By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — It’s hard to say for sure, considering the market in which we live. But the Patriots may have actually completed a football game that generates no complaints.
OK, “no complaints” may be a bit extreme. After all, there are TV and radio shows, and column space, and blogs, and everything else that is needed to fill the seven-day gap between games. With no football game ever being perfect, nits can always be found to picked. (Current party: hypocritically guilty as charged.)
But, consider the following from the Patriots’ 24-10 win:
–The Patriots beat the Vikings by 14 points. It was their second straight win by that exact same margin. It was their sixth win by at least 14 points, and, oddly, their fourth win by exactly 14 points.
–The Patriots gained 471 yards against a defense that entered the game allowing an average of 314.7. That was good enough for third-best in the NFL. Watching the game Sunday, you’d never have known.
–The Patriots limited the Vikings to just 278 total offensive yards. That was 90.5 yards lower than the Vikings’ season average, and it was Minnesota’s second-lowest offensive output all season. Last week against Green Bay, the Vikings put up 416 yards of offense.
–The Vikings scored just 10 points. They entered the game averaging 24.1 points per game. In their first 11 games, they had been held under 20 points just once before.
–The Vikings were held to just 3-for-12 on third downs. They were also 1-for-2 on fourth downs. The Patriots, on the flip side, converted seven of their 14 third-down attempts, and they were 1-for-1 on fourth down.
–Largely thanks to Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty, the dynamic duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen was rendered almost completely ineffective. Thielen did beat two McCourtys for the Vikings’ lone score, but the two receivers combined for just 77 yards.
–Everyone was involved in the Patriots’ offensive attack. Nine different receivers caught passes from Tom Brady, and seven of them caught multiple passes. Brady completed 75 percent of his 32 passes for 311 yards. It was his seventh game with a passer rating over 100.
–The offensive line allowed zero sacks and just one quarterback hit. The Vikings entered the week tied for fourth in the NFL with 36 sacks.
–The Patriots didn’t quite run for over 200 yards like last week, but their 160 rushing yards on 39 carries helped sustain the offense. James Develin rushed for two touchdowns against a defense that had allowed just six rushing touchdowns all season long entering the day.
–Josh Gordon scored a touchdown on a 24-yard catch-and-run. The Vikings had previously allowed just 14 passing touchdowns all season long, which was the fewest in the entire NFL.
–The members of the Patriots’ defensive backfield combined to make 23 solo tackles. The number of long, painful drives that frustrate fans watching at home was limited, really, to just one.
–The pass rush was consistent and forced Kirk Cousins to have what may have been his worst game of the season. He averaged an abysmal 4.6 yards per pass attempt and posted a 70.3 passer rating, both of which were his worst marks of the year. The Patriots sacked him twice and registered four more QB hits. One sack came on third down to force a punt, the other forced the Vikings an extra nine yards back two plays before a missed 48-yard field goal.
If you were dead set on complaining about something, you could get stuck on the penalties (seven for 60 yards), or Rob Gronkowski’s relatively quiet day (three receptions, three penalties), or Stephen Gostkowski’s missed 48-yard field goal, or the quiet offensive moments from the middle of the first quarter until late in the third quarter.
Obviously, it wasn’t a perfect football game played by the Patriots. Nobody’s ever played a perfect football game.
But when you take a step back, you see that the Patriots won handily over a good team, attacking the Vikings’ strengths and coming away with a convincing win against a probable playoff team. The 24-10 victory doesn’t guarantee that these Patriots will make their way to a third straight Super Bowl, and it doesn’t even mean the Patriots are locks for the conference title game.
But here, where the most successful football franchise in history gets scrutinized and ripped and questioned and doubted on a near-perpetual basis by fans and media members alike, Sunday’s win should be the exception. There won’t be much to pick apart from that one.
The Patriots are 9-3, on track to win 12 or 13 games, and they’re coming off a thorough, complete victory over a good opponent. There won’t be much complaining in Boston.
Until next week.