New England 24, Minnesota 17

Nov. 24, 2002 at 9:21 PM
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FOXBORO, Mass., Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns in the first half Sunday as the New England Patriots built a big lead before holding on for a 24-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

It was another unpleasant trip away from the Metrodome for the Vikings, who dug themselves a 21-0 hole in the second quarter en route to their 16th straight road loss.

One of those losses came in the playoffs and the 15 straight regular-season road losses put the Vikings within eight of tying the NFL record set by the Houston Oilers (1981-84).

"We have to do something to get over it," Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "We are just not doing enough on the road to win. But we have to win home or away. We just need to win games."

Brady helped extend the Vikings' road woes, throwing touchdown passes of nine, one and five yards in the first half.

"We got off to a fast start and that takes a lot for a team to overcome," Brady said. "It was 21-0 at one point and we had the game under control. It's funny how fast things can change."

New England (6-5) remained one game behind first-place Miami in the AFC East.

"I thought we had, obviously, a pretty good start to the game, especially offensively," Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said. "I thought that in the end, defensively, we made some plays in the passing game. Fortunately, we were able to make enough plays in the end to win."

Employing a no-huddle offense for much of the second half, the Vikings (3-8) tried to rally behind Culpepper, who passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns.

While they played well in the second half, the Vikings' early deficit could be attributed to miscues. In the first half, Minnesota lost three fumbles and had six penalties for 64 yards.

Brady and the Patriots took full advantage, scoring on their first three possessions. But what looked like a runaway turned into a nail-biter in the second half.

After Culpepper threw six-yard touchdown pass to D'Wayne Bates with 19 seconds left in the first half, the Vikings got closer in the third quarter.

This time, Culpepper capped a seven-play, 44-yard drive with a seven-yard pass to Kelly Campbell, pulling the Vikings within 21-14.

Michael Bennett had a 21-yard run and Culpepper scampered for 17 more late in the third quarter. That highlighted a nine-play, 56-yard drive that Gary Anderson capped with a 38-yard field goal 18 seconds into the fourth quarter, making it 21-17.

After four straight 100-yard games, Bennett was held in check by the Patriots, rushing for 55 yards on 14 attempts.

New England easily moved the ball in the first half, but became conservative after intermission.

Brady completed seven of 16 passes for 90 yards in the second half, leading the Patriots to only a field goal. He was 14 of 18 for 129 yards and three scores in the first half.

Two of Brady's completions in the fourth quarter were to backs. He had connections of 26 yards to Antowain Smith and 27 yards to fullback Marc Edwards, highlighting a seven-play, 56-yard drive.

Adam Vinatieri capped the march with a 34-yard field goal 3:51 into the fourth quarter, giving the Patriots a 24-17 lead.

Culpepper, who completed 24 of 49 passes, continued to move the Vikings as they drove inside the Patriots' 20. But the drive stalled and Anderson missed a 41-yard field goal with 7:37 remaining. Anderson had a 43-yard field goal blocked in the first half.

Minnesota's best chance to tie the game came after it reached the New England 49 with 3:25 left. But on fourth and 15 and without a timeout, the Vikings went for a first down and Culpepper threw an incompletion.

"Putting yourself in a hole and then having to battle the remainder of the game or half to just get even takes so much energy," Vikings Coach Mike Tice said. "So many plays you have to make in order to come out on top.

"The no-huddle gave us a spark. We knew we were going to do the no-huddle today but we wanted to wait until the crowd would not impact it. That was the reason why we waited a little bit into the game to do it. In retrospect, we should have started with it."

Brady connected on 11 of his first 13 passes with three of the completions going for touchdowns.

On the Patriots' first drive, Brady found tight end Christian Fauria for a nine-yard touchdown. He hit Fauria from one yard early in the second, extending the lead to 14-0.

After Culpepper lost a fumble on the Vikings' ensusing possession, Brady moved the Patriots 61 yards in five plays. This time, he found Troy Brown over the middle for a six-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 21-0 with 8:02 left in the half.

"Of course when you score on your first three possessions like that, it's great," Brown said. "But we have to continue to be more consistent. Things are going to happen but we have to fight through it, which we did."

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