Pats, Brady heat up in De­cem­ber

New Eng­land hasn’t lost a home game to Min­ne­sota since 2000

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - NFL -

Foxbor­ough, Mass. The month of De­cem­ber has been a spe­cial time for the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots dur­ing the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era.

Since the pair ar­rived in 2000, the Pa­tri­ots are 64-13 dur­ing the fi­nal month of the reg­u­lar season. Brady has been the starter for all but six of those vic­to­ries — four dur­ing his rookie season in 2000 and two in 2008 when he suf­fered a sea­so­nend­ing knee in­jury in the opener.

Still, the 41-year-old quar­ter­back’s 58 De­cem­ber wins are the most in NFL his­tory. His .843 win­ning per­cent­age is sec­ondbest among quar­ter­backs in the Su­per Bowl era. Roger Staubach (17-3, .850) is first.

Pa­tri­ots spe­cial teams cap­tain Matt Slater is one of the few play­ers left on New Eng­land’s ros­ter with enough ten­ure to ap­pre­ci­ate that run and the em­pha­sis Belichick puts on this por­tion of the season.

“As coach says, ‘Foot­ball season starts af­ter Thanks­giv­ing,’ ” Slater said.

Just for good mea­sure, Brady is 75-18 in reg­u­lar-season games played on or af­ter Thanks­giv­ing.

Three of their fi­nal five games are at home, be­gin­ning with Sun­day’s matchup with Min­ne­sota.

But even af­ter the Pa­tri­ots (83) earned their lat­est post-turkey Day win last week over the Jets, Slater said the mes­sage com­ing from Belichick and Brady is far from a state of be­ing con­tent.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best foot­ball yet,” Slater said.

That’s not good news for a Vik­ings team that is in position to make the play­offs, but is also a few losses away from peer­ing in from the out­side. Min­ne­sota (6-4-1) has lost four straight against New Eng­land, though they haven’t met since 2014. The Vik­ings’ last vic­tory win in New Eng­land was in 2000 — Belichick’s first year.

Run­ning back Dalvin Cook said the Vik­ings are try­ing to con­cen­trate on them­selves and not the Pa­tri­ots’ mys­tique .

“We re­spect Tom, we re­spect the Pa­tri­ots, we re­spect ev­ery­thing they’ve got go­ing. But it’s more about us at this point,” he said.

Adam Glanz­man / Getty Images

Matt Slater, left, says the Pa­tri­ots haven’t played their best foot­ball yet this season. New Eng­land is 64-13 in De­cem­ber since Tom Brady, right, ar­rived.

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