Patriots look to continue December dominance against Vikings
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 season-ending 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 second-best 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 regularseason 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 (8-3) earned their latest postTurkey Day win last week over the Jets, Slater said the message coming from Belichick and Brady is far from a state of contentment.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet,” Slater said. “I think it was a step in the right direction.”
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 regular-season meetings with New England, though the teams haven’t met since 2014. The Vikings have won twice at New England, but their last victory was in 2000 in Belichick’s first year.
Running back Dalvin Cook said the Vikings are trying to concentrate on themselves and not the Patriots’ mystique.
“We’re going to get caught up in us playing good football, and that’s what we’ve got to focus on,” he said. “Everybody can go into the whole thing of ‘New England this.’ We respect Tom, we respect the Patriots, we respect everything they’ve got going. But it’s more about us at this point, about how we’re playing football and about just the little things we’re doing. We’ve got to go in and focus on those.”
TOUGH ON TOM
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s defenses have had some success in minimizing Brady’s impact in some matchups against the fivetime Super Bowl champion. Though Zimmer’s teams have lost three of four games against the Patriots, with the Vikings in 2014, as the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati in 2010 and as the defensive coordinator for Dallas in 2003, the Bengals beat New England 13-6 in 2013 with Zimmer in charge of the defense.
Over those four games, Brady has been intercepted only once, but his average against Zimmer’s defenses is only 204 passing yards and one touchdown with a 56.3 percent completion rate.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from the Chiefs in an Oct. 14 game.