Six sacks, four interceptions from Matt Cassel and a blocked field goal for a touchdown doomed the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, as the Patriots breezed to a 30-7 win, coach Bill Belichick's 200th.
"I certainly never got into coaching expecting that to ever happen," Belichick said, "so it is very gratifying to reach that milestone. But what it really says is I had a lot of really good players."
Tom Brady went 15 for 22 for 149 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers, and Cassel's first start against his close friend and former mentor was a dud. Devin McCourty, Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan and Dominique Easley all picked him off, setting up 17 points for the Patriots and prompting chants from the crowd for rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel finished 19 for 36 for 202 yards.
New England defensive end Chandler Jones had two sacks and returned a field goal he blocked for a touchdown right before halftime.
This was Brady's 149th win as a starter, pushing him past John Elway into third place on the all-time list behind Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
"I don't think about those things too much, but I'm glad we won and hopefully we can do better next week," Brady said.
Matt Asiata had only 36 yards on 13 carries in place of Peterson, who was deactivated after being charged with child abuse Friday in Texas. The Patriots let Miami rush for 191 yards last week in a season-opening loss, but they held the Vikings to 54 yards on 19 attempts without Peterson.
"I would've liked to have seen it against him, but at the same time we can't control that. I'm very proud of our team and how we responded," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said.
The pass-run ratio last week for the Patriots was 60-20 in a shaky loss at Miami, but they established a much better balance here.
Stevan Ridley carried 25 times for 101 yards, and Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes wasn't able to keep up with Julian Edelman, who finished six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Under Belichick, the sixth coach to reach 200 NFL victories, the Patriots have consistently been able to avoid consecutive losses. The last time the Patriots lost the first two games of the season was 2001, when they went on to win their first of three Super Bowl titles.
The Vikings started strong with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Cassel to a wide-open Asiata, followed by the defence forcing a three-and-out. But one bad throw by Brady's former backup shifted the momentum.
Cassel's heave to Jarius Wright hung in the air long enough for McCourty to snag it and return it 60 yards to the 1 yard line.
Ridley scored two plays later.
Revis had Greg Jennings smothered all game, and the five-time Pro Bowl pick grabbed an errant pass by Cassel early in the second quarter to set up Edelman's score.
Then, after the Vikings set up a 48-yard kick by Blair Walsh that would've pulled them within seven points, Jones powered through the line, stretched his arms out and batted down the ball. He picked it up in stride and headed for the end zone, effectively quashing hope for a second-half comeback.
Coach Mike Zimmer said Cassel would start next week at New Orleans.
"I take full responsibility for not taking care of the football today," Cassel said. "I've got to do a better job, and I will."
That will be tougher without Peterson.
"It's just part of life," Zimmer said, after dismissing several questions from reporters about Peterson's absence and status. "Would we have liked to have him? Sure."
NOTES: The Patriots beat the Vikings 31-7 on Oct. 30, 2006, their last visit to Minnesota. They're 8-4 in the series, with four wins in a row. ... Ryan, replacing injured starter Alfonzo Dennard, helped hold Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson to four catches for 56 yards. He was targeted seven times and had his TD streak stopped at six straight games.
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