks.
But a pass into the end zone by Cousins was tipped by J.C. Jackson and intercepted by Duron Harmon.
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer pulled out his red challenge flag at just the right time late in the first half to help get his team on the scoreboard.
The Vikings successfully challenged the referee’s spot after an apparent first-down completion to Rob Gronkowski.
It left the Patriots with a third-and-one on their 26.
Minnesota stopped the ensuing run by James White and New England was forced to punt.
Cousins went to work in the two-minute offence, opening Minnesota’s drive with completions of 24 and 23 yards to Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph.
He added another 10-yard completion to Diggs four plays later to set up a five-yard touchdown pass to Thielen that trimmed the Patriots’ lead to 10-7 at the half.
Brady, meanwhile, reached another milestone yesterday: 1,000 yards rushing in his career.
Brady hit the mark on a five-yard scramble in the first quarter. He slid to a stop, popped to his knee, and signalled for a first down.
Never considered much of a mobile quarterback, it took Brady 19 years and 265 games to reach the 1,000-yard milestone–the most by a player since the merger.
At 41, he’s also the oldest player to reach 1,000 career rushing yards since 1970.
Elsewhere in the NFL, Arizona upset Green Bay 20-17, the L.A. Rams downed Detroit 30-16, Jacksonville blanked Indianapolis 6-0, Tampa Bay beat Carolina 24-17, Houston dumped Cleveland 29-13, Baltimore upended Atlanta 26-16, and Miami shaded Buffalo 21-17.
Denver beat Cincinnati 24-10, Tennessee nipped the N.Y. Jets 26-22, Kansas City topped Oakland 40-33, Seattle bombed San Francisco 43-16, and the L.A. Chargers shaded Pittsburgh 33-30.