New England Patriots: Randy Moss' Return With Minnesota Vikings a Little Spooky

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IOctober 27, 2010

New England Patriots: Randy Moss' Return With Minnesota Vikings a Little Spooky

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    ATLANTA - AUGUST 19:  Wide receiver Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots takes a break during pre-game warmups before the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on August 19, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Vikings were on a warpath this offseason with their eye on the Super Bowl, but they never imagined Randy Moss would join them on their journey as they travel to face the New England Patriots.

    The Patriots knew this day would come when they traded Moss to Minnesota for a third-round draft pick a little less than a month ago. The question is, are they ready for what could potentially be a very scary scene on Halloween?

    Here are a few things to note for Randy Moss' return.

Brett Favre May Not Start

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    GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 24:  Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after throwing a final incomplete pass against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 24, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Vikings 28-24. (Photo
    Jim Prisching/Getty Images

    We've heard this before, but this time, it really looks possible. In fact, it looks more than likely that Brett Favre's consecutive starts streak is over. Not only was he incredibly ineffective against the Packers in Week 7, but he is also looking at a fractured ankle from a hard hit he took in that game.

    Who knows what they'll get out of Tarvaris Jackson if he is the one who starts. He's thrown 21 touchdowns against 18 interceptions, but has had some spotty play to say the least. It's entirely possible that Jackson could have a solid performance, since the Patriots have no tape on him with the first-team offense.

    Bill Belichick has made better quarterbacks than Jackson look pretty bad, but over the past few seasons, especially this year, it appears anyone could suit up at quarterback and look like an All Pro against the Patriots defense.

Patriots Must Shut Down The Run With Their Front 7

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    GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 24:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs upfield as Charlie Peprah #26 of the Green Bay Packers misses the tackle at Lambeau Field on October 24, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)
    Jim Prisching/Getty Images

    After Randy Moss was traded to the Vikings, Cris Carter appeared on WEEI and talked about the numbers game that having Moss presents. The secondary must account for Moss, which in turn creates space in the running game.

    The Patriots feature the ninth-ranked rush defense in the league, but if one guy can tear apart this defense, it's Adrian Peterson.

    They have yet to face a back quite like himโ€”frankly, because there's no back in the league quite like him. He's the league-leader in rush yards with 684 through six games, and also holds the league lead for most games in which his performance alone has single-handedly kept the Vikings in it.

    Bill Belichick said on Tuesday, "Their running game is a big problem so we have to be careful how many guys (we're) going to commit to the passing game and then not be able to stop Peterson."

    He knows that Peterson poses a huge threat, and understands that you can't commit everyone over the top. If Randy Moss burns them a couple of times, so be it, but you can't let Adrian Peterson control a game.

Improving Defense, Despite Collapse Vs. Chargers

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 24:  Safety James Sanders #36 of the New England Patriots reacts to Kicker Kris Brown #3 of the San Diego Chargers missing a field goal to tie at the end of regulation against the New England Patriots during NFL game on October 24, 201
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    The Patriots were able to hold Philip Rivers and the No. 1-ranked Chargers offense to just six points for the first 53 minutes of the game, largely thanks to San Diego's own mistakes. The Patriots were picked apart on two consecutive drives, though, and gave up 14 points in under four minutes.

    Despite that poor play, the Patriots defense has the pleasure of hosting a reeling Vikings team at Gillette Stadium. They've been close in every game, but the Vikings continue to find ways to lose games. Usually, that way involves Brett Favre and disastrous decisions.

    The Patriots defense has played well in spots over the past two weeks against some good offenses, but whether it's a limping Favre or a healthy Jackson, the Patriots will have to make use of the opportunities the defense creates for them.

Will The Patriots Feel "The Moss Effect" On Offense?

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    FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 17:  Wes Welker #83 celebrate with teammate Deion Branch #84, both of the New England Patriots, after Branch caught a touchdown pass in the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2010 in Foxboro,
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    One thing New England's critics had to say after the Patriots traded Moss was that they lacked a deep threat. They've won two hard-fought narrow victories over the past two weeks, and their offense hasn't been spectacular, as was to be expected. Although they've played two tough defenses, they'll have to really step it up against the league's seventh-ranked defense.

    But Belichick knows what he has to do, especially against a gruesome Vikings front four. He addressed the matter in his conference call on Tuesday, saying "there's definitely a conscious effort to not hold the ball, to get rid of it, to throw quick passes, screens and things like that where they're really not under that kind of duress and hold the ball back there."

    The goal isn't to get a Randy Moss-like performance out of anyone in this game. The goal is to beat their fast pass rush with fast throws. No matter how big the gains, just keep moving the chains. Plain and simple.

Just Enough, But Not Too Much...

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    NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 09:  Percy Harvin #12 of  the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New Orleans Saints at Louisiana Superdome on September 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    New England needs to play the Vikings wisely. Randy Moss remains one of the best deep threats in the game, and demands respect over the top. Bill Belichick addressed that much in his conference call on Tuesday when he said, "Randy looks like Randy. He's a big weapon for them who can do a lot of things."

    Blanketing Moss may be important, but the Patriots must remember that Minnesota features talented skill positions across the board.

    Bill Belichick certainly hasn't forgotten this, running off names like Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, Bernard Berrian and Adrian Peterson. All are talented players, and if the Patriots hone in too much on Moss, they open themselves up to a big day from any of those other players.

How Will Devin McCourty Respond?

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Devin McCarthy #32 of the New England Patriots reacts after knocking down a pass intended for Terrell Owens #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL season opener  at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Foxboro, Massa
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Last week against the Chargers, Devin McCourty logged his first NFL interception. All in all, he played a very good game and showed that while he's still learning on the job, he's getting his bearings at the pro level.

    But let's not get ahead of ourselves and crown him just yet. The Chargers'ย  No. 1 receiver on that day was Patrick Crayton. That's a bit of a step down from Randy Moss.

    I watched first-hand as McCourty tried to cover Moss in training camp, and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. Moss made catches over McCourty all day, as is to be expected from one of the best receivers of all time going up against a rookie.

    Perhaps he learned a bit in camp. The Patriots can only hope for so much, though. Of course, McCourty won't be tasked with man-to-man coverage on Moss, but he needs to be solid so the Patriots can spread the defense to match the offense..

    Only problem is, as I mentioned before, they may not be able to give him much help with so many other weapons on the field.

The Patriots Must Rush The Passer Effectively

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    FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 17:  Rob Ninkovich #50 of the New England Patriots sacks Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriot won 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Jim Rog
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    That doesn't mean they need to blitz every down. The Ravens are one of the best pressure defenses in the league, but they don't really blitz heavily. They just do it effectively.

    The Patriots need to find a way to effectively rush the passer, having only generated 12 sacks through the first six games.

    There's no shortage of weak spots on the front line for the Vikings, as have been exposed by the beatings Brett Favre has taken this season already. The Patriots need to pick their spots to pressure and pick them wisely, in terms of both situation and personnel.

Beat The Rush

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 24:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England speak to Head Coach Bill Belichick against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL game on October 24, 2010 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Tom Brady's been under a little more pressure this season than he's used to, and has been sacked 12 times, including three in last week's game against the Chargers. The Patriots can't afford to let him get beat up like that again.

    The vaunted Vikings defensive line can create a ton of pressure, and forces bad timing if you don't get the ball out quickly enough. They've only generated six sacks this season through six games, but the talent is there, and as Belichick said earlier, teams have just found a way to neutralize it.

    As such, don't you think the Patriots will be looking to what those teams did for some tips on how to do the same thing?

    This will have to be a vintage Tom Brady performance, leading the offense with great timing passes that go for big gains. The screens and dump-offs will have to be dialed up on the regular.

Are The Patriots In For a Nightmare?

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    GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 24:  Randy Moss #84 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during their game at Lambeau Field on October 24, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)
    Jim Prisching/Getty Images

    Bill Parcells would say, "you are what your record says you are," but I think Bill Belichick made a good point on Tuesday when he said of the Vikings, "they're just a couple plays away from being 6-0."

    Randy Moss is just the type of guy to provide those couple of plays. He has done it in the past few games, but the Vikings have still lost two of their past three with Moss on the roster.

    Let's not forget that this is still a talented football team with big-time playmakers at the skill positions on offense, and their defense has definitely played well.

    But whether it's Brett Favre or Tarvaris Jackson, the quality of play at the quarterback position is a huge X-factor for the Vikings headed into this game, that will truly swing the balance one way or the other.

    Furthermore, Randy Moss may be the big storyline, but Bill Belichick is fully aware that it's not all about stopping him.

    "In both the Green Bay game and the Jets game, neither team overloaded on anybody. They had to really defend the entire offense and that's really what they were trying to do," Belichick said.

    And if the Patriots want to get the win, that's what they need to do, too.

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